“Alt-ac” signifies the group of professionals whose work is outside the tenure track but still in the orbit of the university.

Should the term "Alt-Academic" be changed in the light of new cultural shifts?

6 replies, 5 voices Last updated by S. Harlin/Hayley Steele 6 years, 12 months ago
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  • #1013616

    S. Harlin/Hayley Steele
    Participant
    @samarahayleysteele

    It would seem connecting the term “Alt-” these days to anything now denotes a type of political affiliation–alt-right, alt-facts, etc–and I assume those political affiliations do not describe this group.

    As a para-academic myself (an academic who works alongside & in conjunction with an academic institution, but not within it in a traditional sense), I think a group name change might be a good idea.

    Thoughts?

    #1013627

    Brian Croxall
    Participant
    @briancroxall

    That’s an interesting idea, Samara, and one that frankly hadn’t occurred to me. I think it’s important to recognize that the term “alt-ac” came about serendipitously and stuck in part because it filled a need that hadn’t been visible until the term was coined by Jason Rhody. Bethany Nowviskie wrote a short piece a few years ago that traced the evolution of the term: https://storify.com/nowviskie/altac-origin-stories.

    If I understand you correctly, you’re wondering about changing the name of this Group on Humanities Commons? We could certainly move discussions to the Connected Academics group as they have a shared affinity.

    I do think that there is some use in the term, however, if only because it has a history and a fairly legible one over the last 6-7 years in the academy.

    #1013629

    Nicky Agate
    Participant
    @terrainsvagues

    We’ve tried to avoid using “alt-academic” and “alt-ac” in Connected Academics discussions, focusing instead on humanities careers. If this group is interested in moving discussion over to the Connected Academics group, or alternatively over to the broader Humanities Commons platform (in order to engage with non-members and humanities practitioners in fields other than language and literature), let me know and I’ll try and merge the discussions.

    #1013639

    Katina Rogers
    Participant
    @katinalynn

    Hi Samara, this has been on my mind, too. I edit #Alt-Academy and have felt some concern about how the term may be read in the current political climate. While Brian is right about the history, I think the term has outlived much of its original usefulness and tends to provoke a somewhat negative reaction in people now. In my own work, I favor Nicky’s approach of talking simply about a plurality of careers. Personally, I’d be happy to have this group’s discussions take place within the broader context of Humanities Commons as a whole.

    #1013646

    Josef Horacek
    Participant
    @josefhoracek

    Merging this group with Connected Academics would make sense.

    As for the alt-ac term, I found it rather confusing even before the resent resurgence of the alt-right. Para-academic seems more accurate and sounds kind of badass.

    #1013675

    S. Harlin/Hayley Steele
    Participant
    @samarahayleysteele

    @katinalynn  – Hi Katrina – yes, the reason I brought this up, actually is I’m new to the MLA, and while scrolling through the Commons earlier this week, I had a double-take moment & actually took a screen shot of the group name in preparation for a social media post along the lines of “My god!  They’ve infiltrated the MLA!”  That fear of course was quickly alleviated once I read the group description, and realized it was a group I’d want to join.


    @josefhoracek
    – Thanks, Josef, I think the term para-acedmic is kinda badass too!  It was given to me by a group of Oaklanders who attend the free lectures offered at Berkeley and other scholarly institutions in the Bay Area.  There is a healthy para-academic culture here, it seems.


    @terrainsvagues
    Hi Nicky, I suppose merging the discussions would make sense.  But also I think this group offers something different than Connected Academics.  I suppose I’m interested models of scholarship outside of departmental politics, but that intersect at times–or don’t on principle.   “Academic Hobbyists”? “Academic Ronin”?–those both might be accurate but they sound rather silly.  It seems like the term “Alt-Academic” was perfect until a few weeks ago (I enjoyed seeing the lineage of the term, @briancroxall).  Darn popular culture for doing what it does to language! 🙂

    Somehow this scenario brings to mind the (problematically discriminatory against sexworkers, and yet still delightful enough to signal boost) quote by game reviewer James D. Nicoll:

    “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifled their pockets for new vocabulary.”

    #1013680

    S. Harlin/Hayley Steele
    Participant
    @samarahayleysteele

    But this I suppose isn’t a case of English pilfering the coffers of other languages, but rather its own, it seems.

    …language and culture.  The things they do to each other!

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