Photo taken by Dave King (

One of the best things about ‘having a name’ in an academic field is that I’m privy to quite a few things before they happen.

People want to ask my advice, or approach me for names of others who I’d recommend for a keynote, who would be good contributors or collaborators on projects, or potential postdoctoral appointments, or readers for manuscripts. These are all things I’m used to doing when I was in the thick of academia and very much promoting the AASRN. I’ve kept up with this kind of thing a bit with convening AAI 4 and AAFF at the moment, where sneak peeks are aplenty (knowing who’s invited, who’s presenting, etc – I think this explains my almost pathological habit of getting involved with conferences and edited publications).

Now that I’ve shifted gears, it feels occasionally like I’m a pretender. I feel that I’m not ‘useful’ to people in the way I used to be because I’m not building my career in academia anymore. I’m not scoping for the next project, event, or publication. I’ve taken my eye off many of the areas (diaspora studies, Asian Canadian and Asian American material) and dynamics (who’s working with whom) I used to track automatically.

It’s a relief, of course, to take a step back, to feel as if it’s OK not to know about the latest book by an Asian Australian author (or Asian diasporic authors, in general), and to feel no guilt for not ever intending to read it (that’s not a comment about the book, only about my motivations). That said, I was genuinely and gleefully excited when I reconnected with Canadian writer Hiromi Goto on Twitter, and found out about her most recent book through her website: Half World. It looks like excellent fun!

I’m still having a lot of fun being involved with the research network, even though I’m stepping back from that in many ways, too. My associations with people (and theirs with me) will take longer to fade away than I thought; if, indeed, it happens at all. I’m fast realising that much of the angst I’ve had stemmed from my own perceptions of what it meant to move away from academia, rather than how others might think of my move ‘sideways’ into university administration.

Ironic things that have happened since I stopped being employed as an academic:

  • I’ve had more offers to collaborate than ever before, on writing various types of articles.
  • My writing and editing skills are more constantly and immediately called upon in my everyday job, and in newer activities (such as “shut up and write”).
  • The continuing networking effects of things I’ve done in past years are bringing me shiny offers of internationally significant proportions, which I decline, then maunder about for an hour, and move on.
  • I’m assessing and valuing ‘quality’ research and researchers now, more than ever.
  • I feel liberated about pursuing any research interest I might have, rather than those that might contribute to a coherent academic trajectory (I wasn’t very good at this when I was an academic as my lit.studies/cult.studies/heritage and sociology meanderings testify; at least now, I don’t even feel the underlying pressure to try and build a consistent research direction).

On a syntactically related note:

Speaking of ‘having a name’ in academia, I found out a while ago that I had won one of the “Writers on Rafts” prizes. My desire to be Tuckerized is going to be finally fulfilled, and by Tom Cho, no less! Tom has shared some of his new writing with me, and I can’t wait till it gets published. No-one does understated hilarity like Tom Cho.

Image credit: Photo used on this post taken by Dave King (