I haphazardly pulled together a syllabus yesterday during jury duty (after an intensive phase of napping while waiting for the judge to return to her courtroom...it's like I'm geriatric). My ex-advisor, whom I have no qualms about using when the moment suits to help me pull in grants, has been encouraging me to apply for a university teaching fellowship. While the money would be nice, being in Baltimore next year is not in the game plan. Yet I apparently suffer from a deep inability to resist potential income streams, even when they are not in my best interest. I figure I can always turn down the offer.
I presented to this ex-advisor the syllabus, and she immediately lighted upon the first sentence describing the central point of inquiry: most people in the U.S. spend more time in their lives contracepting than reproducing. She immediately told me that the first sentence was too political and would upset the committee. Basically, I was going to alert the old white men at the institution to my renegade intentions and freak them out. As she read through subsequent parts of the course description, she whittled away at all potentially "radical" concepts. She urged me to make this more of an overview of reproductive health anthropology, rather than my more interesting approach. I want to spend a lot of time showing how the focus on reproduction is naive, and that we need to integrate theories of sexuality and recognize sexual health more holistically in medical discourses. If she takes that away from it, it becomes an insanely boring class.
I know that her impulse was less about quashing me, and more about helping me to make a politic and compelling proposal, but this is exactly what I hate about the academic world. It is not really all that open to ideas, and certainly not at this university. I like to think that my more innovative stuff is what will make me a good instructor, but not if I can't engage with it. On the flipside, perhaps the lesson is that one needs to present a conformist front and then fuck shit up when you get the bodies in the class. Perhaps deviance is the answer.