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Contextual Pressure, Contextual Support

Scholars on the tenure-track have contextual support to write and publish. In the best positions, this takes the form of course release time and internal grants to fund sabbaticals, research trips, and reflective writing.

On the other hand, these positions can also carry considerable pressure, as evidenced by the classic phrase “Publish or perish.” In some institutions, this expectation that faculty members will publish—and not just publish but publish on a prestigious level and promptly—and even that books will be reviewed by the time tenure reviews occur. To be frank, this sounds counterproductive (and likely to produce conservative scholarship), but carrot and the stick do create psychic and temporal contexts for scholarly writing.

Writing without those, adjunct scholars may find themselves working more like creative writers, fitting in writing when they can, and yoking conference trips to vacations in order to afford them. There are, however, some elements of contextual support in place for adjunct scholars.

For example, the MLA has set aside travel funds for up to 150 “non-tenure track faculty” to attend their 2009 conference. Granted, these awards of $300 each won’t cover all costs of a presentation/job interview trip to Philadelphia…but it is a start, and it

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