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Monday, April 4, 2011

Offer and demand in Indology


A close friend looks for someone able to identify secondary sources in Jayanta's Nyāyamañjarī and cannot find any suitable candidate. A colleague looks since months for someone who could collate manuscripts. Several other colleagues tell me how hard it is to find scholars who are willing to help their projects.
In all these cases, the people would be payed well enough (for Indological standards) and I have a long list of acquaintances who are brillant Sanskritists and jobless. So, why does not the offer meet the demand? I can think of two possible solutions:

  1. 1. Sanskritists are not trained to work in a team. Most of all, they are trained to work as lonely scholars and cannot accept to work for someone else's projects.
If so, there is hardly something we can do, apart from trying to make young scholars more aware of what they really want to achieve (does lonely work really work?…). But a different option may be:
  1. 2. There is no way offer can meet demand.
If the latter is the case, one could fancy of a database for people looking/offering temporary jobs for which knowledge of Sanskrit and/or Indian philosophy and/or Indian palaeography is/are required. What do readers think? What is the real answer? And what could help?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Maybe these friends of yours should post the openings wider, like on Indology at a minimum. I have watched several international lists for several years now and haven't heard of these openings.

Perhaps the problem is also that the positions don't pay well or offer any job-security. Those types of projects are usually short-term. Not everyone is excited about making survival wages and needing to look for a new job in a year or two.

There is perhaps also some element of being fodder for someone else's success. The people doing the "manual labor" part of a project, like collating manuscripts, probably won't get much recognition for it and even if they do it isn't prestigious career-building work like the supervisors are reaping.

Anonymous said...

Plus it is not exactly teamwork when one team member makes 4 times the amount of money as another team member. Only the ones on top would think up such a euphemism for that type of situation.

Why don't you ask your unemployed Sanskritist friends why they don't take the available jobs you mention?

elisa freschi said...

Dear Anonymous reader,
you are absolutely right and I am grateful for your insights.

1. "these friends of yours should post the openings wider, like on Indology at a minimum". Yes, this is what I meant when I mentioned the fact that offer does not meet demand. Indology, though an excellent medium (and, indeed, the ONLY one which works widely among Sanskrit scholars) is not used for this kind of non-prestigious jobs.

2. "There is perhaps also some element of being fodder for someone else's success. Plus it is not exactly teamwork when one team member makes 4 times the amount of money as another team member. Only the ones on top would think up such a euphemism for that type of situation."
The second point is not right in the cases I mentioned but, as you said, having a temporary job involves much less social security than having a long-time tenure.
The first point is right, but does not NEED to be right. The fact that only the coordinator of a project takes the credit for it (or the major part of the credit) has to do with the fundamental idea that "Indological" enterprises are accomplished by scholars working on their own. Whenever one sees a team, one automatically tends to think that one of the members of the team is the leader. It is not just a factual problem, it is also an ideological/cultural one. Don't you think so?

Anonymous said...

I agree that it is possible to have an egalitarian Indological team, it is just that the wider academic system is not set up for it.

It is not just that Sanskritists tend to work alone, isn't it more humanities-wide. Scientists usually publish multiple-authored articles, but in the humanities it is individual. Therefore funding is usually granted to individuals or on the basis of one leader's exceptional record and on the trust that that leader is going to see that the project is successful.

I don't know how to change this, save funding sources that would encourage a collaborative project, presumably coming from outside of the normal channels.

elisa freschi said...

Yes, it is a problem common to humanities (you might have noticed that I dedicated several posts to this issue, see label "methodology"). How can it change? Well, what about this:
1. whoever agrees that it has to change, should start presenting team-projects. These projects are probably going to be more succesful (and more fun).
2. Hence, the good habit could end-up becoming a plausible cuncurrent of the bad one.
Why not? Worth trying, in my opinion.

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