Monday, January 21, 2013

Is it possible to survive out of research on Sanskrit/Pāli/etc.?

From time to time someone asks me whether he or she will be able to make her living out of Sanskrit. The issue has been last raised by Jayarava in his comment to this post. The following one is my answer to the general question:

  1. 1. Finding a scholarship for one's PhD is feasible, most of all if you are open to work on your PhD within someone else's project (for instance, in Heidelberg or Leiden for Buddhist studies) and can afford leaving your country.
  2. 2. The departing point is that you will never become rich out of Sanskrit (better: it may happen, but just like it may happen that you become the president of your country).
  3. 3. You will also hardly achieve a tenure-track position (it may happen, but you cannot count on it). Thus, if you cannot cope with instability, think twice before trying a Sanskrit-related career.
  4. 4. Why would you want to work in the Academia at all costs? It is not heaven and if you think it is, you might be disappointed.
  5. 5. There seem to be still job opportunities in two contexts, i.e., within someone else's projects and with a heavy didactic burden. 

Interestingly enough, in the last months two acquaintances of mine advertised some positions within a project and in all cases the applications were hardly more than the positions advertised, so that there was basically no possible selection.

Thus, the point is: Are you willing to work for someone else's project? Or do you understand research only as your own research? Alternatively, are you willing to teach "Introduction to South Asian studies"? Last, are you ready to move to a different country? You cannot expect to find a Sanskrit related position in each county…

For further information on the advertisements I referred to, check the label "opportunities and projects". On Academia as not the only way to do research, check this post.


Jayarava said...

Just to clarify my position: I believe my best option is to pursue a PhD given all the other factors at work in my life (heaven is not required, but getting out of hell would be nice). I estimate that this will take a minimum of five years given my starting point. A five year plan seems fine. I'll be 52 by then, if I live that long, and find a way to make it happen (which is by no means certain). After that I have no plans, and no idea what I might do.

My assumption is there probably won't be an academic job at the end of it - I'll never compete with the people who started young anyway - but what the fuck, I like studying better than the alternatives. And I didn't do when I was young for reasons that I understand in retrospect, but it left me feeling deeply unfulfilled.

I've got nothing to lose at this point, and it helps me to make a contribution to the Triratna Buddhist Order which means a lot to me.

elisa freschi said...

I hope you did not feel offended in any way by my answer. I slightly updated the post, hoping that it is clear that I was not answering to you, but addressing the issue in general.
As for academic jobs, I believe in what I wrote. There are several academic jobs available (and I do not think that age matters, since they are anyway not TT positions), but no one wants them, because one wants to have complete freedom of research.

Phillip said...

At this point I often wish that I'd just swept floors or shovelled horseshit while studying Sanskrit at home, but I guess that if I hadn't suddenly received the dubious opportunity to live in India instead of the West, I would probably have forced myself to make some kind of living out of the Sanskrit PhD I got, according to the original plan. But this attitude has been shaped by the one really important thing that I learned from the PhD: that I don't think like an academic, and don't even want to. So if you like the academic life, you will undoubtedly end up feeling that the time you spend and the sacrifices you make have not been in vain.

windwheel said...

Sanskrit is a language, an artificial one, nothing more. It has nothing to do with South Asian lebenswelds and advances no Research Program not pre-ordained to be foolish.
Elisa, your own Purva Mimamsa program actually deals with concurrency, co-ordination, queueing theory, Matching problem and other such stuff. You could make a very good living out of any one of those areas. Hell, your linguistic gifts alone would earn you top dollar anywhere from Seattle to Shanghai.
It is disingenuous of people like you to write about a career w.r.t which you clearly have superior transfer earnings.
If such is not the case, and you obtain an economic rent, surely it is a rent no reader of your blog could equally access.
The availability cascade and preference falsification driven nature of the sort of 'Indological' Universe you inhabit- whether by choice or economic compulsion- makes your democratic and demotic overtures that much more morally repugnant and repulsive.
What are your books doing? The notion of 'sacrifice' at least had some sort of Social or Soteriological value. Mimamsa? Nyaya? What are they good for?
By all means, look at how they relate to Computing- but then you'd be a part-time Indologist, surely a good thing, like being part time Wicca, instead of a charlatan Witch.
Both ritual and sacrifice are but frozen metaphors arising out of a Mannerist meta-meataphoric cacoethes scribendi.
Elisa, your engaging candor, this freshness and fragrance you bring, nevertheless is meretricious- you serve a senile harlotry.
Let go of your blog- you neither think nor speak Sanskrit- not any more- not for a long time- so speak something else- pedagogy, paideia, Vatsalya as Verse taught Montesorri style- well, i don't know, what I mean or want of you, something worthy of yourself.
But it will come in a non-linear way. As your German slave-masters no doubt will tell you, such is Romantic Irony, there is a double sense in which the owl of Minerva flies by Night.

elisa freschi said...

"It is disingenuous of people like you to write about a career w.r.t which you clearly have superior transfer earnings."

What should this mean? I could explain in full detail how I have been unemployed and earned my living out of babysitting/translating from German/proof-reading (Italian) texts, but this is not a personal blog. We are here discussing about ideas.

elisa freschi said...

Hi Aśvamitra!
I share your view re. the fact that an Academic life may not please all (and vice versa). But what do you exactly mean, if I may ask, with "I don't think like an academic and don't even want to"? Which part of the academic way of thinking do you not want to share?

Jayarava said...

No I wasn't offended in any way. I'm slightly gloomy because the faculty applications committee was meeting today and recent events in the dept mean I probably won't be offered a place at CU this year.

Still I have plenty of writing to get on with; and no I'm not much a team player and yes I have authority problems :-)

windwheel said...

'What should this mean? I could explain in full detail how I have been unemployed and earned my living out of babysitting/translating from German/proof-reading (Italian) texts'

Are you making more money now, using your rudimentary knowledge of Skt, than you would have done, with a rudimentary knowledge of Hindi/Gujerati etc, selling Italian goods and services to India?

No. I have helped a lot of people from your country.

BTW you don't mention the biggest source of support for White people with a smattering of Skt= viz. worthless Indic Sadhus and Sadhvis. Translate their rubbish and. magically, you suddenly get an offer of tenure.

Abeppe said...

Hi guys, I really liked windwheel's post, It's full of mind blowing thoughts and insights. Besides, I think too that throwing shit at your interlocutor it's a great way to tackle a discussion, I always do it -- but still I do not understand which it ends up with them punching me in the face. What a weird world are we all living in!

So elisa, will you delete my comment or not?

elisa freschi said...


I try not to delete any comment at all. I deleted a few by Windwheel (but as few as possible) because other readers felt offended and embarrassed by them and because they did not seem to aim at tackling a discussion (apart from discussions concerning my sexual life;-)).

windwheel said...

@Abeppe- This is Windwheel. I will hunt you down and kill everything you love- I'm talking about your shoes for the moment but don't push me is all I'm saying.
Like you, I'm fascinated by some extra quality Elisa brings- a bit like Amelia Cuni, when Dhrupad C.Ds were far fewer- but, no, that comment is unworthy of myself- Philosophy isn't Mousike- already I see- (in your comment's desire to stand by being deleted)- that Elisa is the Chandogya's bee-hive in the sky rather than a Blogging Queen Bee of a merely Careerist Enlightenment.
I don't know if others have passed on my apologies to this serious, heavy duty, scholar for my insistence on hushing her buzz and generally being horrible to her and the good and genuinely 'Samskrit' of that invisible College of her collocational colleagues and rootless, therefore rotless, Cosmo- not politans but PRACTITIONERS- sancrite cogitare- how fucking beautiful is that?- sancritere loqui- but how soon & crushingly- Careerist, Credentializing, & Casteist.

Sorry. To be clear. Can the Skt savant community save itself? Sure. I invite applications for teaching jobs- teaching kids- becoming House Heads and Head Teachers- such that, just as with Classics in this country, or the State subsidised Cartesianism of France- you guys get good careers- end up Professors at top places if you are productive and have mastered the particularly angelic type of art of longevity which dedication to Paideia- though but dimly discriminating its univocity with Gayatri- verily renders you a putative community of a type unthought- thus making true the promise of this blog.

I'm Tamil. We are used to Italians coming to enrich our divine Language. Jesuist? so what? All are welcome. Jains have different ontology from me- not so Catholics whether of Rome or any happiness possibilised Home.
God bless you guys.
Thanks Abeppe. You have a devastating command of satire. You ever need free copy editing, just gmail me guy.
From the Hindu point of view, I see myself as contributing to this blog by
1) reminding people that Religion is gangsterism and Philosophy a 'Witness Protection Program' that only has funding to run because it is infinitely defeasible.
2) the same is true of Truth- even Pilate's- as in the Pharisee demand, from Xrist, of but parrhesia. Even its tiniest sliver is kaivalya.

Sorry, I guess I'm being a bit Elisa-like in not getting lakshana- so, to clarify, I will fucking kill anybody fucks with with you guys or your families.
That's my Prakrit thought. This my Prakrit adhha vijjaa.

windwheel said...

Dear Elisa- I'm mentally ill and I drink from time to time. I am not interested in your sex-life. Well, I want you to have a very good one and with someone really special and all that sort of thing.
I am not able to contain very aggressive aspects of my personality. But I must be very clever, otherwise I would scarcely target you- an Italian lady who is so kind and forgiving she does not make just one phone call to Fulham, West London. There is no 'Mafia' here- everybody who wants to work can work- there is no problem- police are honest and of peaceful nature- there is no need for 'Mafia'- so everybody is doing well.
BUT I do some (supposed) Mafia work. It involves threats and intimidation and showing some 'organized' aspect. This is a case of acting as a 'Prakrit' countervailing power with respect to a Sanskrit of Universal (Jati) gang-rape and genocide.

Much in the document I have of Elisa's is curiously naive but curious.

Look, I think, what happened was that my sort of protective instincts took over. I'm tall, I'm big- I don't look tough. I was once mugged myself. Never again- I can explain my poverty to you -'sancritre cogitate/kevalya loqi- but there is no notion of Kevailya Gyan, of a Mathesis Universalis, which is not a reversal of Sansritization.

I have restrained myself from praising your book because... If I'd edited it it would have been miles better.

I guess that makes me the bad guy but OMG- not your books, dude- it's the violence- that too its eminently bloody and inconstestable detail- & well, truth be told, thou Lucretia saved from Superbus' lust, it put me off me daily dinner of daffodils.
What? Suddenly people have to have stayed in Milan to write utter and absolute shite.
Oh Darling you are so naive. Only by such means has every idiolect leveraged itself to be, with but Athena, born.

windwheel said...

My pennyworth- you guys could work in a collective manner to establish Skt. as a Paideia and turn Skt. cogitare into a Jesuit trade.
Okay, I offer a prize of 1000 pounds for the person who sends me the best ORIGINAL Gay Marriage justification and Ritual.

Go for it.
Incidentally I'm not friends with Ashwamitra anymore. Nowadays every fundamentally stupid person is anti- Muslim- including Muslims!
I'm not Muslim, am Stupid, but BY GOD'S GRACE, able to see my mistakes and desire punitive expiation.

BTW, your blog is kind of getting blogged down. You have no intelligent commentators at all.
Yet there is something in you which yearns for that Icarus flight from the Academy to the Symposium.
I really like Italians. Indians do. It's like you have the genetically encoded recipe for holographically enacting a two parent, hetero, family dynamics- when, of course, as happened with me, not Majestic Death, but Madness merely excuses my apology.
I'm not kidding- you are a bright person. Italian women aint kind of stand out for Thinking- but they can do
I've a website- I've written a lot of books which I would send you for free- essentially I know more about what you are trying to do as well as the genuinely intellectually and aesthetically rewarding prospects of rendering myself a Skoptsi to your Tzarist vision.

windwheel said...

O.k. you could be your own Vygotsky, the creator with respect to your own progeny, of a 'proximate development zone'- yours, Elisa,might be a truly marsupial Feminism- but languages are either of the mother- or NOT.

windwheel said...

Ma'am, there is a sort of heavy artillery of Real World attention which tends to the attenuation of mere Orbis Tertius preoccupations.
So glad you escaped it!
Be German!
But not like me by birth.

windwheel said...

You don't understand lakshana. It is your signature move. The truth is dhvani has been entirely poisonous to Skt. So maybe, you are our Sonia Gandhi?

If you want to answer the question you yourself posed- history, surely, provides an answer.

If your people make a communal decision to be non shite, fuck, all you'se guys will do well.
I'm staffing a School in Namibia as we speak. Good money. Pure Sanskrit.
This answers your question.

windwheel said...

I have fully staffed a school in Namibia. Four PhD's, three M.A/MSc, and a full graduate crew.
Skt is about education, not about delinquency, it's about not taking drugs, not being a stupid paranoid vegetarian cunt.
Skt is about hermeneutics- not Gadamer's but your own. Elisa you talked about making Indology as Philosophical as Quantum Physics- okay you probably didn't say exactly that- but that's what you meant.
Sure, you have a blog. Great you have an entirely worthless book which costs a huge sum of money on a topic you know precisely nothing about. Superb, that Mother Germany is turning you into a fucking immigrant.
I achieved more than you when I was 17- vide my critique of the supposed Garbha Upanishad.
Why are you playing this stupid game?
None of you deserve to be in Higher Education. You are all very fucking stupid. Why won't you make money in Child Minding- Montessori or otherwise- and Religion?
My ex-wife, an Italian like yourself, managed to turn her Phd into an qualification in Dance. Her mother, a Classicist, used to teach seamstresses in South Italy. Still got a very good pension.
Ashvamitra, who writes Skt poetry- not all obviously bad- is probably good at some unexpected physical thing.
Everybody makes money in the end.
I'm not a gigolo but currently receiving some specialist help coz I don't wanna go back to being poor.
Also, for medical reasons, I need big breasts in my vicinity.
God forgive you for encouraging deluded people to think that Skt PhDs are worth shite.

Anonymous said...

Ciao Elisa, è Ashvamitra. Cominciando i miei studii accademici non capivo che tutti i soggetti umanistici sono essenzialmente sottodivisioni della storiografia, e solo gradualmente mi sono accorto che il mio interesse in questa dimensione della letteratura e il pensiero induisti è molto limitato. Non mi è mai molto piaciuto leggere articoli e libri scolastici sul Mahabharata ed altra letteratura sanscrita, a differenza della letteratura stessa, della quale il mio amore non è diminuito fino ad oggi. Un saggio come quello brillante di Vittore Pisani, La genesi del Mahabharata, mi sembrava bello ed utile, ma richerche più esoteriche e speculative nelle origini del testo mi annoiavano profondamente. Dopo un certo punto mi è parso che pure Alf Hiltebeitel, i cui studii avevano più in comune colla critica letteraria e per ciò mi erano inizialmente più interessanti, parlasse troppo, scrivendo dieci articoli dove uno sarebbe bastato, probabilmente per motivi carrieristi. La mia intenzione originaria era stata di farmi un professore di sanscrito perché pensava che così avrei avuto un mestiere che mi avrebbe permesso di lavorare con il sanscrito e fare viaggi frequenti in India. Così, anche se vedevo dall’inizio che non ero un accademico naturale, non volevo cambiare strada perché avendo una conoscenza abbastanza stretta delle realtà del mondo non capivo che infatti avrei potuto trovare altri modi più appropriati alle mie abilità di seguire il mio amore della letteratura sanscrita e l’India induista. Ma potevo fare il sanscritista, anche se non mi piaceva. Se non avessi incontrato mia moglie sarei rimasto in Europa dopo che fossi dottorato (infatti avevo l’intenzione di immigrare in Italia), e forse dopo qualche iato avrei cercato qualche lavoro indologico -- ma probabilmente non in Italia, dove oggi gli indologi recentemente dottorati, si dice, non possono trovare posti se non in scuole superiori. O forse se non avessi lasciato Europa avrei disturbato la catena degli eventi mondiali tanto da prevenire la crisi economica. In ogni caso la decisione è stata catastrofica.

elisa freschi said...

Grazie per il commento, Aśvamitra. In che senso "la decisione è stata catastrofica"? Quella di lasciare l'Europa o l'eventuale decisione alternativa di restare e tentare una carriera indologica? Inoltre, cosa intendi con "accademico naturale"? Mi pare ci siano tanti modi di fare accademia. La stragrande maggioranza degli accademici che conosco, per esempio, non si interessa di organizzazione culturale e preferisce la filologia, altri propendono per la divulgazione e così via… Mi pare di avere un'impressione meno monolitica dell'Accademia. Anche se non posso che condividere ogni critica nei suoi confronti:-(

Anonymous said...

Ciao Elisa, SONO Ashvamitra (grr). La mia decisione di rimanere permanentemente in India è stata catastrofica per la carriera accademica – di mia moglie: come ho detto, il mio periodo nella universitè mi ha insegnato soprattutto che i miei talenti, tali quali sono, non sono quelli di uno studioso; ma mia moglie, che ho incontrato all’universitè di Cambridge, è una studiosa naturalmente dotata e adorava la vita accademica. Aveva un’opportunità di fare un dottorato a un’università americana del primo rango, ma io le dissi che non avrei vissuto insieme con lei durante il dottorato perché non volevo vivere in America; invece avrei vissuto e lavorato in India e Europa e ci avremmo visitato il più spesso possibile. Ma lei non poté accettare una tale separazione, e perciò non andò in America, benché le dicessi che doveva andare. Invece ha cominciato un dottorato qui in India. Non dovrò dirti che la differenza fra un’università americana e anche le migliori università indiane è... abissale. Non andare con lei è stata la più disastrosa decisione della mia vita. Oramai ne sento un rimorso quasi insopportabile.

È probabile che avrei potuto insegnare il sanscrito e i testi sanscriti nell’università, e pure godermene. Infatti devo ricordarmi che avevo l’abilità di fare anche la filologia (benché l’elemento filologico della mia tesi dottorale fosse minimale). Mi piaceva lavorare nel progetto Mahabharata dell’Istituto Bhandarkar (il quale posso quasi vedere da questo ufficio dove mi siedo lavorando). (A proposito, potresti trovare il mio ultimo scritto accademico nell’edizione più recente degli Annali dell’Istituto.) Ma certo le attività “classicamente” accademiche non mi venivano naturalmente: non mi piaceva disputare, persuadere, insegnare, non mi piaceva il metodo oggettivo, spassionato, scientifico di trattare i testi, di vederli sempre tramite un lente storiografico. Quando ho incontrato il nostro amico mutuale Giacomo in gennaio di 2012 quando è venuto a Pune dopo la conferenza sanscrito a Dilli, sono stato colpito dal suo stile di pensiero tanto diverso dal mio, uno stile che avevo quasi dimenticato negli anni dopo il dottorato e del cui non ero mai stato un maestro. Vedeva ovunque delle connessioni fra le cose che incontrava e le moltitudini di fatti che poteva ricordare, abilità particolarmente impressionante a me, che ho una memoria molto debole, probabilmente a causa della depressione e l’ansietà. Questa mentalità SINTETICA è certamente l’elemento essenziale del mestiere accademico.

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