Symbolic spaces in dirty work: academic service as authentic resistance
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Drawing from in-depth ethnographic interviews conducted at an American public research university with 46 professors I analyze the meanings that faculty in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities assign to the aspect of their work known as service and institutional governance. Regardless of disciplinary affiliation, almost all faculties perceive feelings of self-inauthenticity when they engage in service and governance and view this aspect of their work as meaningless, inconsequential, trite, and as a waste of time. Yet, interviews with two professors show that service and governance work leads them to feel true to themselves because they view it as of a meaningful symbolic space where a truly effectual cultural politics of resistance against alienating institutional forces can take place. I reflect on the latter two professors’ agency and power to redefine symbolic occupational spaces within and outside their selves and occupation.