Here I am at the end of my first week in Sydney. Next week I leave for Melbourne and then New Zealand for more interviews. My days are filling up very quickly and it looks as though I will more than meet my target of 20 interviews. I wanted to write a post to reflect on my first week of interviews and my time in Sydney. I will be careful not to breach the confidentiality of the research participants or their institutions, but I wanted to share some of my initial observations.
Already, even after just 8 interviews, I am starting to see some patterns. I noted on facebook that I want to write about academic masculinities. Much of the current research on gender and academic careers has been focussed on women. However, men also ‘do gender’ and it is important to remember that not all academics, male or female, experience the academy in the same way. The interviews with male migrant academics are revealing how these men navigate the academy and how their migratory status may affect this. In not very academic language – how non white male academics feel subject to racism.
Every interviewee, bar one, has reflected on racism without any prompt from me. The one who didn’t, when I asked was curious as to why I had waited so long to mention it. Is Australia racist? As one interviewee said. ‘you’d have to be racist not to notice the racism’. My white interviewees have reflected (unprompted) on their ‘white privilege’ (sic). Probably a reflection on their academic backgrounds in social sciences. I suspect those who research culture and inequalities may be particular sensitive to such issues.
So, what else is coming through the interviews? Social networks seem to be important not just for careers (sure we know this one) but also for facilitating acculturation into ‘Aussie’ culture. The men have commented on the role of alcohol in Australian culture – problematic for those from countries where consumption is prohibited. Facebook and Skype are important for maintaining relationships with friend, family and research networks overseas. I know this from my own experiences keeping in touch with friends who have migrated.
The question that participants seem to like the most is ‘where is home?’. Not Australia, even those who have been here a while. However, this seems to depend on the location of children and partners.
I am also seeing the nature of precarious work in Australian universities – this precarious employment can be problematic for planning and supporting families and leaves academics unsure of their futures (more so than others). The Australian has reflected on this trend in Australian academia here
I still have 12 out of the 20 interviews to conduct, and I look forward to seeing if there are differences in New Zealand. I am really pleased with the work so far. Thank you to those who have participated so far – even though I can’t name you – your time and willingness to lay bare your journey is much appreciated.