The sabbatical diary

Proving that I'm actually working this year …

C3 celebration

C3? Is that some kind of high explosive? No, no, no you can relax.

In South Africa, we have this parastatal called the National Research Foundation. One of its functions is to rate researchers.

I’ve held out against this as long as I could. Really, I have deep problems with the idea of putting researchers on different levels.But Unisa is pressurising us to get ourselves rated. At other South African universities, it is worse: you don’t make full professor there without a rating.

So in November last year I bowed to the inevitable and spent that month fighting with the NRF website (a design nightmare). It’s sort of nice to know that I didn’t waste my time completely: I am now a C3 rated researcher. Also, it means a little more money. Nothing wrong with that: I have a son with a toy car habit to support.

C3 is not great: It is in fact right at the bottom of the range, sort of like getting your school report and reading “Michel passes, but he must try harder next term”. The system goes up to A1, which amounts to being a worldwide household name. If Stephen Hawking was a South African researcher, he’d be rated A1.

But even a starter pack rating gets the university off my back. Now back to some real research work.

Still here …

OK, this blog hasn’t worked out the way I intended. Sorry about that, I always had more interest in doing things than reporting on them. In the meantime, the Bitstrips app that I used to make little comics has disappeared ;-( But Toondoo still works!

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Here’s where we stand: My chapter on Buddhism in Africa is published in the Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Buddhism. Available by the 1st of December, reserve your copy now.

My article on Online Ordination that was rejected in April will appear in the December edition of the Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies. One of my favourite journals, and I’m not saying that because they accepted my article (I’ve published there before), but because it is an Open Access journal that does not charge you an arm and a leg in page fees (I suspect they are subsidized by the Romanian Government). Mind you, they insist on a weird version of Chicago style that my reference manager can’t quite pull off.

The article on metamodernism is in a first draft which I have sent off to a few people for comments. So far, the comments are pretty positive, so I should be able to put that in for publication next year.

I’ve also moved in a new direction: Religion and Disability: My chapter on religion and Autism is scheduled to appear in the first-ever academic book on autism produced in South Africa, sometime in 2018. I may end up co-editor of that book. If you are in Pretoria the day after tomorrow, come see me present my findings.

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I am also co-authoring an article on the cost of raising an autistic child in South Africa today. And finally, my wife and I are jointly writing a book review on a book about Disability and World Religions.

I have one month left of this sabbatical and finally I can start on my grandfather’s wartime diary. The first job is to scan and OCR it, and then translate it from 1940’s Dutch into contemporary English. The I’ll decide what i want to do with the material.

So, what about this blog. Well, I’ll probably keep it, probably with a name change. I know I haven’t been maintaining it recently, but perhaps one I’m back at the office writing blog posts will be a welcome break from faculty meetings.

Setbacks? Nah, just business as usual

So the first journal I sent my article on online ordination to rejected it. I read the journal’s mission statement and interpreted it broadly. They chose to read it narrowly.

Oh well, this is part of the game. If you go through your entire academic career without rejections, you are probably doing safe, boring research. I got some excellent comments out of the deal, and I will rewrite the article and submit it elsewhere.

In the meantime, I have started reading up for an article on religion and autism for a book project spearheaded by the other Dr Clasquin-Johnson (Reader, I married her). Progress on the metamodernism article is slow but getting there.

Finally, I am going to take a look at my grandfather’s wartime diary. He wrote it on tiny scraps of paper while interned in a German labour camp. My cousin Lydia brought it all together some years ago and printed off a few copies for the family, but there must be a way to bring it to a larger audience.

 

Number one is on its way!

Yes, I decided that I’d done enough and sent my article on online ordination off to a journal. No doubt the reviewers will differ on the “done enough” part – they always do. But I’ve learned that you can’t rehash your writing endlessly. I’ve said what I wanted to say. If they want to hear more, they will tell me.

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Now comes three months of waiting. And I can’t put it up for general view until I get the word from the journal, and not safely until quite a while afterwards. Those are the rules. No simultaneous submissions, no prior publication.

They are BS rules, really. The whole peer review process would go a LOT faster if I could submit to, say, five journals and then pick the best offer to have it published. You know, the way we do most things in life? That would put editors on their toes! The way things are actually set up just tells you where the power lies and it is not with the author.

But as for you, my devoted followers, if you would like an advance copy, you will have to be a colleague or collaborator of mine. You can join this very exclusive club by dropping me an email. clasqm at gmail dot com should do the trick.

Next, I’m going to start looking at  metamodernism. More about which will be appearing here soon.

If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance …

Hi peeps, long time no blog.

I now have a first draft of my conclusion. Yes, I think I’ve managed to show that there is a context, a way of looking at things, in which online ordination actually makes sense.

No, it didn’t take the last two weeks. I’ve had a birthday, and all sorts of distractions. Just because you are on sabbatical does not mean that the university isn’t constantly trying to draw you back in. Tomorrow  am going in for a Performance Management meeting, and there are Honours exams to mark.There are recurriculation meetings I simply cannot miss – their results will be with me for the next ten years.

Next sabbatical, I will concoct a yearlong research project in the Gobi desert. Though it wouldn’t surprise me if Unisa told me to take a sat-phone along. Mars. They won’t be able to get hold of me on Mars.

But I’ve always had this thing where I stare vacantly into space for three days, then when I actually start writing, the argument just flows out of my fingertips. Just lucky that way, I guess. And all through the distractions, my conclusion has been bubbling away in my unconscious. When I finally sat down, the screen and keyboard formed their usual feedback loop with my eyes, bypassing the brain entirely. I looked up two hours later and there was a conclusion on the screen. Don’t ask me how it got there.  In Japanese archery they say “it shoots”, “it” being the totality of archer, bow, arrow and target. Well, “it writes”.

Now I’m going back. I go to the body of my article and start introducing little forward-looking clues, rhetorical flourishes that will prepare the reader for my bold and forthright conclusion. By the time you, dear reader, get there, you must already be in the frame of mind that will have you wildly nodding in agreement as I display my exegetical brilliance. Or at least not having a deep belly laugh at my expense. The last thing I will do is rewrite my Introduction and Abstract (I am famously bad at writing abstracts, but that is a story for another day).

Does this mean that I am prioritising style over substance? Truth is, I’ve never been able to separate those two successfully. How something is presented will always affect my perception of what it is. What something is will alway affect the way I will show it to you. Smarter people than I may be able to strip these away from each other. I don’t even try. I am a researcher, but also a writer. I have a voice.

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My trusty 2010-model iMac is starting to show symptoms of Cybernetic Alzheimer’s, though.  The screen flickers from time to time, occasionally it reboots for no reason whatsoever … time  for one of those lovely new wafer-thin models. Damn, there goes my performance bonus.

Hitting the books

Well, not much to report. I have a few points to clear up, and instead of going straight into cyberspace, as I usually do these days, I went into the library and took out some old-fashioned books. You may remember them, they are made from paper.

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We are not quite at the point where an academic can do everything by grabbing pieces of text from online sources and rearranging them. A lot of older stuff has not been digitized yet. And in the humanities, showing that your work has continuity with older streams of thought remains important.

That’s an interesting point, actually. My wife is in Education, and it is fascinating to see how those guys insist that only the latest literature is of any worth. Don’t even bother to quote anything more than three years old. When I handed in my Ph.D. in Religious Studies back in 1999, one of my most central sources dated back to 1960, and not a single examiner ever raised the issue.