I am an independent scholar. Not independently wealthy unfortunately – I have to earn my bread – but I am one of the growing number of people with PhDs who, for a wide variety of reasons, are not pursuing a traditional career track of teaching and scholarship, but rather have day jobs that variously engage our talents – academic and otherwise – while we continue to engage in the life of the mind on our own terms.
I’ve only been on this path for a little over two years, since earning my PhD in 2011. I’m still figuring out how this works for me. And part of the process for me has been to explore different venues in which to meet other scholars, share more or less developed ideas, and disseminate scholarship. I have taken up blogging. I attend a regular colloquium of scholars in my field who gather biweekly to workshop one another’s work in progress. I avail myself of the wealth of lectures and presentations that abound in my home, the Boston-area. And I have been trying out different conferences and symposia, large and small, to see where I get the most bang for my buck. (I mean that quite literally. I’m not only concerned about my time, which is valuable enough since I often have to put in for vacation to attend these things. I’m talking about my money—my 9-to-5 doesn’t come with research funding.) In the last three years I have attended the annual conferences of large international scholarly organizations and regional offshoots of the same; I have participated in smaller conferences aimed at specialists in particular subfields; and, on my most recent adventure, I accepted an invitation to speak at a small symposium designed not to advance new scholarship but rather to disseminate existing scholarship to a non-academic audience: secondary school teachers. And you know what? It was well worth my while.