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Episode 922nd December 2021 • Academic Aunties • Ethel Tungohan
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On this extended year-end episode, Dr. Rita Dhamoon, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Victoria, and Dr. Nisha Nath (@nnath), Assistant Professor in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies at Athabasca University grab a few drinks with Dr. Ethel Tungohan to talk about remembering who you are outside of the academy, rebuilding your strength, and how maybe it's the institution that has to get it's shit together.

Thanks for listening! Get more information and read all the show notes at academicaunties.com. Get in touch with Academic Aunties on Twitter at @AcademicAuntie or by e-mail at podcast@academicaunties.com.



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Transcripts

Ethel Tungohan 0:00

Hi, I'm Dr. Ethel Tungohan and associate professor of politics at York University. Welcome to Academic aunties, the holidays are upon us. And with that comes heightened stress. The fact that omicron is rearing its ugly and contagious head doesn't help.

Ethel Tungohan 0:16

It is ironic at fact that I have been counting down the days until the end of term, eagerly waiting for the opportunity to rest and relax and experience a semi normal holiday season when boom, the pandemic throws all of these plans of resting and relaxation out the window.

It doesn't help that as Auntie Nisha puts it in this episode. institutions don't have their shit together with many students and faculty members left trying to figure out what will happen when term starts again in January.

Ethel Tungohan 0:49

All of these are are horrible realities right now. But what I am hoping to do amidst all of this uncertainty is to carve out sacred spaces. I want to remember who I am outside this existing moment and also outside the academy as a way to rebuild my strength. So I am very pleased to present this extended conversation that I had with two of my favorite people. Dr. Rita Dhamoon, who is my academic auntie, and Dr. Nisha Nath, who I absolutely adore.

Ethel Tungohan 1:20

When we recorded this conversation, we decided to have a few cocktails while we chatted about different types of breast, what getting your shit together means and what gives us joy and strength. So grab your favorite beverage, get comfy and enjoy. I am super excited because this is our final episode of the year. But I'll get both of you to introduce yourself.

Rita Dhamoon 1:49

So I'm Rita Dhamoon. I'll introduce myself as if I was introducing someone to a relative. So I'm Krishna and Karim's daughter and my family's from North Punjab. And I teach at University of Victoria, a survivor of political science still trying to survive. Let's all just be honest about that. And I'm here today on the condom territory. And just so happy to be in this same space with Ethel.

Nisha Nath 2:24

And I am also so ecstatic to have been invited Ethel and to be sitting I wish we were all sitting together but to be sitting also with Rita who has been my everything in for many, many years. And so I am Nisha, now I teach at Athabasca University. I like how you put that, Rita that you are a survivor of political science. I guess I could say that. For myself. I'm no longer in a department of political science and in the department of Interdisciplinary Studies, which is which is interesting unto itself. And then I am here to misquote you a sky akan. So those are the VLANs covered by treaty six.

Ethel Tungohan 3:10

Awesome. It's funny that we start this conversation using the word survivor. What are we surviving?

Rita Dhamoon 3:18

I think for me, it feels like I've been both intellectually assaulted by political scientists, that I've been institutionally battered. As many as many women of color have. So I think the survival is institutionally having to already do double the labor, which I've also witnessed with many women of color, but we have to learn the discipline of political science. And then we also have to learn the actual other kinds of politics, the political literature that we're interested in, whether that be critical race, or migration or security. So part of it is surviving the extra additional labor that we do. Part of it is surviving racist colleagues within a departmental setting, and some of that is overt and some of it isn't. And part of it is being institutionally spiraling, the institutional kind of space of whiteness, where you're constantly having to brace your body to even enter a corridor, or you have to really think about what you're going to wear and how you should set the stand. You know, those both physical, intellectual, and mental health aspects have all been negatively impacted. Which isn't to say that I haven't also thrived, but the thriving in the academy has not been because of the institution. It's been because of colleagues like You Ethyl and you Nisha, and because of the amazing students that I get to engage with, so the university isn't going to permanently mark me either.

Nisha Nath 5:12

When I think about that word survive, it's, it feels like quite viscerally that we are to come in as fractured selves or fragmented selves, right. And so I think now that I have a position structurally that I didn't have, when I was sessional, laying and ultimately working so that I could pay daycare before now that I have the structural position where I can think about, about what it means to enter into the academy as like a whole self. I think that's where I'm starting to think about survival. Because it I mean, it raises really interesting questions about like, well, what, you know, if I am to reclaim myself, which I think I now have a little bit of time and energy to do, what kind of what kind of academic will I be? Right? Like, I think I will be a really different one. Because, you know, for the the entirety of this time, as Rita put it, there has been this kind of assault against our whole selves, right? And then we fragment herself, sometimes with no choice, but sometimes quite intentionally to guard or keep those things of ourselves that are sacred, safe. And so yeah, I think, the survival piece, when I link it to, you know, what it what it means to enter into this, this space as a whole self is is curious to me, I'm very curious what kind of academic I will be, if I can come in as a whole self.

Ethel Tungohan 7:01

Is that even possible, though, like, I also am at a period where I know Rita, we had a read a massive, you had a conversation a few months ago, which is still on my whiteboard, do the work that feeds you. And I keep remembering that, and I keep looking at it, and it kind of grounds me, right. And I think what you were seeing and Tanisha, you know, what would bringing in your whole self look like?

Nisha Nath 7:28

I think that's such a good question. Like what I was thinking about this, this episode and your questions, I was thinking about, well, who what did I do before I even met my partner? Like, what? Who was I right? Like, before I started in grad school, like, what were the things that I, I do and things that curiously, I'm starting to re explore now. And so, I think, I don't know what that looks like in terms of the content that we bring into our scholarly work. But I know that as I have been slowly starting to dabble in the things that I used to do, before things started happening to me in this institutional space, I feel differently. And I think that that will, that that enables me to enter it in a slightly different register.

Rita Dhamoon 8:19

I mean, I wonder nature, when you said that, whether we want to enter our whole selves into the academy, you know, like that there are so many parts of ourselves that we can't reveal to the academy in fear that they will not see us as legitimate, the devalue our knowledge already, that we are not seen as worthy as our white colleagues, especially white women, maybe maybe if I can offer like a friendly amendment, maybe it's like that we can't bring our whole scholarly selves to the academy. Right. And that is good for us to not bring other parts of our life. Although saying that one of the things that I'm learning to do or thinking through is how do I bring my art into like my research. So I am trying to blend them. So I am not quite sure whether I think we need to keep an entire separation between work life and non work life, or whether there are ways in fact that we can bring it together. And that in fact, maybe we want to I mean, I think about both of you raising young children. And there are some spaces in the academy where we want young children to be present and to see and learn what it looks like to be in a space. Yeah, maybe yeah, maybe the friendly amendment is that we want we want to be able to bring those parts of ourselves that we choose, without fear of reparation, of being beaten up or being punished or penalized in some way.

Ethel Tungohan 9:56

Yeah, I feel like that's such an important amendment because What we were saying, which is that you have to guard what's sacred. That's what I've consciously been trying to do in order to preserve my mental health in the academy. So when you go into these spaces, you put on a mask, right? And I've tried to set boundaries badly. But I have tried, consciously this year to set boundaries, where I don't go to meetings that I know, are bullshit meetings where there's a lot of busy work, or I know there's a lot of toxicity. And the secret is my family, the secret or my children or my friendships, right. So as much as possible. I also try not to respond to emails when there are there when it's the weekend. But I think it but I'm doing this out of a sense of defensiveness, I'm guarding it. This is a fortress, he can't encroach into this space. Right. But it's different, like you say it Rita, Rita Massey, which is that, you know, maybe if it's a question of us being able to choose to present, what parts of results we want to present, rather than being defensive, that looks different to

Nisha Nath:

I guess, I would just add to because I agree with you, I remember kind of as I was thinking about your, your question, and then thinking about, you know, whether one wants to have their whole self available to be Academy, I think that is the difference, right? Like, does the academy get my little person? No, right. But do I get to be kind of my whole person? In my work? Yes. Right. So I think that to me, is that distinction, like what is available to be consumed? Or taken up by the Academy? Or what is just what, what, how am I allowed to travel through? Like, in? In what way? Am I allowed to occupy myself in these spaces? So I feel like that to me is that's me linking back to your your question around this word survival that, that feels like something on the other side, right, of just merely surviving or being reactive, but to actually, yeah, be able to be one's whole self, which isn't always available anywhere, right? Like, there's no space where we're always fully available to people, but we can be fully ourselves, right?

Rita Dhamoon:

What do you think it would look like to come as yourself when you choose? What would you do differently? What both of you do differently?

Ethel Tungohan:

I want to rediscover the sense of wonder and excitement I have for research and reading. I love reading. I mean, I went into this business because I like the I like the ideas and concepts and theories that I read, right? Like, education is a sign of emancipation, it does open your doors, it does open your your brain to new new concepts and new frameworks. But I feel like we've been conditioned because of the neoliberal Academy to stamp that down and to be productive and to publish. And we're not given the space to create and to think and just be, but that's what I wanted to do when I entered this world. I thought, I don't know. I mean, maybe this is very like Dead Poets Society, right? But I don't like that because it's like, you know, white dudes, white English, you know, English students or whatever. Talking about English literature? None. None of that. Oh, Captain, My Captain crap, right. Like, but what I actually I mean, I just, I just remember kind of, I don't know, being in love with political theory and reading siete and being like, Oh, my God, yes. As an undergrad, but I haven't recapture that as a prof. Which is ironic, because that's what I wanted to do, right?

Rita Dhamoon:

I think for me, what I've learned this time is like, how much more open I am about not knowing the answers and not actually extending a question for the students that I'm still trying to work through. And I have not done that before. I've always felt like I've needed to, like know where I stand on a certain question. So this turns question for the students for a course on colonialism was how do we build good relations with indigenous people? And I have to say was the the heart came in to the classroom more than I expected? And I really, I was really grateful for that. But there's a risk. Right, there's a risk out is going to show up in your evaluations. Is it going to be seen as pedagogically sound? Yeah, I think that there are risks attached to exploring non conventional modes of teaching. When

Nisha Nath:

you said the heart came in more, what does that what did that look like? or feeling?

Rita Dhamoon:

Well, students, for instance, would share painful experiences and some super joyful experiences. So when you when assignments also was that they had to come up with that joyful example of joyful or good relations that was there one or the other assignments. And so we would have people laughing in the classroom, or people really sharing very intimate kind of painful pieces. And it wasn't just white guilt and shame. So I think for me, also, I could see the shift in some students like it, you know, when you can see it. But it wasn't a mental, just just an intellectual shift. It was also one of the sense of their world opening. And it lifted my heart, I could literally feel the difference. Whereas in a department meeting, I can just feel my hearts.

Ethel Tungohan:

Oh, god, it's those contrasts, right? In a department meeting, I shrivel up, and I just want to die. And I feel like I need to put it's like, it's like, you know, the fortresses being built, as the Department goes on and putting in layer upon layer upon layer. So you can't, you know, you have to insulate yourself. And sometimes you have an out of body experience where you're like, Am I really sitting through this, but yeah, these beautiful creative classroom moments. That's such a big contrast of these department meetings, because I find that when we take risks, creative risks with teaching, and even with research, which we can, you know, turn to in a second, then it kind of reminds us of why we're here. So I remember, I didn't know it was just like, a random assignment for my graduate class on the limits of diasporas and citizenship, or I just kind of asked my students because we just weren't getting anywhere with a tax and they were giving kind of, and I wasn't, I wasn't engaged, either. It was like giving tired summaries of the text. I was like, Come on, everyone. Let's just stop. Okay, let's stop, take out a pencil or take out your your your laptops, and let's just free Right, right, like, what does? What does social justice look like? If you could kind of, imagine a world you know, world making, right? Like, what would it look like? And then my students loved it. And then I got entries with like, the cipher like, from really vivid sight new, new sci fi worlds, right, where it was like, wow, you just created a new world system, like what is this? Right? To like, more poetic, more poetic, you know, like, abstract, you know, summaries and so yeah, I don't know, I like that. Giving space for creativity.

Nisha Nath:

That's powerful Ethel, though, because you in doing that, like, even if we're thinking about okay, well, what does it mean, to, to be able to be one's whole self, whether, like, not making it available, but being that whole self and doing this work? And, and how that gets kind of trained out of us. But to make that space for your students. It is important, like that's a very important intervention, because it's it's teaching showing, cultivating that, yes, you should be bringing in these different vocabularies, these different languages that you use in your daily life, to make sense of this material, but then also how you are traveling in your, your own world. So that's, I mean, that's a really powerful space to open up for your students.

Ethel Tungohan:

Rita, how would you bring an art to your research,

Rita Dhamoon:

so I don't know how to quite bring in my art yet. I did try it in one class, and some people received it really well. And others really resistant to it.

Nisha Nath:

You know, I have experimented with bringing art into the classroom, which has flopped and also been really fun to, like really, really, really fun. I remember I think it was a course on Gender and politics and I, I like rated my children's art supplies, and I just brought in all of the supplies. And I remember I think we were reading that Audra Simpson piece, the status of ma'am. And, and so I brought in all these supplies, and then we had to build these different kind of conceptualizations of the state. So to take these simple, it was so fun. It was I mean, some some kids are some some of the students just, you know, it didn't really resonate with them, but some of them really, really loved it right. Like how do we how do we represent the neoliberal state right with these supplies? And how does that look different than the state as a man right like it wouldn't it was fun like you're moving your body you're like pulling all these different materials that you wouldn't normally you know, be exposed to is very fun. And I mean, I miss you know, being in a space because cuz I teach in an online environment, but I miss being in a space where you can do with that, like you can bring in music, you can start a class with, you know, music playing every day that is relevant to the material that you're you're going to engage with. So, yeah, I think there's really fun stuff that can be really destabilizing for students, though, too, because they are already trained into a particular way of doing things. But I don't know when you Yeah, plants that seed or create that opening as you did Ethel, like, it's stunning, stunning, what they will do, or how they, how their entire bodies will look different in that space, or their faces will look different in that space when they're doing it. Yeah,

Rita Dhamoon:

Brilliant, Nisha. I love that.

Nisha Nath:

It's fun.

Ethel Tungohan:

It's interesting, because I feel like you know, it's almost I never talked about some of the exercises I do for fun, because then I'm afraid that people will be like, Oh, you're not a rigorous teacher? Aren't we supposed to teach them how to write papers? And you know, how to how to, you know, whatever, like how to how to function in the workforce. And it's like, when, so when, when can we learn about ideas? When can we learn about like these concepts, right, these constructs, if not the university, but it's not that we're not allowed to do that. There's not a lot of spaces for creativity.

Rita Dhamoon:

Mm hmm. Or, you feel like you have to be silent about it as you say. You know, which is even worse.

Ethel Tungohan:

It's funny, I feel like so I was telling and to Nisha before this, before we hit record, I am in this weird state of transformation. Like I feel like so I turned 40 listeners I turned 40 Okay, I turned 40 in like two weeks. Dear God, right. So I'm going through a midlife crisis. Honestly, I am. Where I was like, thinking about I'm such a cliche, but I was like thinking about my life. And I was like, man, if I'm going to have to do the same old thing and follow the same grind from now until I retire it 65 Yuck. I don't want to do that. It's so it was like literally I was like googling like woodworking classes right i i started boxing classes, which it's my it's my oh my goodness, I started last Sunday I've gone back to to my club twice. And at first I was a little bit mortified because they have like different circuits and you had to do you know, the rocky jump rope, but I couldn't do it. I was like, I kept tripping and I was like chastising myself I was like oh my God why did why do I keep paying and someone next to me was like you know the rocky like, boom, boom, boom, boom. And I was like, and you know, the the trainer was like here why don't you just kind of get these like balls and kind of just jump jump around because you can't jump on? Like, you can't do the jump rope. But then it was okay. And then you know, they taught me how to they taught me how to to to land an uppercut, they tie me in it and then I just absolutely loved it like i I'm rubbish, right, but it doesn't matter because I don't know, I felt really strong and badass. And I have like a rap and I have like my gloves and I just love it. And I wonder if both of you are engaged in similar activities like fun things that get you out of your mind, right?

Rita Dhamoon:

Yeah, he should you want to go because he certainly has some amazing things you did. I think you should

Nisha Nath:

go but I would just I would just like to say that I object to jumping because that people need to jump. Right so I think resist I think you can resist the jumping. So that's all I would say really You go first I want to hear from you. And then I'm happy to pop in.

Rita Dhamoon:

You should make your poli sci web page a picture of you in boxing gloves.

Ethel Tungohan:

Okay, so I'm just gonna share this with both of you, whatever the listeners as well. So before you started the also it was so in the club before they start. They're like pick a fighter name. And I was like, a fighter name right. And so my fighter and I'm kind of embarrassed sharing this. My Fire names the rooster. Right. I'm the rooster because roosters are split. They're like the bee squawk right? They're like vicious.

Nisha Nath:

yeah

Rita Dhamoon:

what would be your name Auntie Nisha?

Nisha Nath:

Oh my god. No, that's challenge. I don't know. I have to really think. That sounds like a commitment. What about you Rita?

Ethel Tungohan:

Yeah. What's your fighter name?

Rita Dhamoon:

I don't think I have Christine C had called me Rita D so kinda like that.

Ethel Tungohan:

I like that Rita D.

Rita Dhamoon:

So does that make you feel different in yourself in relation to the academy to be taking up boxing, Ethel?

Ethel Tungohan:

I don't even think it's related to the academy. It's just something I wanted to do. Right? Like, I don't know. I mean, maybe if I bulk up and become really like, good, right? Although I know that's not the agenda. It's not about being like Manny Pacquiao. It's not about getting a boxing title. This is just for fun, right? But maybe, maybe if I like do this long enough, maybe I'll like strut in my department and be like, like, you want a piece of me. I can punch you, right? Like the rooster is here, right? But it's just it's just one thing I did. And it's exhausting. Like, it's actually really tiring. Like, afterwards, I was like, okay, my arms are. And there's, there's like dudes in the space too. And they're like, whoa, ha, ha, and I'm like, Holy God. But at the end of it, it's a sense of gratification. Because after like, after the workout, you're like, I did it. It's done. It's not like a freaking dissertation, right? Where it's like years upon years of effort. It's just one workout. And it's done. So I don't know if both of you have activities, where it's like immediate gratification, that's rewarding as well.

Rita Dhamoon:

I used to love and I still didn't love cutting grass. Mowing the lawn. And it was probably really lame. But it was precisely because if it's done, right, and there's a sense of satisfaction. So since sort of having more physical health limitations, I'm finding like I would love to do boxing. I feel like if I discovered boxing in my 30s, I'm now in my 50s I think I would have really loved it and been able to do it physically, I just can't do it anymore. So I've been kind of sedentary at some things. And one of them is art. So I'm trying to pastels, watercolor, paint pouring, which is kind of my favorite way to like pour the paint on the canvas with different colors moving around. And I'm also learning to play the doll key, which is an Indian drum. And I'm terrible. People are like 12 year olds, eight year olds, and then there's me. But I love it.

Ethel Tungohan:

So you take online classes or how does it work?

Rita Dhamoon:

I do I take online classes. Yeah, but it's really hilarious because they're like the kids are on budget number 264. I'm finding number three free, but it's been two weeks, three weeks of number three. But I do love it. I do love it. It brings me joy. And I love playing with children. That's the other thing I really love to do. I find adults much more challenging as I've aged. And I think that's part of the sensory kind of demands of engagement, especially with other intellectuals. So I love to play. I'm a good player. I'll babysit anytime.

Ethel Tungohan:

I wish I lived in the same city I'm like okay, well let's my my five year old loves crafts and honestly, I'm just like, Jesus like I hate glue. I hate glitter. I'm just like, but I do it because I love so yeah.

Rita Dhamoon:

How about you Auntie Nisha? I know you do some really fun things.

Nisha Nath:

You know, I? We I mean it's hard to answer this question too. I think because it's the things that we as a family and that I do have also happened recently because I did not do this when I was a sessional instructor right like I did not do it when I was when my kids were teeny i and then also there's the pandemic right which which required searching out for things I think really especially with kids home for like 1718 months. And so you know when you said Rita that you as you age you you find I can I remember how you put it, it was beautiful as everything you say. But just in terms of the demands of engagement with other adults or academics too, especially, I see that the common thread and the things that I turn to involve non engagement with other adults, right. So I turned to certainly there is music, which is more recent, like I wrote, like, on a piece of manuscript paper the other day, which was like, I hadn't done that in years and years and years, and just started to like, to write out a little song. Yeah. But yeah. likes some music, right. So starting to, to engage in music again. And then, you know, as you you both know, we have a lot of kind of non human life that comes into home. So we, we've had a couple of foster fails that are like, the beautiful members of the family now. But then we also have had ducks that have spent time in the house, we've had checks that have spent time in the house. And then, you know, like, the thing, the thing to me and I this is a question I posed to, to you both, and especially makes me think about, like, reader when you were saying you'd love to play with kids. And I think the one thing that I did do a lot of what I was doing sessional work is play with my children, right. And, you know, what happened in those moments, when you're playing with, you know, a child that requires your attention is that you everything else gets suspended? Right? And you are fully present, you know, you're you're fully present and making slime or playdough, or building structure or, you know, whatever the case may be, so when I am, you know, growing my seedlings and in the garden or pulling weeds, or if I am writing, you know, like a tiny note on manuscript paper, or playing an instrument, whatever. Like, for me, I think what I have realized is that I am present fully in that moment, and I am never fully present in academia. I've always in five different places in one moment. And so I'm kind of curious about you both. Yeah.

Rita Dhamoon:

Even when you're writing eh, you you don't feel full present. Can we just pause for a moment and just say, Nisha Nath, you said, you sing and you play, I did not know that you sing and you play.

Nisha Nath:

There was a time, I was so much more interesting. So this is, I mean, this is like, relating to your question, right? That brought us together about like, you know, what happens to our identity when we go into the academy? Like, where do we go? Right? And so that was me,

Ethel Tungohan:

this is this is a revelation, because first of all, is there anything you can't do Nisha Nath, like, honestly? Um, but secondly, it also made me think, you know, when I was in high school, and even before that, I loved writing creative stories, not essays, right. Like, I had, like, I was a precocious like, six year old who wrote little chapter books, and I mailed a chapter book to like, I opened the whatever the book and I saw Random House, right. And I like nailed it, you know, you know, when I love creative writing, right, like loved it. And, and, and when I started university, I haven't written a short story, since,

Rita Dhamoon:

you know, I noticed one of the questions I thought was around, like, how do we protect our time to do all those more fun things. And I think part of it has to be like a real cut off now. You know, when not going to check emails in the evening and not going to work on the weekends. And I think that time management, kind of I know, it's very, it feels very kind of efficiency, neoliberal language. But I don't want to give my time away to the university the way I have done for probably 20 years of my life. I don't want to do that anymore. And I physically can't. So what I was forced to. And so I really encourage people, and I think this is how we need to train our grad students better in terms of prioritizing our health. Now, so we get into good habits, and we training our students to get into good habits early on, whether they are undergrads or grad students in terms of taking time off and making making decisions based on their health, like what would their day look like if they prioritize their health today instead of The five chapters they feel like they need to read or to actually, like, what does it look like to have rest time and learning that there's different kinds of rest. There's intellectual rest, you know, you might be physically tired going boxing, but it also gave you intellectual rest. Brain and so there's different modes of rest that we can, we can follow and engage in. I think that's really important.

Nisha Nath:

You know, one of the, the challenges, I think, too, is that there are so many. And I'll just say women of color, just in terms of I met, I'm visualizing a few key people in my life, who do this work, who are in academia, and they are dealing with they are their research is their life. Right, like in some very profound, deep ways, right. And so that boundary drawing, and I'm sure Ethel, you can think of, you know, the one person that that you and I both know that we're that, that that is not something that is so easily separate, right, like that work and life when it is, you know, all of the questions that are animating your research are ones that that are kind of integral for you to resolve because your community's life is so at stake. Right? And so, I'm curious for you both, because I respect so much how you really care for your students? How, like, what does what does advocating and supporting your students to rest look like for students like that, which are a lot of our students, I think, who come to us, right, who are really so deeply in that life work as part of the research?

Ethel Tungohan:

Yeah, I mean, I think one of my brilliant brilliant students actually had posted on Twitter, that in the act of kind of writing their research proposals, they're reading more on what she's writing on, which is like intimately connected to lived experiences that she's had and her family has had in her community has had great, but what's been so harrowing about reading all of these texts, and doing all of the secondary research, knowing that you'll also have to go into the field and do that as well, is that she's kind of getting vicariously re traumatized, right. And that's why she went into academia to understand more, these lived experiences and structural inequalities that lead to that, right. But then you're kind of living and breathing this topic. And so how do you kind of stop, stop, stop kind of internalizing everything when that is, you know, your life is why you did your research, right? Like, how do you kind of stop that? But I do think, I don't know, I feel like not to be, you know, well, this is academic aunties. But if you think a lot of younger generations, have a better sense of, you know, when to when to kind of stop. And by that I mean, you know, I find that there's a lot a lot more critiques of neoliberalization in the academy now than there were when I started graduate school, right? There's a lot of like communities through Instagram, and through Twitter, and even in person communities that call out bad academic behavior. There's a discourse of care among grad students that certainly when I was a grad student, we would never talk about you would be like the weirdo. If you kind of ask your fellow graduate students, um, you know, does this if I were to ask so and so to be their supervisor, are they carrying? are they carrying good people? You wouldn't you would never ask that at least not in my grad program. Right. So I feel like yeah, I get your point. Nisha, I also have been I'm, I'm very, very happy to see and witness the spaces of support that people have asked us to that certainly when I was a grad student, those didn't exist.

Rita Dhamoon:

I think you know, in some ways I find students of color and students blacks to in some ways have some much more expectation of of us as women of color, faculty of color. And so it's hardest to disappoint them which is where I find I'm have very, like those are where my worst boundaries are now is with students of color Indigenous students and black students. So that's a part I still feel like I don't have figured out but when I what I do say is what kinds of rest do you need? Like can you physically exhausted into, like I've started to figure out for myself, there's a difference between mental fatigue versus intellectual fatigue versus physical fatigue. And of course, they overlap. And anyone that has chronic health notice that they overlap. But to try and distinguish those with people, and then and I remember saying this to you, Nisha, some years ago, like you have an obligation to future people. So get your ship together.

Rita Dhamoon:

Like, honestly, you need to like, be well, yourself. And if that means you need the extension, you got the extension. That's fine. We need to rework what the weighting of assignments is, that's fine. But you have an obligation to the future and the people that you're going to encounter and the work you're going to do. So you need to get your shit together. What does that look like for you? And I know that's like kind of harsh. But I find most people are much more responsive to you have responsibilities rather than, you know, you need to take care of yourself. They don't really care that few people do. I'm sure white male.

Ethel Tungohan:

Can I ask what was the context in which that advice was given? Like, get your shit together? Was it like, just out of curiosity? I mean, Nisha, is the person who has for me, I feel like you have your shit together? No, no.

Rita Dhamoon:

Yeah, you do, Nisha? I think it was it. I think it was in the context of like a bunch of you that were kind of wrapping up your PhDs. And it was just that last push. And it wasn't because I have any doubt in Nisha, or any of the others that add or impact because, you know, Nisha, I think that your work is so profoundly important and brilliant, and that you are going to continue to shape students that we need you there. And so, you know, we are building on like I'm building on other women of color, black women in particular, you know, what they have paved, so I have an obligation to them. And trust me, I don't want to hear somebody say that to me when I'm having a lousy day. But other times, it's been really helpful to hear that from someone else. And I say it was, well, if you're concerned, like I say it would love but i i hope that the people I say it to know how much I love and respect them. So I wouldn't say it to a student I didn't know. Because that was kind of awful. You know, there is there is the philosophy of like making quiet and give them a hug from the supervision style.

Nisha Nath:

That is not you no.

Rita Dhamoon:

I don't like that. So, but I do think that sometimes we need to be reminded.

Ethel Tungohan:

So what is getting your shit together mean because I part of me like, a part of me is like, you know, because I'm a people pleaser. I'm like, Okay, well then Rita aunty, I will I will write more articles. Okay, I will get more grants, you know, I will I will be the neoliberal producing subject. I will make sure that my sheets together to make it No, this is always my thing. It's something my therapist and I need to work on, in order to make my immigrant parents proud to make their experiences of deep professionalization. Like make sense. That's what drives me I'm a I'm an immigrant kid, right? So is that getting your shit together means or is getting your shit together mean? Just do? I don't know. Actually, that's why I'm asking.

Rita Dhamoon:

That's a great question. So I have that sense too. As an immigrant, child, working class parents as well. I think for me what it means is put your health first, finish what you need to get done. Like if you want to finish your ma then you need to finish your ma and that's all it means. I am I'm if you want to stay in the academy, I can help you figure out how to stay in the if you want to leave the academy I can help you fit. So whatever the goal is, do you need to wait another article for tenure? Okay, I can help you do that. But not more than that. What I've learned is that getting your shit together is what is your standard for yourself. And what is it that Well, it's two things, what do I need to do? So what do I need to do to get through this semester? And finish the semester? So that's part of my for myself when I say that. So I know I need to get my grading done. I know I need to do provide some links for Matt, there's two things, why do I have 10? On my list? So what are what do I need to do to get through? It's not what that what do I need to do to exceed those expectations? So that's part of it. And then part of it is, what do I want to do? And how am I going to do that? So in my case, it's also like asking other people to read my work. I hate doing that. Because I feel like the people I want to ask so what do you have the burden?

Ethel Tungohan:

You I mean, I would read your work. I would read rough drafts

Rita Dhamoon:

what I need is people like Ethel and Nisha. Always. Right. Always so bad. But so that's where I need to get my shit together is to trust the people in my community. So that's also that. So it's not actually about productivity. Unless that's a goal that you've set for yourself, because you need to,

Ethel Tungohan:

I need to unlearn productivity, because I've become an academic robot. Honestly, that's how I feel. I mean, I've read in and worked with Nisha, and I just so appreciate Nisha, how you're such a deep thinker, that you take pauses that you're reflecting,

Nisha Nath:

oh, no, no,

Ethel Tungohan:

no, no. But you're thoughtful, and you bring a lot of care and what you think and I feel like, a lot of us, myself included, were formulaic, we know the formula we need to produce, we need to, you know, put things out there. And yet, I think for me, getting my shit together means finding out the work that matters to me, and I'm doing now the work that actually matters to me, the people who I work with are people they actually want to work with. And not just people they feel they have to work with out of a sense of obligation. But yeah, I just feel like I need to come from a space of creating and, and I don't know, kindness, right like to myself, because I beat myself up a lot. So that's what getting my shit together means for me. So I'm happy. It's not a neoliberal because I'm like, Oh, my gosh, read. Okay, I'll give you more grants, I don't know, like what more do you need?

Rita Dhamoon:

Part of it, Ethel, is how many times you get boxing? Like that, to me is part of you getting your shit together? Like how many times are you going to prioritize your non academic world? Well, we outside of that, that question you asked us, you know, and that's part of it for me. Because as you say, if we're not healthy, we can't do this work. Anyway,

Ethel Tungohan:

Nisha, we're just getting your shit together. for you at this juncture.

Nisha Nath:

Oh, my gosh, I don't know. I don't know. I think. I don't know. Maybe I will just separate that. I'm not really sure. Like, I think i think i i Maybe it's as simple as I know how I want to feel. And I want that to be in my work.

Ethel Tungohan:

That's so profound to how do you do this? How do you draw I mean, I feel like I'm like, you know, one glass of wine in and I'm just incoherent. And then you drop this truth bomb after like three glasses like what? No, no, it's such a good litmus test. Great. How does it make you feel? Well, if I don't know I, wow, I I need to write this down.

Rita Dhamoon:

That is huge.

Nisha Nath:

But I think it's like, this is my like, I am curious for both of you. Because I know how the things that I've been doing. Make me feel even if I can't necessarily describe them. Well, but I am. I'm curious, like for you, Ethel. There's the boxing. But then there's also this podcast, right? Which is, it's a real like, I mean, there's a lot in it right in terms of finding joy, but then also, it's still implicated in the academy, etc. And then for you, Rita, like all of this artwork, all of this community work that you're also doing with youth, etc. Like, I'm curious how you would articulate the feeling there. And then do you feel that at work?

Rita Dhamoon:

This is a really important thing. question. I think this is a quite good question for all of us to think about how do we want to feel? And how do we actually feel? I sometimes feel it in my teaching. And, and to me, I've learned to pay attention to my body. So my jaw is much on my shoulders moving lacks rather than hunched. Do I have a headache? You know, my temples pounding at the hair on the roof of my hair hurting. So I noticed my physical symptoms before I noticed the emotional. And I've had to learn to do that over several years because it didn't come naturally. So if I can fit, my Bible feels more relaxed, then I take that as a good sign.

Ethel Tungohan:

And so I'm so grateful for the space that we've created. My guess is a final question. It's December and winter break is coming soon. And I know our listeners feel guilty, some of them for taking a break. Even when it's like mandated by the university, what advice would you give our listeners who feel guilty about taking the holiday off?

Rita Dhamoon:

Other than drink a few glasses of eggnog and um, I think I would say that part of being in the academic world requires us to take time off in order to make it sustainable. That getting your shit together is partly done by making health your priority. Figure out for yourself what kinds of rest you need. It might be that you need to be doing some work, but you need physical rest, but like figure out what kind of rescue you need. And then I love missions question how do you want to feel and if you're not feeling that every day, then you need to figure out yourself in conversation with others as I feel like I've learned from both Ethel and amnesia today is like how do I make that role my every day? Holidays are not easy on a lot of people. And I think COVID adds another layer to that. So yeah, I think that's what I would say

Nisha Nath:

let me just say two for me, Rita like your kind of like multimodal analysis of rest to me is very significant. And that will be something that I carry forward in terms of well my own life, but then also thinking about what I say to others who who do need rest. And I wonder I don't know what advice because I think what you said just now to read is also really important in the holidays are not easy to find dressed during a time. That is often great heartache for so many people or loneliness is Yeah, it's hard to know how to counsel during that time. So I sometimes I wonder if the advice should be to the institution. Right, like like to the institution Get your shit together. Yes.

Ethel Tungohan:

Nisha

Nisha Nath:

will make it possible for people to rust. Right? Yeah, well, I'm

Ethel Tungohan:

so appreciative of the space that we've created and the glasses of wine and Prosecco and Robin eggnog that we've imbibed. Thank you both so, so much. And that's academic Auntie's listeners, please try to do something for this relaxing and fun during the winter break. You may not be able to take the entire time off, and that's okay. But if there is one thing this two year long pandemic has taught me, it is that life is so precious and so quick. After two years of so much loss, I need to keep reminding myself what actually matters. So let's try to do things that are well for us and our families and not the damn institution. This episode is dedicated to my high school friend Joanna Chow, who was my buddy to Intro to Spanish with Miss Young. She was an academic ate or or older sister, who had 15 befriended shy and awkward 13 year old FL. Love you Joanne. You loved life and fought for it, and I'll see you on the other side. Today's episode of Academic Auntie's was hosted by me Dr. Ethel Tungohan and produced by myself and Wayne Chu. We'd love to hear from you. You can reach us at at academic Auntie on Twitter, and academic Auntie's dot com. We'll see you in 2022 with more episodes of academic aunties, until then, take care. Be kind to yourself and don't be an asshole.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai