I had reason to go back into SDU yesterday – to pick up a journal article on the early Germanic sound laws, and to have a chat with my new Marie Curie contact about the final report (which is, in one of the many gratuitous hurdles of grant management that necessitated the meeting in the first place, not the final report as we know it).
Going back to places that have, in one way or another, become part of one, always results in a state of heightened sensitivity. Distance and closeness at once draw change away from the abstract. Memories are everywhere. It’s like standing in front of a door that is open and shut at the same time.
But it’s only twelve days since I left … I was not expecting it to be that tangible that soon. Perhaps the efficiency with which one is consigned to the institutional archive had something to do with it – one’s name had disappeared from the library collection slip, from the pigeonhole, from the office door, just as the previous occupant had been written away before I turned up. This is not something I take personally – but that is, if you think about it, the point. Whether it’s the end of teaching cover, an externally funded research grant, a REF submission post – the institutional apparatus, with a few notable exceptions, seems to find studied indifference the easiest attitude to take.
It does not have to be that way. The fun conversation about the ins and outs of the bureaucratic end-game showed me that … the expressions ‘caring’ and ‘taking an interest’ come to mind … it is possible. And out of it came the fact that I left seeing the report not as a pain but as an opportunity.
It is a chance to draw a line under it all – to be unabashed about what I have done in these two years, but also to say some of the things for which there is not usually a space. That thinking and understanding need time and stability, that learning is not a commodity. Perhaps, even, that funding agencies could themselves, for once, embrace the rhetoric of innovation and develop new, sustainable frameworks that stop perpetuating the harm that is being done.