Research project / Aktuelle Forschung
Academic career mobilities: Logistical and social-cultural entanglements of
work-life balance and intersectional inequalities in the life course of academics in Germany
The research project is situated in two interdisciplinary fields mobility studies and work studies. Linking higher education and geographic mobility this interdisciplinary research combines anthropology of labour, sociology of time, mobility studies, sociology and philosophy of knowledge while being methodologically entrenched in an ethnographic approach to diversified practices in mobile life careers of academics. Academic career mobility in this project is approached in terms of practices, embodiment, affect, gender, politics, rhythm, immobility, belonging, networks, and regimes. In highlighting these complex concepts, categories and analytic scales this research project qualitatively addresses so far underexplored connections between the production of knowledge, the various conditions favouring/ inhibiting academic mobility, the subjective aspects and temporal considerations that impact decisions in process of academic mobile life-careers.
The central research question is: what impacts have the dynamic interactions between geographical academic im/mobility, the life course, and life-career balance on shaping personal and working biographies of academics in social sciences and humanities in the German higher education system? What are the factors that increase/decrease the pace of academic mobility? Who moves slower and who moves faster, or who doesn’t move at all? To answer these questions, I look closely at the hidden entangled asymmetries that allow for detecting intersectional inequalities that arise from academic mobility mediated through different social divisions: gender, citizenship, ethnicity, nationality, ability, class, race, etc.
The research aim of the project is to identify and analyse how different forms and paces of academic mobility (from intercity commuting to international mobility) change over the life course of academics as an intrinsic part of academic career progression, as well as how other life domains (family, partnership, lifestyle, health) are affected by or are associated with academic occupational mobility practices. The research delves deep into biographies of academics and goes beyond prevailing assumptions that the pace of academic geographical mobility is automatically linked to academic career acceleration. I argue that an academic career doesn’t accelerate by simply physically moving across countries and continents. The life-course lenses allow me to identify both, the structural and individual factors that affect unstable processes of acceleration and de-acceleration in academic career mobility over the life course and social implications and ramifications in transitions in the life of academics.
The overall aim of the research project is to produce the knowledge on how conceptions of ideal timing of mobility or immobility exhibit individual preferences and cultural norms in an interplay with structural forces (higher education policies, universities, funding institutions, mobility regimes, etc). This knowledge will provide a new nuanced understanding of academics’ strategies to balance various structural and socio-cultural temporalities. By using the method of “in-depth biographic interviews” and “mobility biography” I aim to explore the agency of academics to choose the form of academic mobility that allows, for example, greater autonomy over pacing that impacts and enables or not, work-life balance, while they are wrestling with constraints of academic occupational pressures and organizational scheduling that are associated with them.
The first phase of the project (August 2021-July 2022) is funded by Fritz Thyssen Stiftung.