Here’s another whine about academic employment in Scandy archaeology.
Yesterday my PhD diploma turned five years old. This means that I have now, at age 36, ascended to heights where I am automatically considered over-qualified (or simply failed) for a forskarassistent entry-level assistant professor’s position at Swedish universities. Having done research full-time for the past 14 years and published about 120 pieces of archaeological work, I allow myself to believe that I am not an entirely failed scholar. It’s an over-populated labour market.
In the past five years I have applied for almost every entry-level and lecturer job advertised in academic Scandy archaeology. In sixteen cases I know the age of the person who got the job. The median is 42 years. The first and third quartiles are at 40.5 and 43.75 years. In everyday terms, this means that to get one of these jobs, you have to be 40-44 years old and you must have completed your PhD recently.
In practice, it’s probably also wise to not piss a whole generation of older colleagues off by telling them in print that a) their humanities/sociology-based perspective on the discipline is a load of pretentious verbiage, b) the MA-level teaching of archaeology at universities should be severely curtailed as it sends graduates into unemployment. (Free advice, kids!)
So, careerwise I’ve painted myself into a reasonably well-funded gentleman-scholar corner. I’m like Charles Darwin without the ancestral money and The Origin of Species. My wife is the only person in the world who cares whether I get out of bed in the mornings. Small grants from private research foundations and a one-day-a-week gig as a journal editor pay my bills and my costs of research. I don’t want to go into contract archaeology because of the Field-Archaeological Paradox. I don’t want to be a museum administrator. I can’t hope to get into academic archaeology before age 40 (that is, 2012). And I can’t give up before age 44.
I enjoy what I do and I have inexpensive habits, so I have no real incentive to leave the discipline for greener pastures (translation work, language teaching, science journalism, the computer gaming industry). But I have high enough an opinion of myself that it really irks me to find the road to positions where I could do some good work barred.
But I guess that the really sad thing is that compared to my contemporaries in Scandy archaeology, mine is a success story.