The other day I came across the American Council of Learned Societies’ Leading Edge Fellowships, which place recent humanities PhDs with nonprofits dedicated to social justice. I think these fellowships are a capital idea — they allow early career scholars to work outside of academia without actually leaving it. In other words, this would appear on an academic CV as ‘ACLS Leading Edge Fellow,’ while on a resume it would look like a normal, non-academic job. It’s quite a clever arrangement, and no one could object to the organizations receiving the benefit of these scholars’ talent.
Yet I also wish to record my dismay at these fellowships’ eligibility requirements: one must have earned a PhD after September 1, 2016. What does this say about those of us who earned our degrees before that date but are still struggling to find work? That we’re beyond hope? Arguably those of us who have been on the market the longest are more in need of help, especially help transitioning to other forms of employment, in part because we are no longer eligible for any other sorts of fellowships. At this point I can only apply for ‘senior’ fellowships, such as those at the Institute for Advanced Study or the National Humanities Center, but in doing so I have to compete with tenured professors. In all fairness, I don’t feel that the ACLS owes me anything. I just continue to marvel at how blind mainstream academia is to the state of the humanities job market.