more Canadiana

ok, not really. Yesterday was my first faculty meeting here. I learned a lot about what’s going on in the department (and some of the cool things my colleagues are doing) but I also had a “foreigner” experience. At one point I had the occasion to pronounce the letter “z” out loud (no, in retrospect, I have no idea what the context was). Now, Americans know that it is pronounced “zee” but up here, it’s pronounced “zed.” So I say “zee” and all of a sudden 14 pairs of eyes are on me and the laughter begins.

This was funnier than it may sound, especially when I followed up with “oooo! look at the quaint American!”

I’ve been on the other side of that kind of thing about 1 million times in US, but this was my first experience as the foreigner who says funny words. It was, well, cool.

Today and tomorrow are dedicated to wrapping up a draft of my SSHRC application (pronounced “shirk” and short for Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council). It turns out in a bizarre twist of fate that the Canadian humanities have become much more entrepreneurial in the last few years than their American counterpart. SSHRC provides what to American humanists would be impossibly large grants, though they are mostly for funding research assistants (which is particularly important in our department because we have so few teaching assistantships available, though I’ll have 2-3 in the spring*). SSHRC grants are about building research projects and research teams. You can buy equipment, books, and travel as well, but most of the sum is for student support. As someone who’s tended to do quirky archival research, this does pose a question of how I conceptualize tasks such that RAs can do it. They can’t look at old magazines and have weird interpretations for me (well, they can, but then I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do). I find that the process requires me to systematize my research. Now whether the actual grant, if I were to get it, would have that effect on my work patterns is unclear. But certainly at this stage, the emphasis on “methodology” (which ought to be called “method”) has that effect.

The other effect, of course, is that I become something of a manager if I suddenly have a team of research assistants. On the other hand, I’m used to supervising TAs and came to feel that it was one of the more pleasant parts of the job. It made teaching more collaborative and gave me someone to kvetch with about the project. Perhaps this would be the same? I don’t know. I’ve always says that the “holy trinity” for academics is money, time off and research assistants. If I’m successful, I’ll report back on that.

Carrie’s off in Buffalo giving an invited lecture, who would theoretically mean that I hole up here and get tons done, except that there are cool things happening tonight and tomorrow. I wonder how many weekends the party streak will last. The social life here is so good that I feel like I’m in grad school again. The middle of grad school.

* Every US school I’ve been at calls the second semester “spring semester” even though it begins in January. It’s actually quite Orwellian when you think about it, because you have given something a name even though it is decidedly not that thing. Here, they call it “winter term” which is entirely accurate since it begins in January and ends in mid-April. The thing is that I’ve been saying “spring” for 15 years now, so I’m programmed. Last night a colleague (shout out to Ting Chang!) and I were discussing belief over dinner. She was saying the constitutive act of belief was a leap of faith and I was saying that I thought belief was the result of repeated activity (especially ritualized activity) over time. My unwillingness to call it “winter term” even though a) that is the correct institutional name here, b) that is the correct description of the season which accompanies the second academic term of the year and c) the fact that I AGREE with and LIKE the description seems to have no impact on my reflexive habit of calling it “spring.” Hopefully, I can beat that out of myself by winter. The euphemism is going to be especially annoying on the next -40 degree night.