This could be a very interesting year for the job market, not to mention for Asian history blogging. I know of three Asian history bloggers on the hunt for new jobs this year: none of them have started blogging about the experience, but I’d like to invite them — or any other blogger with an eye on the lists — to start, at least a little bit.1
It’s always been a bit of a curiousity to me that there isn’t more discussion on the blogs or listservs of the state of the market. Faculty with tenure don’t care, except perhaps about very particular opportunities. People already in tenure-track positions aren’t supposed to be watching the ads: makes the department nervous about their “committment.” People who are fresh on the market don’t want to … well, spook potential employers, mostly, though they might also be concerned about giving away too much about their own search decisions to competitors, as well. Me? Well, my blogging is already on my vita, so it’s not like I’m trying to hide it from potential employers.2 I’m a blogger: I talk about things that interest me.
Well, the majority of this year’s crop of jobs has been posted, and it’s time to take stock. I’ll start.
How I see
When I look at the market, I divide it up into four groups, roughly:
- Japan jobs: usually at top-tier research or teaching institutions, these positions require little or no teaching outside of Japanese history (though interdisciplinary program-building comes up sometimes). A department doesn’t hire a Japan specialist unless they’ve got a lot of other bases covered, and large departments like that often have a strong research orientation, four- or five-course per year teaching loads, graduate programs.
- Asia or East Asia jobs: East Asia positions usually want someone who can teach at least China and Japan3 ; Asia positions often include South Asia as a desirable teaching field. A regional survey is very often a required part of the teaching load, part of the contribution to general education. Sometimes a regional or period specialization is specified, which can mean either pre-existing programs or the presence of other Asianists in a department. These positions are usually in medium-sized departments with strong US/European coverage, and some non-Western history; sometimes these are fairly distinguished schools with strong research expectations, and/or very high standards for teaching, and graduate programs are also a possibility.
- Asia + World jobs: A lot like the above category — China and Japan, sometimes India, plus a regional survey are expected courses — plus some World History teaching. Sometimes very large teaching-oriented departments, but more often smaller departments with a lot of general education service expected. Rarely less than a 3-3 teaching schedule, and specified regional specialties usually indicate what they think students will be interested in (or other external factors) rather than the presence of other Asian historians.
- World + Asia jobs: Sometimes “Non-Western World” jobs with no region specified, these positions are always heavily oriented to general education teaching, often with 4-4 teaching loads and multiple sections of World History required on a regular basis. These may be small departments in large institutions (actually, they’re almost always small relative to the institution), medium-sized or large departments without a lot of depth, or departments which have some non-western coverage but which need World History sections more than they need regional speciality courses. Community colleges, if they have any non-Western history at all, usually fall into this category.4
I wonder if Americanists or Europeanists see a similar kind of segmentation, or if the descriptions shake out in a different pattern? I haven’t said anything about period specification. Sometimes it means that a department already has someone who covers a period, and they want to fill their gap. More often it seems like departments specify “modern” or “post-1500” because they don’t think medievalists or classicists are going to “speak to their students” or something like that. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like there are a lot of jobs that specify “modern” in departments without a premodern Asianist.
I haven’t said anything about desirability, either. Most people seem to rank these more or less the way I have them listed here, with Japan jobs the top of the heap and World-heavy positions mostly drudgery. In terms of institutional prestige and pay, potential for research productivity, that’s certainly true; in terms of what graduate students are prepared for by their mentors, that’s certainly true. I have a soft spot for the broader positions, though: all of my tenure-track positions so far have been East Asia + World, and I’ve really come to appreciate Chinese history much more than I used to, and World history has kept me on my toes and introduced me to history as a discipline in ways I’d never really considered before. Being something of a generalist has been very good for me as a scholar: perhaps it’s because of my transnational focus, but it allows me to draw on theory and comparisons and context outside my narrrow field with much greater comfort and understanding than I did when I was a callow youth.5
What I see
I think the market for Japanese historians is at least as good as it’s been anytime in the last ten years. There are a healthy number of straight Japan jobs: in the mid/late 90s it seemed that Japan’s economic slump (and China’s rising star) was cutting into the growth of top-tier positions. This year, though, due to some retirements, some movement and some expansion, there are some high-class institutions who are going to be chasing the top talent: UC-Berkeley, NYU, Boston, UH-Manoa, William and Mary, Arizona State, DePaul. There is a strong East Asia/Asia category as well, about a dozen jobs including Skidmore and Fordham, Colorado at Denver, and UNC-Charlotte. There are about the same number of Asia+World jobs, and about the same number again for World+Asia; lots of State schools in these categories. I’m a little surprised, actually, that there isn’t a more pyramidal distribution, and I’m wondering if the adjunctification of World History teaching has cut into tenure-track lines in the two World-inclusive categories, perhaps shifted a few jobs into the straight Asia category?
The market for China historians — at a glance, since I’m not focused on those jobs — seems strong: more straight China jobs than Japan ones, and a few Asia/Asia+world jobs which specify Chinese specialization.6 I only saw two Korea positions, which seems about par for previous years: at some point, though, Korea positions should catch up with Japan ones. South Asian and Middle Eastern positions seem to be doing well7 with a fair number of “Asia” positions explicitly mentioning these specialities as desirable.
Other things: more online applications, a lot of them using the same HR software.8 Fewer positions requesting transcripts and writing samples up front. Fewer ads mentioning “competitive salary” or benefits.
What I don’t know is how competitive the market is going to be this year: are there a lot of new Ph.D.s in the hunt? Are Asian history Ph.D.s starting to pile up in the adjunct ranks the way Americanists and Europeanists are?
How does it look to you?
I’m not going to name the other ones here: it’s entirely up to them whether they want to take any aspect of this already grinding process public. ↩
I haven’t noticed any which mention Korea specifically, but sometimes they mention Vietnam ↩
But they don’t usually advertise nationally, so it’s harder to gauge that segement of the market ↩
And there’s the “reaching young minds” thing, since general education surveys are often the only history students take, etc. ↩
and Chinese historians have an advantage in World positions, since what they study is a demonstrably large portion of same ↩
again, I haven’t tracked them year to year, but it seems like both are up a lot in the last few years ↩
We toyed with the idea of using a system like this once, but we were nervous about being technology guinea pigs for HR and since we require transcripts and letters on paper, it wasn’t immediately clear that it would reduce our workload. Anyone out there used one recently and want to comment on the difference? ↩