By: Martina Angela Caretta, Caroline Faria
Article Title, Issue and Volume:
Time and Care in the “lab” and the “field”: Slow mentoring and Feminist Research in Geography
Special Issue – Fieldwork in Geography
What is the main purpose of your study?
Our article highlights the importance of time and care in producing rigorous, ethical scholarship through advising practices. We argue that for academic advising to be meaningful and enriching both to advisee and advisor, it should be done with care and time in order to develop healthy and ethical relationships.
What are the practical, day to day, implications of your study?
While the purpose of this study might not seem revolutionary to the non-scholarly audiences, we think that its implications are fundamental for contemporary graduate education. In the last decades, in fact, work in academia has been characterized by increasing levels of stress due to mounting pressures of producing more papers and acquiring an ever-increasing amount of research funding. These productivity requirements have reflected negatively onto graduate education often making the relationship between advisor and advisee more exploitative and more product-oriented. Our paper challenges these neoliberal norms and argues that advisors should take time to build a caring, mentoring relationship with their advisees. Particularly in the context of geographical fieldwork, we contend that it is fundamental to create opportunities for ethical collaboration and mutual mentoring and learning.
How does your study relate to other work on the subject?
This study builds on the increasing literature in feminist geography that contests current neoliberal academic developments. This article contributes to this growing body of literature by zooming in on graduate education. We show how untenured faculty can push back increasing neoliberal pressure by making time and taking care to develop an elevating mentoring relationship with students. We show how this can, at the same time, result in high-quality and complex research.
What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study?
First, and perhaps surprising for the general public to learn, is that research laboratories are now not only the norm in the natural sciences, but they are also becoming the norm in the social sciences. This is a reflection of current neoliberal developments in academia which have increased the pressure on universities and their faculty to increase their outputs and find sources of funding beyond the public purse. Although geographers do not carry out experiments, we have found we are now increasingly encouraged to work under a laboratory model so that we combine our efforts and success in finding grants and publishing findings. But these moves can also heighten stressors on all researchers and lead to recognition for quantity over quality. Deep thinking and rigorous work take time, and building ethical relationships with students is, or we argue should be, central to that process. So the gains of these shifts also have challenges, which we highlight and respond to in this article.
What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study?
While mentoring in geography has mostly been discussed in the context of faculty relations, we expand the conceptual potential of this practice by including graduate students’ mentoring, and of both peer mentoring and “mentoring-up” from students to faculty too. Central to this model, we argue that we must slow down the process of mentoring to incorporate more time and care in the constitutive process of learning and knowledge production at the graduate level.
How does your research help us think about Geography?
This research shows to the general public that geographical fieldwork and geographical knowledge production is currently fraught by neoliberal production requirements, something that might not be apparent to those who are not working or relate to university environments frequently. This piece, however, also demonstrates that geography is a critical field of study that challenges these academic production metrics and that feminist geographers are particularly committed to maintaining a meaningful and personal graduate experience.