Accepted Paper:

The imperative to be mobile for academics: Negotiating career, personal life, and transnational mobility  

Author:

Martine Schaer (University of Neuch√Ętel)

Paper short abstract:

Transnational mobility is often presented as indispensable for a successful academic career. Building on a research study conducted at three universities in Europe and USA, this paper discusses difficulties that young academics confront when trying to reconcile career, personal life, and mobility.

Paper long abstract:

Transnational mobility is often presented as indispensable for a successful academic career. In Switzerland and beyond, many academics thus integrate mobility in their career trajectories. Apart from its 'imperative' character, academic mobility differs from other forms of highly-skilled mobility in that it is organized without institutional support and on the precarious basis of fixed-term contracts/fellowships (except for professorships). Academic mobility also triggers a particular dynamic whereby it often becomes difficult for the academics to return where their mobility trajectories started, without disrupting their careers. Furthermore, as with other forms of mobility, research showed that academic mobility is highly gendered and has important effects in (re-)producing or transforming gender inequalities.

Building on a research project conducted at three universities - Zurich (Switzerland), UCLA (USA), and Cambridge (UK) - this paper discusses the mobility experiences of young academics and their partners. Through the portraits of academics whose mobile trajectories are emblematic of today's academic paths, we examine the difficulties they confront when trying to reconcile career, personal life, and mobility. Furthermore, we show the role of gender in these negotiations, as well as the constraints that structural contexts and gendered societal expectations put onto these mobile academics. Overall, when mobility episodes (and/or fixed-term appointments) follow one another with no satisfactory ending in sight, academics express the possibility to leave academia altogether or move to a less fulfilling position elsewhere to better attune their personal life.

Panel Plenary C
Early Career Scholars Forum: im/mobility, uncertainty and hope - critical reflections on academic precarity