On disaffiliation

Sometimes, I’m asked why I choose to list myself as an ‘independent scholar’ (associated only with the National Association for Independent Scholars). There’s good reason to be curious. Academically, there is a stigma around the label of ‘independent scholar’. (e.g., if you dig around a bit in philosophy, you find that some of the most famous of those who operate under the label make for some pretty odious company.) And it hardly helps out on the academic job market. So why would I disaffiliate? What’s the gossip?

I’m afraid the answer is rather mundane. Overall, I am pleased with my degree hosting institutions. And yet, I need access to a library or community to do my work. My affiliation just is whatever institution or community provides those scholarly resources. That access lapses when you are an alumni — understandably, since journals and databases are far from cheap. So the honest thing to fess up: I get by through Google, eBooks, Academia.edu, SSRN, and JStor’s free monthly articles.

I do not necessarily recommend this course of action to anybody who thinks they have a reasonable shot at securing academic employment. The stigma is real. But I do recommend honesty. For the job of the intellectual is to discover the truth and expose lies, and that project starts at home.

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