Homespace: Rejecting Academic Relocation and Honoring Working-Class Roots

Stephanie Sellers

"Their notion of our marginalization is built on the American fantasy that we want to be like them—and we don't."
—Professor Lee Maracle, Canadian First Nations

[1] One of the most challenging professional arguments I continue to make is why I will not do a national job search to seek a tenure-track teaching position in my discipline of Native American Studies. From middle-class relatives on one side of my biological family to acquaintances, colleagues, and even total strangers prying at a dinner party, my decision to carve out fulfilling employment at the academic institution I most value and respect closest to home has been incomprehensible. Running after a high salary, garnered by obtaining tenure, at all costs to community, family ties, and one's physical and emotional health, is clearly the expectation after the Ph.D. is in hand. After years of criticism, I have ascertained that this social expectation is a solidly middle class one. Because of the middle class ethic of relocating geographically for professional success, there is a clear stigma against faculty who are locals. Barbara Jensen addresses this phenomenon by saying, "Among professionals in general, just the fact of someone being in the working class is considered a sign of failure to achieve, at least in the 'socioeconomic status' model" (24). It is also a common perception in academia that faculty from the working class who are locals have inadequate achievements and thus do not warrant recognition and promotion; hence, that is what fuels our decision to remain local when we achieve post-doc status. However, I argue that being a working-class local faculty member has significant advantages on campus and in the college classroom, and my perspective is surely grounded in Indigenous cultural ethics, though a local working-class scholar of any background may come from this experience.

[2] The pervasive American belief in middle-class privilege, that is, the belief in the in-born ability and fundamental right of certain demographics to gain professional success, fuels the expectation that all post-docs should be willing to sacrifice human communities and connections to the land to seek upward employment, a core value of the middle class. As noted by Jensen, rural working class people tend to highly value those connections and middle class people tend to value individual achievement and the gaining of objects that externally demonstrate those achievements (49). For example, objects like a large house, expensive automobile, vacationing abroad, and so forth outwardly demonstrate middle class status. This hidden middle class expectation embedded in academia often requires faculty (and their families), and administrators, to repeatedly relocate for higher salaries due to many colleges and universities refusing to remediate the salary compression pay inequities caused by percentage raises and so faculty must move to new jobs in order to get real raises. For working class people, like me, who desire to stay in our local communities and work at the nearest local academic institution they most value (or in some cases, the only academic institution in a hundred miles) the expectation to relocate is an invisible, but very real, barrier. As working-class scholar Carolyn Leste Law's mother said to her when she announced she was leaving to pursue a Ph.D., "Education destroys something" (1). What it can destroy is one's sense of community and sense of belonging with one's people, and thus the ability to bring an identity embedded in communal ethics to academic campuses. Though academic institutions have recently begun a strong "back to community" agenda at their institutions, it is a hollow expectation when nearly everyone on campus in a position of institutional power is an outsider to the local community and has had to abandon her or his local community and relatives in pursuit of middle-class employment that will give her or him a middle-class lifestyle. How effectively does an academic institution support the local community in which it is located when nearly all the college employees are strangers to the local community? This is a challenging psychological gap, characterized by the offensive academic-created concept termed "town and gown," that impacts the community-campus relationship.

[3] The destruction wrought by education from pursuing an advanced degree or an academic career that Law's mother so profoundly recognized is carried within individual, uprooted faculty who have left their homespace. Damage to individuals and their communities due to separation from their homespace is so invisible in American dialogues about identity, that the issue is only primarily discussed as a serious, spiritual issue in Native American Studies—as if only Indigenous peoples in the Americas gain significant portion of their identities from the land. What gets destroyed through professional displacement from homespace is conveyed to students in the college classroom as an ineffable lesson about adulthood: disconnection from family and community is the price of professional success in America and you will have to make this sacrifice also. Indeed, we are demonstrating to our students by example that if they are not willing to relocate after graduation from community and family for middle to upper-class socioeconomic gains (or even basic economic survival), then they have failed. Thus, by mere default, all those faculty and administrators on campus who are locals have already failed (or at least have questionable credentials), and this message is so often demonstrated and reinforced by local working-class faculty's low rank and the unspoken, but clearly conveyed, class stigma against us.

[4] Granted, some faculty relocate to a campus where they find a sense of homespace for the first time in their lives, perhaps, or they develop important bonds among colleagues and in the larger community. Natural environments of which human beings are a part are in constant flux, biologically and chemically speaking, and certainly adapt to all new people in that environment. But local working-class faculty of all identities have advantages over academics who move into the new campus community, and these advantages need to be recognized. Working-class academics who stay at their local institution know their ancestors are lying in the local graveyards. Their families tilled the soil for centuries, hunted and fished from the land, and built the old homes in the neighborhood. The names of their people are numbered and listed as founders in the courthouse. The land knows and remembers them because a reciprocal relationship has been built between them (people and land) for a very long time. We are the people who know the stories that did not get recorded in the history books—stories of not only the people but of the land. If they are local Indigenous faculty, they have a profoundly different connection to the land that is immeasurably stronger than that of immigrants to Turtle Island (North America), as the languages, rituals, and towns have been in relationship with the land for millennia. Local working-class faculty are part of the larger ecorange (land, trees, animals, atmosphere, people) at their institution where they all know each other on an imperceptible level (spiritually, chemically) and their history and are attuned to one another (biologically). Local, working-class faculty are the cornerstones of every college and university campus in America, just as the Indigenous peoples are the cornerstones and original landlords of Turtle Island overall. Without us, academic institutions forego a core piece of their identity and discount a fundamental, relevant perspective in campus conversations that ultimately impact student perceptions of themselves as people and Americans.

[5] Faculty with origins in the local community where their institution is found bring a breadth of knowledge and experience into the campus community and classroom that faculty from outside the institution's geographic area cannot. The faculty who most often do this are (but not always) the working class because it is the working class who tend the fields, pick the crops, build the towns as skilled tradespeople, are caretakers of the elderly and the sick in rehabilitation facilities, and so forth. In every conceivable way, working class people are intimately connected to the daily functions of humans and the earth in ways that often middle and upper class people are not. Middle and upper class people pay the working class to do these tasks for them (fix their plumbing, put in a fence, service their lawn mower, paint their houses, etc.); hence they remain disconnected from the everyday tasks of a human life. This characteristic of class was absent in most Indigenous nations of North America that did not have a large portion of the society laboring for a small segment of the population who did not. Furthermore, local faculty bring a sense of history, often deep community connections, and a sense of place that faculty born elsewhere cannot bring to the campus experience. Assuming that nothing local could be of value unless it is an historic academic perspective ("quaint local history") or a grand military event (Revolutionary War battle) is snobbish class bias. As scholars, we locals should be just as valued for our contributions as out-of-state and international scholars are. Inclusion means everyone, but because of middle-class bias, local scholars are not even considered a demographic to consciously include in campus discussions about inclusion. Unfortunately, to the non-Indigenous American middle-class academic mindset, when it comes to culture, little is exceptional (and thus worthy of study) unless it comes from across an ocean or an American city with the right reputation. This perspective is surely the legacy of an immigrant nation that still does not recognize or value its Indigenous First Nations, and this is how academia continues to function from a system of empire that mocks the class who built it and continues to keep the system of exclusion and oppression working. Part of the academic middle-class mockery of the working class is to institutionally ignore or fail to promote faculty who are locals at their institution.

Individual Achievement Means Middle Class

[6] In her book Reading Classes, Barbara Jensen writes at length about the focus on individual achievement in American culture and how achievement is fundamentally defined and shaped by one's values based in class. In America, setting one's self apart from others through achievement is strongly encouraged, as we parents are well-aware. Grade-school classes for gifted children, high school advanced placement courses, and public displays of students' work touting their perfect "A's" are present in most schools in the country. When it comes to sports, the stakes are even higher and much more public. The message to differentiate oneself in high achieving ways is deeply valued and rewarded by parents, teachers, and peers—and college admissions committees. Differentiation and competition are sought, not merely being one's personal best and recognizing that worth in how it serves one's larger community. As every faculty member knows from their commencement exercises, the faculty who make the most money are first in line at graduation. This only reinforces by example to our students that the institution (and thus American society overall) functions on a meritocracy, an utterly false social belief, as researchers like Patricia Hill Collins and Peggy McIntosh have demonstrated. Race, class, sexual orientation, and gender fundamentally influence socioeconomic merit. In America, separation and singularity are desirable, not establishing one's role in a community that recognizes and serves the entire community, despite the explicit message we teach our students. Indeed, there is no "I" in the word team, as the sports enthusiasts note, but the million-dollar contract to play professional sports only has one athlete's signature at the bottom.

[7] Jensen writes "Working class people, who tend to favor human connection, cooperation, and community over individuality and personal ambition, like middle class women before feminism, are treated (at best) as if they are underdeveloped people" (49). Most doctoral candidates realize early on that if they plan to go into university-level teaching, they must be willing to relocate—to any state (even a different country), perhaps move several times, even live separately from a spouse and their children so s/he can fulfill their professional destiny of achievement and socioeconomic gain (or, at the least, economic stability). This is often difficult, even painful, for faculty of any class. Many college professors have stories of their professional job seeking that go something like, "We lived in Texas for a one-year appointment, then moved to Chicago on a research grant for a few years, then I got a job in Massachusetts at a school I eventually abhorred and my spouse stayed in Chicago with the kids, so then we ended up here, in Oregon. Now I have tenure so I guess this is home for the next thirty years whether I like it or not." This scenario is considered normal among academics with the end-game being all that matters: a middle-class lifestyle. I shudder and empathize when I hear this story, repeatedly told by colleagues, but most faculty understand that their sacrifices go with the academic job. Many question me for not doing a national job search, and I have been accused of wasting my education in a "dead-end" teaching rank because I wish to stay in my local community (and it is therefore "my own fault"). This is a middle-class perspective based in socioeconomic values that not only completely ignores my contributions to the institution, but certainly has little to do with their belief that I should spread the educational wealth of my degree beyond our college's classrooms. This perspective is solely about money and social status: a middle-class slam for not relocating and instead being loyal to my local roots, identity, and a job I happen to love.

[8] Not relocating for more lucrative employment is problematized by middle-class academics because scholars who earn a doctoral degree are apparently perceived as being "in the system" and therefore should desire the things of the middle-class lifestyle. In other words, the stereotype is that if you have a graduate degree you ARE middle-class or aspire to be middle class. When we do not seek that lifestyle by repeatedly relocating to obtain it, as middle-class Americans of most professions are culturally instructed to do, we opt-in to a counter-culture position whether we want to be perceived that way or not. If achieving one's personal best is equated with rising to live middle or upper class and if after earning a graduate degree one continues to live as a working class person, this is considered willful failure, anti-American, and counter-culture. Though I never actively sought to be perceived as "counter-culture," (though I actually have no problem with the label) I do consider this position, however, to be one of the strongest teachings I can model for my students. The message is to not necessarily emulate my class choices, but to be able to consider alternative ways of living and thinking, even if it looks on the outside like one has committed to a certain system because s/he has participated in it. Challenging cultural expectations for human life trajectory is fundamental in the journey to be a critical thinker and to engage in inner reflection—notions lauded in the writings of Americans like Henry David Thoreau & Walt Whitman, and espoused in part in contemporary college strategic goals. To nurture those qualities in my students is the hallmark, I believe, of a strong teacher. My personal choice as a rural working-class professor to stay home to teach locally sends a strong message to my students that they have a right to construct a life around their values and not live an unexamined life that is culturally conditioned by invisible middle-class ideologies.

The Goal of Individual Achievement: Self-Sufficiency

[9] Middle-class values have a deep vein of fear that underlie the drive for the accumulation of money, pensions, and objects for social status. The fear of poverty, and bearing the accompanying stigma in American culture, are certainly warranted and real, especially for women whose social vulnerabilities increase as we age. However, the fear of poverty is perpetuated because we are encouraged early on in our educations to break ties that give us stability and a sense of belonging (community connections) in order to socioeconomically succeed. The valedictory messages of "Don't let anyone hold you back," "Be all you can be," "Looking out for #1," etc. demonstrate a common cultural trope of the goal of success of every American youth that declares we spend life on our own and can only depend on ourselves in order to be viewed as competent and worthy. More importantly, the edict is that we should be depending only on ourselves. One of the first lessons taught to American children is to do tasks on one's own, to be independent, to not need help. This highly-praised, early childhood teaching sets up the anti-communal ethics, middle-class self-sufficiency paradigm that academics (and certainly other white-collar professions) act out through relocation in search of a tenure-track position. Many academics do so at great personal loss of family ties and connections to one's origins, and have little choice in making the decision if they wish to survive financially. The American higher education system is predicated on its members' relocation creating communities of strangers to teach and guide a community of students who have left home and community to get an education.

[10] As Jensen states, it is community that binds people together and it is working class folks who not only value, but depend, on those relationships for life. Though the ability to work hard and be proud of that work is at the core of those working-class values, isolated self-sufficiency is not part of that ethic. But certainly part of the middle-class message is not only about certain types of achievements, it is also very much about the goal of not needing anyone. Self-sufficiency, the greatest fallacy of middle-class values, is a belief that is embedded with other American fantasies like being young and physically able forever and having enough money to never need anyone for help. That is ultimately what the accumulation of middle-class money is for, to buy services from working-class strangers so middle-class individuals can work on increasing their professional success and be protected from isolation and poverty in old age. As I stated earlier, these are very real concerns, especially for women. Hence the importance of cutting community ties by academic relocation to ensure a middle-class lifestyle that will (hopefully) ensure certain protections throughout one's life and into old age. It seems academics are supposed to trade-off one loss (homespace/ community) against hope of avoiding a greater loss (living in poverty/ helplessness/ social stigma). For local working-class faculty, we have the strong advantage of living in our home communities and the strength of those roots to carry us through our lives and into old age—those are the roots we can count on regardless of our income.

[11] A highly-popular contemporary theory espoused in A Framework for Understanding Poverty: A Cognitive Approach by Ruby K. Payne strongly claims that to get people out of poverty they are discouraged from sharing resources with their communities and are to save (hoard) money to get ahead (become middle-class), i.e. separate themselves from their family and community. Payne specifically offers examples about how African-American and Latino individuals undermine their personal success by giving money to family, church, and community rather than hoarding it in order to rise to middle-class status. Cutting ties with one's local community is presented as desirable and necessary for individual achievement. Indeed, dependence on only ourselves and having a successful life as defined by never having to ask anyone for a "handout" are strongly valued in the U.S. This perspective is especially humorous to the Native American, Amish, and Plain People (some orders of Mennonites) communities who are raised knowing that everyone needs, and deserves, a "handout" of community love and support every step of the way through life and to be without that constant sense of support is to be existing in abject poverty, no matter how much money you have. These are not just rural working class ethics, but nearly-universal, ancient ethics based in the power and necessity of human community. These communal ethics are primary in defining a healthy human life: mentally, physically, and spiritually. The unspoken middle-class ethic, though, is that help from others is equated with failure. Even highly-competitive grant monies awarded to academics are not perceived as "handouts," but money that was earned for work that will make their list of credentials longer, their sense of success stronger (and get them closer to the front of the faculty line-up at graduation).

[12] Academic focus on individual achievement and encouragement to relocate and separate one's self from her/his home community bolsters the stigma against local faculty who are perceived as "not sacrificing" enough and are perceived in a subversive way as receiving a "handout" from the local institution of which we are undeserving. In light of the high value of self-sufficiency embedded in academic middle-class ethics, the arguments that we local faculty are not deserving of promotion and recognition of our work seem valid. If we were really completing scholarship of great value, we would have relocated to an institution for a better rank, non-working class academics wrongly reason. To stay in the homespace one loves at a substandard teaching rank, daily bearing the stigma of being a "nonessential employee," and serve one's academic community while being a nationally recognized scholar in your field, to middle-class academics, sounds like an oxymoron. The discourse goes like this: "Local working-class and an accomplished scholar with national recognition? Impossible! No worthy scholar would ever stay local when they could be earning a sizeable salary elsewhere!" The value of local, working-class faculty's ability to represent our community and its history, the strength of honoring one's roots, and the impact of these experiences on the academic institution and its students are never considered.

[13] Jensen adds to her argument that "Individuality, as a good thing, is a value peculiar to European and North American societies, and it is especially applauded in the United States" (49). It is certainly contrary to the communal ethics of Indigenous nations, an ethic that nourishes cultural identity and contemporary communities that thrive because of their ability to stay together, geographically, culturally, and socially. Achieving one's personal best is certainly a cultural value throughout most Indigenous nations, but one's personal best is also for the community, not for personal aggrandizement. For many Native academics, we are the only Indigenous scholar at our institution, a type of strange exile especially when all the others at the college are immigrants from other states and quickly claim the local area as their own, to either value or condemn. To Native people with close ties to their nation's community, it is a common struggle to undertake leaving home for education and/or financial survival while maintaining ties to the home community and perhaps returning to it, if only for regular visits. New faculty often tell me, "You were so welcoming to me when I arrived; I thought you had tenure!" as if only employees who have full citizenship at the institution (tenure) would welcome new faculty, and faculty with lesser ranks would have no sense of loyalty or ownership to the institution. Indeed, the opposite is true. Because I am local, I have a strong sense of loyalty to the area and the institution that is situated where I was born and have a strong sense of responsibility to the land, where ancestors on both sides of my family are buried, and all that it encompasses. My reply to them (with a smile) is, "That's right, no tenure, just a member of the original neighborhood." I know they are well-meaning and only functioning from invisible beliefs about who matters in academia, but my hope is that this is a teaching moment for them about the value of local faculty.

[14] Jensen specifically notes the power and tasks around working class people in building and maintaining communities. She writes, "Individuality, striking and standing out on one's own, is not a good model for most working class people either, who have traditionally worked together to make things happen: clearing land, building houses and barns…" (49). Communities are the first things that are dismantled when academics take an oath to earnestly follow the possibility of impending prestige that will make their massive student loan seem worthwhile, which obviously is not their personal problem, but an alarming societal issue. Academic need to relocate damages individuals, families, communities, and the ancestral ties (though very young ties in the immigrants who just arrived a few hundred years ago) to the land and their local ecorange. Academic relocation is a symptom of American values that places individual gain over nourishing bonds, and it also is a statement about the necessity of college-level instructors to do what they must to financially sustain themselves (and, for most, live financially quite well) in America regardless of their personal feelings about geographically relocating.

Contributions of Working Class Scholars in Academia

[15] Contrary to the painful autobiographical essays about professors from working-class families hiding their backgrounds in academia in the anthology This Fine Place So Far from Home: Voices of Academics from the Middle Class by C.L. Barney Dews and Carolyn Leste Law, by virtue of my discipline and being a local scholar, I explicitly bring a rural working-class counter-narrative to middle-class academic values into my NAS classroom. The NAS discipline itself is often a counter-narrative to popular versions of American history and literatures, as well as most of anthropology as it pertains to Indigenous peoples. Indigenous ethics that recognize and value community and human connections bring to the classroom a perspective that fundamentally includes people of various identities, including class. Working class people at institutions in their hometowns or home cities are individuals who provide a gateway to dialogue between local and global, working class and middle to upper class groups, and between formally educated and self-directed educated groups of people. This invaluable role strengthens communities and ultimately nations.

[16] Local working-class faculty strongly demonstrate the tenets of Standpoint Theory that recognizes the importance of knowledge gained uniquely from certain groups of people in a social hierarchy. Local faculty provide a much-needed source of both Situated and Local Knowledge (as in fixed in time, place, etc) that addresses institutional goals of providing students with a multilingual, intercultural version of the human experience. Second, a multi-perspective discourse, which is another goal of most liberal arts institutions, is not fulfilled without local working-class people on the faculty who add our experiences, critiques, and perspectives to institutional dialogues that tend to be solely based in middle-class values. Along with reflecting a basic tenet of an inclusive academic environment, this also reflects literary Reader Response Theory that honors perspectives that are interactive, performative, and thus fundamentally creative. In a campus environment where multiple perspectives are truly welcome, local working-class scholars provide strong bridges among various demographics on and off-campus that makes for a healthier, more inclusive human community. We are often important contact people and role models for working-class students who struggle with living among middle to upper class classmates.

[17] Individuals with a clear sense of belonging to human communities and a land-base bring a tangible quality of stability and wholeness into the classroom. The stability created by community bonds gets transmitted via local faculty, especially important in this era of the anonymous suburbs where the soccer moms may talk on the field when the kids are young, but asking another middle-class suburbanite for help (admitting personal need) is another matter altogether. Local working-class faculty have that belonging and therefore have something as unique and important as faculty who can bring, for example, an urban transgender perspective into her/his classroom. Unfortunately, local working-class faculty members are not only denied a voice, but are shamed into silence by academic communities by their chronic exclusion, classist jokes, and attitudes that declare the academic immigrants into our homespaces have a clearer understanding of our history and experiences than we do. Anthropological patronization not only continues in academic study of Indigenous peoples in general, but certainly extends to local peoples where colleges are located that tend to view the locals of all ethnicities as being so primitive that anyone can know our (banal) experiences.

[18] The middle-class perspective is not inherently wrong, though. Its downfall is when it is so pervasive that it is invisible and broadly applied as a norm, condemning all those who run counter to its expectations. It is simply inherently wrong for academic institutions to shut-out faculty perspectives and experiences from the working-class who are locals. Inclusion means everyone is invited to the table and their unique perspective is recognized and respected, not just middle-class values that espouse a "from anywhere but here" mentality when it comes to hiring and promoting faculty and fulfilling their institution's policy of inclusion. Local working-class faculty do have unique, and highly-valuable, qualities to bring into the classroom along with their academic credentials, and set an important counter-model for undergraduate students about what it means to be an adult and a professional.

[19] Though anonymity has its merits at times, there is something grounding and nourishing about living a human life walking in the same places one's ancestors have been for a hundred (or in some cases several thousand) years and seeing the names, the crafters of that history, around you in one's day to day life. This strongly constructs a sense of place and that sense is conveyed in the classroom between teacher and student interactions. I would argue that academic relocation away from one's homespace (even when that space is conflicted and ambiguous) is a trauma begotten by modernity that is fueled by the middle-class desire, indeed the American obsession perpetuated in popular culture, for financial gain and all its outward trappings. For many academics, not relocating for employment is not an option if they wish to survive financially; unfortunately, this is a reality in our contemporary society. Much of this desire is fueled by fear of socioeconomic vulnerability that is only compounded by the reality that seeking the middle-class lifestyle disconnects academics from their home communities, relatives, and geographic homespace.

[20] There is a great strength in having college-level instructors based in their home communities at institutions of higher learning as surely as it is important to have a faculty body that represents international, global identities. Both local and international demographics afford richness to co-curricular offerings and classroom pedagogies. Working-class faculty provide just as necessary a perspective in the classroom as, for example, a working-class Moroccan scholar would. The bias lies in that, in America, if you're working class but from another country, then you are not branded as provincial, but instead are perceived as exotic and contributing to campus diversity. The academic gates that remain closed to American local working-class academics need to open and finally acknowledge our specific contributions and importance on our local, home campuses. Academic systems are supposed to be predicated on a premise that faculty promotion is based on unbiased and transparent expectations, but they need to take a hard look at how faculty from the local town are treated in their system, and not see our scholarship and achievements through a biased, middle-class lens because we have not relocated. If being an outsider is what makes faculty "more special and interesting" and thus more qualified for promotion, then we are making contradictory statements to our students who we teach that community is a high priority in living a fulfilling life and a strong component of global citizenship. Perhaps we should just tell our students at the onset of enrollment the same message we faculty quickly learn: "Never let your family or community bonds get in the way of your financial success!"

[21] Many of my undergraduate students struggle deeply with the expectation of relocation for social achievement local faculty experience. Should they do what they love or do what they hope will make them money?, they ask anxiously as we discuss their post-graduation plans. I receive more than a few post-graduation letters from students who feel deeply alienated and isolated at a prestigious new job that was supposed to afford them happiness, but instead they are lonely and depressed away from their family and community. Worse, they are told by middle-class relatives to just ‘get used to it' because this is what life is all about. My role as a working-class academic advisor is to guide students to what will create a life of wholeness for them, however they envision that wholeness, not simply a life that is socioeconomically middle-class as American culture has dictated is the ultimate road to fulfillment.

My Journey as a Rural Working Class Scholar

[22] As I worked toward my Ph.D., it was assumed by many that I would immediately flee rural Pennsylvania and go to Oklahoma or California (you know, where the Indians are) to get an academic job—maybe even be brave and go to Alaska (Eskimos!). The widespread attitude around me was, "Go West, doctoral candidate!" After earning my Ph.D., I ran into rural working-class values that I never realized I held so deeply in my identity. My working-class relatives and friends understand this completely and don't know what all the fuss is about. However, I have learned to keep those working-class beliefs to myself in certain company because they incite resistance and anger in people who laud the American Dream of living upper middle-class to demonstrate their personal worth and success. "No four-bedroom home with landscaped yard and a 2-car garage? What's wrong with you?", they asked me like I'm insane.

[23] Because of my rejection of many middle class values, I have been perceived as a failure, anti-American, a liberal bunny-hugger, even a self-righteous do-gooder who hates modernity. Indeed, after I entered academia, I saw how fundamentally working-class I am, and how I refused to abandon my origins to run after a tenure-track job and live out my life among strangers in a strange land. This personal value has cost me many relationships, including middle-class biological relatives. As one of the few colleagues I ever invited to my home remarked as he stepped onto the front porch of my cabin in the mountains, "Wow! There is absolutely nothing between campus and your house. How do you stand living here?" He had just driven past miles of some of the most beautiful state forests and creeks in Pennsylvania. Apparently these were all "things" that were not only invisible to him, but had no value.

[24] The confusion expressed from others about my choice to not relocate for better employment is solidly based in class perceptions. I have been told that I am "wasting" my education and career goals by staying in central Pennsylvania, an education that came with the privilege of studying with some of the foremost scholars in NAS in the country, my critics point out. This argument is quite similar to criticism of women who have graduate degrees and stay home to raise their children. That example is the classic double-bind based in gender; what working class faculty experience is the double-bind based in class. My condemners are functioning from middle-class socioeconomic values that are based in the penultimate human achievement of monetary gain and social status, though, not an altruistic belief in spreading the NAS educational wealth beyond central PA. Indeed, the beliefs from which they function originate from valuing a personal, innate (and very American) sense of responsibility to the individual self as paramount.

[25] I have been directly asked why I refuse to do a job search, considering my lengthy curriculum vitae. After my second book was published, colleagues would outright ask me, "Why don't you just leave?" These questions are particularly painful since they utterly disregard my work at the college and certainly suggest that I am replaceable and have no sense of home/loyalty/duty to the students and the courses I teach. Their urgings of "just leave/just move" indicate a superficial relationship to life that I find chilling, especially when they know I am a local person. The American cultural urgings to relocate imply that one's community, ancestors, and history are meaningless, things to be only marginally aware of (if at all) as "Fun Facts" about yourself rather than irrevocable, biological, and spiritual facets that make a person human. Over the years, I have realized that, to many academics, those things are meaningless when held against the bright light of professional reputation and income. Much of this is unconsciously undertaken and simply an expectation of all our American teachers and middle-class mentors to which we acculturate by rote. If we do not follow these expectations, though, we become outsiders and failures, and these perspectives clearly get acted out in academic settings.

Homespace: Imagining Together As a People

[26] A key component Jensen misses in her discussion about working-class academics and community, though, is relationship with one's original geographic location or homeland. Every academic institution in America sits on soil that has a history and contains the memory of all the human and non-human experiences that occurred on it. Middle-class academic values do not recognize this and often deride this reality as nonsense or fantasy, instead of the culture-specific reality it is. Whether one wishes to look at this point from a scientific perspective that chemically and biologically measures or anthropologically postulates, or perhaps consider a literary tenet that acknowledges the power of place, land is at the core of human identity. Indigenous cultural values relating to the land are embedded in one's national identity and right-relationship (reciprocal, sacred) with the land is fundamental in Indigenous creation stories and cultures. But this relationship is neither romantic nor from the past, but is expressed in the lived experience of Indigenous peoples and communities today. Local faculty of working class backgrounds embody some of this reality and bring the power of being historically part of the land and those subsequent lessons to their institutions. Local communities have an image of themselves that is created by the human beings who live there, and this image deeply affects local academic institutions. Local scholars employed at local colleges bring the wisdom and history of location into the international conversation on campus as cultural brokers. Local Indigenous scholars, with lineages that span millennia, bring an even stronger identity with location to their work and presence on campus.

[27] Kiowa scholar N. Scott Momaday writes in The Way to Rainy Mountain "In the course of that long migration they [the Kiowa] had come of age as a people. They had conceived a good idea of themselves; they had dared to imagine and determine who they were" (Prologue). To imagine together as a people who you are and to draw this wisdom from the land is at the heart of what the working class scholar brings to her local institution. She holds the vision of the local community from the lived experience of her people who worked the fields and the mines, tended gardens, hunted/fished/trapped and harvested from the land for centuries. For some working class faculty, their ancestors fought in local battles of colonial-era wars and in the Civil War, and carry the power of those histories and stories as living descendents of important legacies. For Indigenous peoples, the responsibility to stay in one's home community to carry on cultural traditions is extremely strong. Even in Central PA where we have an Indigenous community made up of many different nations, it is important for us to be physically present on this land to carry out the rituals of our ancestors. The land knows when the human beings are not paying attention, when we are not fulfilling our part of the relationship. I know more than a few highly-accomplished Indigenous scholars who languish(ed) as adjuncts for years at institutions in their homeland, as I have, because they simply could not leave their Indigenous community to relocate for a tenure-track job. Loyalty to their culture and all its responsibilities is a higher priority than seeking a middle-class lifestyle and garnering academic status that would recognize their accomplishments. It is a painful choice that most academics (or diehard upwardly mobile individuals of any profession) do not understand.

[28] As more than one Native elder has said to me during my wrangling with the issue of academic relocation, "How much are you willing to pay to get that money?" Though I cannot deny how difficult it has been (and still is) for me, I clearly recognize that the price would ultimately have been separation from my self, the land I dearly love, my and my husband's extended local community, and close proximity to all the people in my and my husband's lineage who came before us. To relocate simply to obtain a socioeconomic middle-class lifestyle would not only have destroyed something of my own being, but it would be presenting a type of brokenness in every lesson I taught my students. If the teacher is not whole, how can she teach wholeness? I owe myself, and my students, more than that.

Works Cited

Dews, C.L. Barney, and Carolyn Leste Law, eds. This Fine Place So Far from Home: Voices of Academics from the Middle Class. Philadelphia: Temple U P, 1995.

Jensen, Barbara. Reading Classes: On Culture and Classism in America. Ithaca: Cornell U P, 2012.

Momaday, N. Scott. The Way to Rainy Mountain. Albuquerque: U New Mexico P, 1976.