In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • A Superiour Guide to Performing the Academic Self
  • Mona Abdel-Fadil (bio)


One should like to dedicate this essay to every academic one has ever observed in action. Thank you. It has been inspirational.


If you are a visual or performing artist, please substitute the word "academic" or "scholar" with the most self-indulged and pompous art critic that immediately comes to mind. Only then will the magic of the following paragraphs resurrect your soul.


If one may be so bold: this essay gleans the best of two worlds. It is as if an elite, reputable anthropologist and an internationally acclaimed self-help guru had a baby. Here, one shares one's (infallible) conclusions and advice about how you can mold yourself into the perfect academic, the kind that everyone admires and bestows with respect, the kind that gets tenure. You will feel a sense of new direction, and we encourage you to let the glorious, inspirational quotes we have included lift your spirits for all eternity. One has even included a "Diversity 101" section at the end of this text in the unlikely event that you manage to concentrate for that long.

We realize that you may be unfamiliar with the tacit knowledge that makes an outstanding academic. Luckily, we are here to guide you through it all. The gallery of (male & white) professors you will encounter in this essay are entirely representative of academia. But, more importantly, they are fine scholars whose opinions matter. In a sense, one has been conducting an informal ethnography of academia for two decades—three, if one counts one's childhood.

Much like the best Hollywood scripts, this magnificent essay is loosely based on a true story. Every word, character, and episode that made it into this essay was inspired by real events. Naturally, any resemblance to actual people or incidents is merely coincidental.

One shall speak of attitude and merit before delving into controversial topics such as women and ethnics. We always save the scrumptious bits for the end.


When one was in secondary school, one's visionary, bearded geography teacher insisted that pupils use pseudonyms for all exams. In [End Page 580] response, one (plus a friend) decided to create matching pseudonyms. Hence Professor Bob Uno Flowerbed and Professor Jofrid Natalia Lightfountain saw the light of day. Unfortunately, upon reading the geography exam, one realized that "Flowerbed" & "Lightfountain" were pretty much all one had to offer. So instead of answering the exam questions, one wrote an elaborate tale about how the geologists Lightfountain & Flowerbed were pioneers in their field and had written a five-volume encyclopedic account of their research. One's responses were, in hindsight, great preparation for the academic one was to become.

Eg. of exam question:

What is grey soil? (Please have someone Google "grey soil" for you. Heaven knows if it exists.)

Eg. of one's response:

In our pioneering work (Lightfountain & Flowerbed 1992, Vol.1, pp. 245–50), we outline in greater detail the intricate causes of grey soil as it has evolved over the last centuries. Here, we simply point to the fact that that there are a multitude of different shades of soil that have been overlooked in previous research, which has resulted in inaccurate understandings of soil. For an extended account of soil colors, see Lightfountain & Flowerbed 1993, Vol. 3, pp. 25–125. See also Lightfountain & Flowerbed 1994, Vol. 4, pp. 1000–75, for an indepth analysis of common misconceptions about soil.

Little did one know that this secondary school exam would provide a far better preparation for launching an academic career than any university could offer. One inadvertently unlocked the five pillars to performing an academic self:

  1. 1. Demonstrate self-importance.

  2. 2. Quote yourself extensively.

  3. 3. Do not let your lack of expertise interfere with the practice of speaking authoritatively.

  4. 4. Make sure your name is the most exciting thing about you.

  5. 5. Eliminate charisma so as not distract from what you are saying.

The soil-study example above may seem to be little more than juvenilia, but try reading it out loud, this time substituting "soil" with terminology from...


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pp. 580-593
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