Area Studies: Career Suicide?

Is a degree in Central Asian Studies useless? Christian Bleuer of Ghosts of Alexander seems to believe so, though maybe not if you’re into that kind of a thing…

Ghosts of Alexander

[Yes, I’m back to writing. I had quit because of impending employment prospects, expected fieldwork, plus dissertation duties. But unhappily/happily I was deemed under-qualified (or overqualified…or too specifically qualified) for employment, my next bout of fieldwork has been delayed and my dissertation has made some unexpected quick progress. So here I am.]

Answer to the title: yes, probably. At the PhD level this is widely acknowledged by the PhD students themselves. The job market for recently minted PhDs is abysmal. It’s a simple supply and demand explanation. And that is for PhDs in history, political science, sociology, anthropology, etc… Now imagine you are getting a PhD from an area studies department; how many area studies departments are out there? And realize that these departments often hire social science and history PhDs who focused their dissertation on a particular “area” that the area studies department specializes in. Long story short is…

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Man v. Wolf

Here’s a great example of how they grow ’em out here in Naryn, Kyrgyzstan! I heard another story a couple of years ago about a man from Ortok, Kochkor who battled a wolf on his way home from the fields. Supposedly this man stuck his arm down the wolf’s throat and choked it to death. Subduing a wolf with bare hands–there’s only one word to describe that: badass!

Geezer Adventures

Ariel, one of my fellow volunteers, lives in a village about an hour west of Naryn.  Last week, a shepherd from her village heard his dogs fighting, went outside and found his dogs being attacked by a wolf.  What did he do?  He jumped into the fray, choked the wolf until it passed out, tied it up and brought it back to the village.  It’s been all over the news here.  Here are photos of the shepherd and of the wolf. jigit23jigit232We grow ’em tough here in Naryn!

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Faking a smile until you feel like it sometimes just gives you a sore face

Bright, cheery, naïve advice is about as useful as an Ethernet cord in the village. There are going to be days (weeks, months?) that just plain suck. And what can you do? Sit back and eat an entire box of Girl Scout cookies? It’s worked before, though I can’t credit anyone else with the advice, nor am I giving it either. (Especially if I’m the one holding the cookies.)

We’ve all heard it – “Cheer up,” “Think positive,” “It’ll be ok.” The last one gets me. What if it’s not? What if it just continues to suck and there’s no fixing anything? Sometimes you have to cut your losses and get out. I’ve heard that one before too.

It is a gamble, this Peace Corps life. Thirty-eight people in my group made it to country, and to date five have left. There will probably be more. Yet I’m not condemning those who have left – quite the opposite. If moving on to something else is going to make people more satisfied, more productive, or just plain more joyful, then that is wonderful and I support it. Me, I rely on an inherited patch of stubbornness to get me through. It pairs well with a sour face. Maybe I’m passing time waiting for the phrase, “I did it” to make everything worthwhile. Maybe I am waiting until it will be ok.