I’ve intended to write about imposter syndrome for a number of years. Since my PhD, it has become less frequent yet somehow more acute when it occurs, possibly reflecting my transition from an academic identity as ‘social theorist’ to a para-academic identity as ‘digital sociologist’. Here’s what goes through my mind when I feel like an imposter:
- I’m a dilettante and will eventually be exposed as one. The only reason it has yet to happen is because the siloed quality of the academy means that people in one area are impressed by the fact I know something about another area, in the process assuming I know much more than I do. I’m a beneficiary of the accelerated academy I claim to find pernicious, creating the possibility that frequently making statements about a lot of topics be conflated with intellectual significance in a more meaningful sense.
- The essentially shallow quality of my thought gets revealed every time I ask a question at a seminar. When I can communicate via text or have time to prepare a talk, I’m able to dress up this shallowness in the performance of profundity. When people respond positively to my talks, it’s a response to a performance I’ve cultivated rather than the content of what I’ve said. I vividly convey a sense of being thoughtful but the thought never really goes anywhere. When people realise this, the illusion will be shattered.
- Knowledge doesn’t accumulate within me. I incorporate shiny insights from things I read but it passes out of me, never to return. My intellectual biography is a history of fleeting fixations, converted through rigid writing routine and intellectual slight of hand into academic capital. Gender and class combine to leave this ‘range’ being read as profundity, as opposed to an inability to focus. I perfectly embody exactly what I claim to be broken about accelerated knowledge production.