The Ways in Which Indiana Jones Lied to Me About What My Life as a Professor Would Look Like



Yeah, I’m headed off to southern Illinois tomorrow for an archive trip. I’m staying at the Best Western Saluki Inn. There’s no wifi in the rooms. It’s right next to a Buffalo Wild Wings. Where does Indy go? Peru. Nepal. India. Egypt. Hangs in castles and temples. Crashes in beautiful hotels in Venice. My most exciting research trip to date? Gettysburg, so I could sweat my ass off during an incredibly humid July while watching a bunch of men run around in wool costumes and play with fake guns.






There are no snakes. There are, however, ticks, due to the insistent and needy (and simultaneously very cute) dog who gives me the stink-eye and gets a bit vocal when I don’t take enough walk/run breaks with her while I’m trying to write a goddamn book. And there was also a spate of dead squirrels, that accidentally drowned in buckets left all around the yard by the prior house owner.



melting face


Villains’ faces melt off, or they turn into dust, or other fitting punishments are visited upon fascist jerks. In real life? I hear stories about women being harassed/intimidated/stalked by male students with no recourse or protection (heard most recently at a panel about women teaching in the humanities that I participated in at the Grad Center the other day), women are penalized for having children in academia (but not men), and student evaluations reveal gender bias (we won’t get into other biases around sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability, etc.). The CUNY chancellor lives in an $18,000 a month apartment paid for by the university, while student tuition rises and faculty have been without a contract for five years. The contingent work force in academia – unprotected, often uninsured, juggling multiple jobs, some living on food stamps – accounts for half the faculty in this country. Essentially, the sense of justice that was instilled in me as a tender child via our esteemed archaeologist was, in fact, bullshit. And please notice that I haven’t even gotten to all the horrible things that are happening outside of academia.





Well, the whole Orientalism/Othering thing and the violence it entails is certainly real. So I guess he didn’t really lie to me about that one.




giphy treasure


He teaches students who look utterly enthralled by neolithic barrows (except that one lady in the front row from Raiders of the Lost Ark who is too enthralled for other reasons entirely). I give my students Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michelle Alexander, and some of them complain and say they just don’t see how this “race stuff” matters (to be fair, most of them are into it – but those few just kill me).





He always finds what he’s looking for during his research.  I spent my last major research trip rummaging through the theatre archives in the Rare Book Collection at the Library of Congress, trying desperately to make sense of why they would have all their ephemera and scraps arranged alphabetically. Sometimes by author, sometimes by play name. With materials that span over eighty years, from the mid-nineteenth century well into the twentieth. It defies logic.





Also: his research uncovers amazing things. The Ark of the Covenant, Sankara Stones, the Holy Grail. 1 I track down the only extant copy of a truly terrible but super-popular late nineteenth-century melodrama that nobody but a handful of academics will care about, and I practically pee myself.




Meetings? Indy doesn’t do academic meetings. No conferences, no department meetings, no committee meetings, no workshops. Although this is an accurate depiction of what some of those meetings look like in reality.





Nope: now, and a thousand years from now, I still won’t get paid for my writing.





Wait – is this a comment on my life choices (overlooking the inaccurate pronoun)? Are you saying I don’t belong in academia? Should I be somewhere else? Or do I not belong here because I’m not worthy, and I live with perpetual imposter syndrome? GAH!!




  1. Please note that I do not include Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in this comparative analysis. The reason for this is twofold: first, I thought it kinda sucked. Second: I was already in a PhD program when it came out, and had been disabused of my Indy-academia-fantasies for quite some time.


  1. Sig says:

    Haha Mola Ram chairing a meeting would be SUCH AN IMPROVEMENT. “You betrayed the NCTE’s Guidelines on Class Size!” (Course proposal spontaneously ignites)

    • Bethany Holmstrom says:

      This Mola Ram-combustion scenario is now going to be my internal mental response to every ridiculous item that gets brought up in meetings.

    • Bethany Holmstrom says:

      NYPD officer, at bag check table at the Grand Central subway: M’am, what is this?
      Me: A bullwhip, officer.
      NYPD: Um…why do you have this?
      Me: Because of Indiana Jones. I’m a professor, see. So…
      NYPD: Okay, m’am, you need to step aside with my fellow officer here…

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