“Your accent is so cute”

I’ve been living in the US for several years. I’m not American. I went on the job market this year for the first time, and was worried about my accent in English (I have a very strong accent that like a sticky stereotype, I cannot get rid of) . Things went generally well except for this episode. It happened after my teaching demo in one of my campus visits. When I finished, excited and happy after having students participate and engage in a lively discussion, one faculty member approached me smiling and told me “your accent is so cute”. Although I wasn’t completely surprised, I could hardly hide my disappointment. I managed to freeze the smile I had the second before he opened his mouth, and didn’t say anything in return. I almost said “thank you”, for seeing him approaching me with his smile, I anticipated he was going to say something nice about my teaching skills, and was ready to thank him for that. I know I should have said something, that his observation was completely out of place, that he had just reminded me, after an hour of teaching bliss, that my accent is a handicap, that I have an accent, that I am a foreigner.

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ignoring “small” universities

I am an academic in the humanities. On two occasions, and during 4 years, I have had double affiliation. In both cases, the main institution (the one financially supporting me) was in Spain, and the secondary institution a big name in North America (one in the US, the other in Canada). It happened to me many times in conferences, meetings and workshops that, even though I always put the Spanish institution name before the North American institution, I would receive a name tag only with the Northamerican institution’s name on it. It also happened that when people introduced me to other people during those events, they would only mention the North American affiliation. I understand that recognition heuristics played a big role here: everyone knows those two big universities in North America, and not many know the ones in Spain. And that’s why I wouldn’t complain when that happened. However, now I regret my silence. I think it is worth the effort to vindicate those “small” names, so we all start learning the names of more institutions in different countries – otherwise, how are they ever going to become recognizable for all the great work that people are doing there?