10 May 2007

An academic debate

Duly noted: Ellia Diodati and twasher have set into motion what I call the Wankerdämmerung.

Elia calls out the current Singaporeangle as "trapped in its self-pleasing, obsessive groupthink over academic rigor as applied to things that really don’t deserve such standards", while twasher notes that a recent article on the Angle is marked by confused thinking, doubtful operationalisation, and ultimately empty academic rigour masking an irrelevant argument.

Also duly noted: the dignified, overpolite but "We are not amused" response on SA, the exaggeratedly polite Victorian era Botanist Society meeting manners masking a definitive stonewall to the problem pointed out by the barbarians outside the gate, an academic invocation of the right to end a discussion by saying I am not arguing on that context... (however you want to interpret and however you induced that context), by declaring "I am not going to indulge in arguing this further" as a unilateral end of discussion announcement.

I will not repeat my commentary on the gang of wise men (see footnote in cited article). Instead, I am content to refer to a previous post which was made more than half a year before the institution of the Angle groupblog.

Academic and critical writing

...from the National Library, Critical intellectuals on writing (Olsen G, Worsham L, eds; 2003). The anthology consists of interviews of leading scholars by the editors, on being intellectuals.

Wei notes their introduction attempts to delineate the difference between academic and intellectual writing:

"Simply stated, the distinction is this: academic work is inherently conservative inasmuch as it seeks, first to fulfill the relatively narrow and policed goals and interests of a given discipline or profession and second, to fulfill the increasingly corporatised mission of higher education; intellectual work, in contrast, is relentless critical, self-critical, and potentially revolutionary, for it aims to critique, change, and even destroy institutions, disciplines and professions that rationalise exploitation, inequality and injustice."

The pseudo-academic language (posts beginning with "I refer to X's article, which was a response to Y's article on...", "In this post, I shall attempt to argue that...", the use of the word treatise, the careless word-dropping - longue duree as applied to the life-span of intellectuals!), the exaggerated politeness masking a mutual agreement not to show up, call on, or embarrass the authors, not to critically examine and reflexively interrogate academic arguments, the rigorous analysis over issues of non-importance...

Now I see why Olsen and Worsham really believe it is possible for academics to work against their own duties as public intellectuals.

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