25 January 2011

Why people ridicule academics

It's definitely got something to do with the post-modern titles. I just received a call for papers for an interdisciplinary conference whose theme is "Dissemi(nations): Embedded Identities in Cultural Con/Texts."

The conference will be held at the University of Utah and for all I know might be great. But does its theme really need two different examples of non-standard (but hackeneyed) punctuation? The conference "aims to examine various modes of expression that arise as cultures are located, isolated and relocated." A worthy goal, but not one that leaps to mind when I read "dissemi(nations)" or "con/texts". Because those terms aren't original, it feels like a pick from the smorgasbord of po-mo terminology rather than a meaningful intellectual intervention, no matter what the organizers' intentions. We scholars can't blame this on the barbarians at the gates—we do this to ourselves.

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