Friday, July 18, 2014

Academia as Provincial...

Yesterday I was talking to a female academic in the humanities on the subject of women's and feminist history. When I mentioned British feminism and the Pankhurst's she said she had never heard of the Pankhurst's. She was, she said, not a specialist in British Studies.

For me this statement and the attitude that underlies it are the very essence of what is wrong with academia as opposed to the intellectual life, a life that strives to constantly learn something new. Academics far too often divide things up into the silly little boxes they call disciplines and subdivide these silly little boxes into ever tinier silly little boxes they call subdisciplines.

The problem with such silly little boxes is that they undermine a more accurate understanding of humans and human life, something that should be one of the things central to an examined life. The Pankhurst's may have been British or English but they were also central to a feminist movement that crossed the silly little boundaries socially and culturally constructed and then fetishised by academe be these disciplinary or nationalist. The suffragist movement in the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and beyond interacted with each other and influenced each other and national feminisms cannot be understood without understanding the transnational nature of nineteenth and twentieth century feminism. Beyond this it seems to me that everyone with an active mind should seek to understand the history of an important social and cultural movement that has changed the world.

And people wonder why I have little patience with and little respect for academia, the most opiated of the bourgeoisie I have encountered. Another glass of wine Reg?

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