Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What passes for scholarship these days...

I recently received in my electronic inbox an invitation to attend a scholarly seminar at our "flagship" university, the much heralded, though recently much maligned, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (I would feel better disposed towards the institution if it shortened the name. Maybe a decent football team would also help since I spent a hapless Saturday last enduring an ignominious defeat to the mighty Penn State - should have got more for the $60 per ticket). I realize now the gulf between true scholarship and what passes for it in the lowlier backwaters of the community college, because I found I needed an interpreter and several dictionaries to make any sense of it, if indeed sense was anywhere to be found. I present to you the abstract and maybe ask your assistance in its interpretation.


Professor Michael Rothberg
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"In his recently published book on Holocaust remembrance in the age of decolonization, Dr. Rothberg argues that public memory is structurally multidirectional—that is, always marked by intercultural borrowing, exchange, and adaptation. But such structural hybridity does not imply that the politics of memory comes with any guarantees. In order to continue the urgent task of mapping the political stakes of memory, this talk considers the deployment of the Warsaw Ghetto in struggles for decolonization past and present. Focusing especially on the role of Warsaw memory in the contemporary Israeli/Palestinian crisis, he argues that at stake in articulations of multidirectional memory are divergent conceptions of solidarity, justice, and political subjectivity. This conceptualization of relationality has important methodological implications for transnational studies."

I did not realize that "mapping of political stakes of memory" was an "urgent task." Maybe fixing health care, climate change or the economy are urgent tasks. There again, perhaps I am just not qualified to offer opinions among such luminaries. And they tell me chemistry is hard...


Anonymous said...

I think you should accept the invitiation and go on down for enlightenment.


Terry said...

Or buy the book?

Cultural-studies-speak is always vulnerable to an appearance in Pseud's Corner, but it's a pretty rigorous vocabulary. The problem is a lot of the words used in particular ways by these gurus are ones we think we already know the meanings of. You chemists had the sense to invent a whole load of words nobody else has any idea about (biologists are also good at this).

Sounds like this guy is looking at the bigger picture of how people lay claim to history in various ways and for various reasons, via a case study of how the 'memory' of the Warsaw Ghetto has been used in specfic political situations.

I'd say that could be considered urgent -- given the amount of energy and money politicians expend on public relations.

Mind you I might have completely misunderstood all this!

Hope you are thriving by the way -- is it the new semester or whatever you call it yet?



Aylwin Forbes said...

We chemists indeed. You speak, dear boy, as one who would comfortably brush shoulders with these gurus.

I was probably being slightly (a touch) unfair quoting something that was probably for academics only as if it was something for the general gender. I'm sure that the people on the Clapham Omnibus, if it hasn't been put out of business by that nutty new Lord Mayor, would be equally nonplussed by one of my abstracts for a scientific meeting. The difference being, as you so cleverly point out, is that the chemical language is so obviously specialized. So, since the transnational-speak appears to be regular English, I expect to be able to understand it; but when it makes no sense, because I haven't spent a lifetime immersed in the subject, I'm inclined to dismiss it as bollocks.

Having just seen Richard III, I am well aware of how history has been distorted for political gain. The poor sod really needs a crisis management team to undo the damage done by the Shakespearean Tudor PR team.