Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

A thought or two on academics.  §

Academic culture is sick, particularly in the arts and letters.

That’s not to say that the pursuit is misguided in itself, but rather that the ideological, behavioral, organizational, and interactive conventions that have come to surround and embody it are now maladaptive. It is, in effect, a culture designed to chase away anyone with brains and self-respect, despite themselves.

And, as if on cue, the Chronicle of Higher Education has begun to police their comments section heavily to quiet the disaffected voices of young academics that have lost hope or that are leaving the academy behind. Rather than embrace their relevance as a space of discourse on the present and future of academic production in the United States, they have become metonymous of the problem itself by simply disallowing comments on any story likely to rouse the rabble and heavily moderating comments elsewhere to ensure that only “the right kind” of comments are allowed.

The result is very tweedy, very demonstrative of serious restraint and discretion, and very fake. It’s bullshit, like much of what passes for inquiry and academics these days—and I don’t mean the “productivity” (articles, books, etc.) but rather the epistemic and cultural regime that surrounds them.

There’s a reason that STEM is where it is relative to the arts and letters, and it’s not entirely to do with the rational-instrumentalist ethos of a technology-capitalist society, or with the historical specificity of the trajectory of the patriarchy, etc. Some of it is because the STEM folks are more interested in their present work and in doing/seeing more of the same from others than in preserving their social privilege, status, and identity. (And, N.B. converse to the point, the present work that they are interested in is emphatically not that self-same social privilege, status, and identity, which they find to be boring.) They’re just too damned geeky to give a shit about what’s going on around them; they can’t stop thinking about their robot/laser/proof/etc.

That this enthusiasm is lacking in the arts and letters to such an extent that the enterprise becomes an often transparently self-serving exercise in posturing and public performance tells me that either some much-maligned names have been correct and history is over or that the Right People that the arts and letters are trying to protect are, in fact, the Wrong People in a national and incestuous club of middle-school cliques and intrigues, with the Actual Right People mostly operating and doing interesting work elsewhere, where there is no “game to play.”

This begs a rhetorical question: Where have all the arts and letters geeks gone?

No, not the professoriate. The geeks. And why are they no longer one and the same?

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Whenever you find yourself saying “I don’t have time to…” it should be taken as a strong clue that you very much need to tell yourself to “make time to…”