Catherine Blampied (seemingly this Catherine Blampied… on the internet, no one can hear you be anonymous…) makes an excellent comment on the Living Anthropologically blog, in an ongoing conversation based on this piece.
Given… the precariousness of funding and the pretty much utter contempt in which social scientists and humanities scholars are held by the public, the government, and other parts of the academy, I can see why Michael E. Smith makes the pragmatic point that declaring specific political manifestos might seem frighteningly offputting, and that the last thing we want is our integrity and authority to be questioned. On the other hand, the fallacy of thinking it possible to separate out ‘politics’ from teaching, research, or actually any endeavour in life – indeed, even conceptualising ‘politics’ in this way – is itself only a bolstering of a different type of politics, a discourse which downplays the extent to which not explicitly questioning certain assumptions and, by extension, policies and systems, encourages acquiescence and discourages critical thinking. I also agree with you that specific political ideas/proposals may emerge quite directly from academic work, in which case is it not disingenuous and unethical, and certainly ‘political’ in itself, to deny these? My question is, therefore, how do you actually envisage or recommend that scholars be able to break free of this encouraged quietism and engage in some kind of action or activism as a logical corollary of their academic work?
[Emphasis added.] This is exactly a point I try to make often, with what is so far of ambiguous efficacy, to my students. But you really should read all of Ms. Blampied’s comment.
Postscript: Ms. Blampied has a blog, too. (Some sample excellence: “For many years I have been troubled by the question of how there can be such awesome injustice, inequality, poverty and suffering around our world when, on an individual level, people are generally nice, kind and caring, and mostly (in my small experience anyway) have good intentions and strong moral values they cherish in common. The outcomes we see all around us don’t seem to add up to the ‘inputs’ if you like. This basic problem is what has led me to the field of social-cultural politics and motivates my research project, which tries to go beyond a framework in which inviduals are the fundamental level of analysis and societies are ‘aggregates’ of individuals.”)