academic existential angst essays

May 13, 2012 § 2 Comments

I just read the following essay – Yiu Fai Chow, Jeroen de Kloet and Helen Hok-Sze Leung, “Towards an Ethics of Slowness in an Era of Academic Corporatism”, EspacesTemps.net, Actuel, 12.07.2010 http://www.espacestemps.net/document8314.html.

I like the authors’ idea of ‘Asia as method’:

The persisting Euro- and Anglocentrism of global academia, and the related bias in the production of knowledge, remains an unresolved issue. Even worse, it seems to us that this bias is strengthened—despite decades of fierce critique from postcolonial studies and related fields—under the conditions of neo-liberalism. This bias often relegates scholars working outside the West or those working on research related to places outside the West towards specialized fields such as area studies, allowing them not much of a voice outside that specialized domain. The observed schism between decades of postcolonial critique and increased geopolitical cleavages feeds the urgency not to theorize more, but to think of practices that may help counter this schism. One example of a successful counter-tactic comes from the inter-Asia cultural-studies project from Chua Beng Huat and Chen Kuan-hsing. This network of scholars based in Asia organizes conferences and phd summer schools and has established a successful and ranked journal (the Journal of Inter-Asia Cultural Studies) that allows submissions in other languages than English and that clearly privileges ‘Asian’ scholarship.

The journal hence operates on a tactic of complying with the global neo-liberal standard of anonymous peer review, ranking, and English as its mode of language, but simultaneously tries to change the parameters by taking Asia as the basis of production and circulation of knowledge, connecting intellectual individuals and communities in Asia that might have hitherto conducted dialogue more readily or even exclusively with their Western counterparts (hence the term ‘inter-Asia’). In that sense, Asia is employed as a method to problematize Asia itself on the one hand, and to problematize the universality, the legitimacy and hegemony of the West on the other.

One reason I like this idea is that I have in mind the fact that at the moment there are many more openings for junior academics in Indian universities than in the UK, where competition has reached  a level where many of my peers start to wonder if it is still worth applying for posts at all (http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=419602#.T4aA0Ijk-YE.twitter). Time for a reverse brain drain in academia.

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