Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Abu El Haj revisited Volokh's David Bernstein has a post up quoting Norman Levitt and adding a few thoughts of his own:

[Levitt] These ideas are at the least heavily tinctured with what, for want of a better term, is usually called "postmodernism." This incorporates the attitude that knowledge claims are, perforce, political claims, that "objective knowledge" is an oxymoron, and that modern science, in particular, is a repressive ideological edifice designed to bolster the hegemony of western capitalist patriarchal societies, not least by demeaning and displacing the "alternative ways of knowing" that are embedded in non-western cultures or are simply more appropriate to marginalized sub-populations. . .

And adds:
There are lots of methodologies and modes of thought that are widely acceptable within at least some circles of academia, but would strike an uninitiated outside observer as nonsensical, academically dishonest, or otherwise discreditable.

That's the rub, of course, and something non-academics and even academics from other disciplines have to watch out for. A lot of stuff in any discipline can look pretty kooky from the outside; I recall many long-winded arguments about what the proper definition of "culture" is, both in print, email, and conversation. Kind of a sticky question when you're talking about a publicly funded university.

Anyway, read the whole exerpt. The comments are worth reading as well, even though they tend, as expected, to have a lot of typical verbal flatulence in them.