Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Other Stuff

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* Details on the U.S. operation of Port-Au-Prince’s last working airstrip from Crooks & Liars, a possible (or partial) answer to complaints about its allocation. A second airport is now working at Jacmel, administered by tiny American charity Joy in Hope. From Ryan, I see the Caribbean is still at risk for more earthquakes.

* Yahoo News is hiring bloggers.

* Gawker has your roundup of clips from the ongoing NBC late-night fiasco.

* Louis Menand and how to rescue the professoriate from professionalization.

The ultimate problem is this: How do you create a system for the production of knowledge that is, on the one hand, rigorous and peer-reviewed and, on the other, committed to aims and obligations beyond its own survival? The professoriate itself is well aware of the dilemma, Menand observes, and has enthusiastically promoted what sounds like a solution: “interdisciplinarity.” The hope is that if professors join in conversation with one another, they’ll remember to be interesting to people outside their building.

Theoretically, this solves everything. The disciplines are still accountable only to themselves, but they’re also engaged with something broader—i.e., other disciplines. They are still autonomous without being hermetic. Except that, Menand explains, interdisciplinarity finally does nothing to alter the ways in which the individual disciplines produce their professors. Rather than a therapy for academic neurosis, interdisciplinarity is in fact yet one more symptom of it. “Interdisciplinary anxiety,” he writes, “is a displaced anxiety about the position of privilege that academic professionalism confers on its initiates and about the peculiar position of social disempowerment created by the barrier between academic workers and the larger culture. It is anxiety about the formalism and methodological fetishism of the disciplines and about the danger of sliding into aimless subjectivism or eclecticism.”

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