The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Monday, April 21, 2014

Unreality

Here is The Federalist (h/t Ace), on the "Closing of the Academic Mind".

This title alone has tipped me off. The title, for those who don't know, nods to that classic work by Allan Bloom. But I don't think anyone who posts comments under such titles, these days, has actually read Bloom. Ever since The Closing of the Western Mind, that antiChristian screed and focused on the non-Western city Alexandria at that, I've come to see "The Closing of the... Mind" as a cliche to rank with "soft bigotry". It invites a head-tilt. Wherever a head is tilted: between the shrugged shoulder and the fashionable beret, I see a neck bared for the blade.

Now, I will concede: this article actually started off pretty well. But then... well, this:

Sadly, this is precisely what has happened to the work of Bernard Lewis, one of the world’s most renowned Middle East scholars. Because he has written about clashes between Islam and the West, and is willing to look at the Middle East outside the utopian academic optic, Lewis has been “dis-credited” and replaced with authors like Tariq Ramadan in college or graduate course syllabi. Similarly, Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States and visiting professor at Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown universities, has been dismissed as “not a historian” by some academics, presumably because of his pro-Israeli stance. Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, an associate professor at Reed College, strips the scholar Daniel Pipes of his status as a historian, writing that he is a “historian of Islam turned pro-Israel activist,” implying that the two are mutually exclusive. ... Nowhere has this been more evident than in Brandeis University’s withdrawal of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali -

For my part, if I may speak as one who has posted (on CreateSpace, so I cannot say "has published") a work which cited both Bernard Lewis and Daniel Pipes: these scholars are not being cited at The Federalist for their scholarship. (Which scholarship, I've already conceded, is fine. Not as good as Crone at her best. About as good as Donner at his best. In both cases given the more recent books' advantage that they've stayed current.)

Dr Lewis and Dr Pipes are being cited, here, because Lewis was the mentor of the neo-conservative movement, up to the invasion of Iraq; and Pipes is, also, a blogger. There are plenty of Islam-skeptics in academia who are getting stuff published; people like the aforementioned Dr Crone, and beyond. But they don't sit in on national-security briefings and they don't run blogs.

As for Ali: she is a politician, not a scholar at all. What historical knowledge she has, she has picked up by osmosis from wrecking a historian's home. Refusing to grant Ali an honorary degree means about as much, for academia, as granting her one... which is to say, nothing. This mention is, to me, what demonstrated the Federalist as unserious.

Now, I do have my suspicions that the kids are being fed crap these days. And there does remain an argument about whether scholars-turned-opinionators should still be heeded in a scholarly capacity. I would tentatively agree - but only so long as they are still contributing to scholarship. Pipes's best work was a generation ago; Lewis's, two. (That's the real reason Lewis's 1960s textbook on the Arabs isn't cited anymore; since then, we have Hawting's textbook from the 1980s, and even Donner's from the 2000s.)

I agree that academia and politics shouldn't mix. I think we're seeing here an illustration why not.


posted by Zimri on 23:26 | link | 0 comments

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