“Disciplinary boundaries” are often rigorously policed in the United States. Historians talk to historians. Political scientists to political scientists. And so on. Academics generally write in the jargons of their disciplines or, worse, their “sub-disciplines.” With a plethora of academic journals catering to the increasing specialization, academics now write more and more to smaller groups of readers interested and familiar with their topics. Basically, it is getting harder for historians to talk to media studies scholars to political scientists.
In turn, the pages and columns of popular journals catering to intellectuals (e.g. The New York Review of Books and London Review of Books) are dominated by a small group of recycled writers.
But enough complaining.
That’s why we have the Internet and blogs.
Take the academic Timothy Burke, a history professor at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, whose work has focused mostly on Southern Africa, particularly Zimbabwe. Fellow academics know him better for his book with a long time, Lifebuoy Men, Lux Women: Commodification, Consumption and Cleanliness in Modern Zimbabwe.
For a while now I’ve been a fan of his blog, Easily Distracted, which covers “… Culture, Politics, Academia and Other Shiny Objects.” He has been blogging since 2000 on a no-frills site.
Though he writes about historiography (for the uninitiated, that’s the study of the way we do, or write, history), he tackles a range of topics, including a lot of posts on politics, culture, intellectual culture, television, in accessible language, mixing disciplines and engaging with the popular, with much of it, crucially for my obsessions, related in one way or the other to the continent.
I like this blog. (Blogs I Like, no. 1 is Scarlett Lion.)
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