One of our readers, a college professor, sends a link to a delightful online device at the University of Chicago: Write Your Own Academic Sentence. It’s a random sentence generator that lets anybody write prose like a tenured pomo professor. For example, look what I just “wrote”:
The epistemology of post-capitalist hegemony clarifies the position of the invention of the gendered body. The emergence of normative value(s) is, and yet is not, the engendering of pedagogical institutions.
Wow, that was great! Next thing you know, I’m going to be having mojitos with Luce Irigaray, discussing her theory that E=mc-squared is a “sexed” equation because it “privileges the speed of light over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us.” No, I’m not making this up. You rarely have to with these people.
Well, our reader writes, it appears that someone has been using the generator to grind out an actual position paper, or somesuch thing. Writing in Religion Studies News, an online publication of the American Academy of Religion, Andrea Smith, who teaches media and cultural studies at UC-Riverside, sounds the alarm about “Multicultural White Supremacy and Heteropatriachy (sic): Fostering Insurgent Scholarship in the Academy.” It turns out that Smith is trying to rally opposition to multiculturalism and affirmative action because they are not radical enough. This seems to be the gist of her complaint:
However, it has become clear that ethnic studies paradigms have become entrapped within — and sometimes indistinguishable from — the discourse and mandate of liberal multiculturalism, which often relies on a politics of identity representation that is diluted and domesticated by nation-building and capitalist imperatives. In addition, in our post-affirmative action and so-called “post-racial” society, an ethnic studies narrowly confined identitarianism fails to speak to the emergence of a multicultural white supremacy and settler colonialism.
Um, I think she’s saying that the strategy of mau-mau’ing the establishment into establishing academic ghettoes called ethnic and gender studies departments may have backfired in that it has taught people not to take professors like her seriously, except as it allows colleges to present themselves on the market as embracing diversity. It might seem to you that the academy has done these otherwise unemployable people a favor by giving them academic sinecures while at the same time assuaging its own liberal guilt and anxiety, but no, according to Smith, this revolution has been co-opted by the
Wizard of Oz capitalist heteropatriarchy. I could be wrong — but how can speakers of the English language be sure when confronted by prose like that? It gets better, or rather, worse. Our reader says this is his favorite passage from Smith:
By shifting the focus and expanding the scope of inquiry of ethnic studies from multiculturalism representation to the analytics of power and domination, ethnic/gender studies would become situated as an expansive field that addresses how the logics of domination structure the world for everyone, not just those who are racialized or gendered in particular ways.
Says our reader:
This isn’t just abuse of the English language, it’s first degree murder. People who write these things should be mocked mercilessly as intellectual lightweights who have nothing important to say and so hide the emptiness of their thoughts behind shallow jargon.
Seriously, almost everything wrong with the academy today is demonstrated in this one little article.
Is there any wonder that the academy is collapsing? What, precisely, is the possible economic rationale for supporting professors whose contribution to the commons is decadent, solipsistic mumbo-jumbo like that? Collapse faster, please!