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ACADEMIC-STUDY-MAGIC  April 2012

ACADEMIC-STUDY-MAGIC April 2012

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Subject:

Re: academic career

From:

"Segal, Professor Robert A." <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Society for The Academic Study of Magic <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 23 Apr 2012 00:37:33 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (131 lines)

April 23

Dear N.,

I feared that what has already come to pass would do so--not on the part of Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju, whose gracious reply preceded your second one, but on your part.

Your ad hominem attacks on me are more silly than insulting.   Your claim that I have built my career exploiting non-Westerners is fantasy.   Sticking to what one knows is one criterion of scholarship.   Scholarship and ignorance are mutually exclusive.

To begin with, what are YOUR credentials?

What do YOU know about the study of myth--the example I cited?    I claimed that Armstrong knows nothing about the study of myth and does not seem to recognize that she would need a PhD to be able to justify the pronouncements tbat she makes.    Are you challenging my assessment of her work?   If so, do tell us on what grounds.

What do you know about the study of religion, my overlapping field of expertise?

Of course, one can master things on one's own.   And a PhD is merely necessary, not sufficient, for scholarship.    There are plenty of PhDs who are not talented.   But a PhD is what scholarship requires--and not just in the US or the UK.

I do grant some exceptions.   For example, folklore has traditionally attracted some persons who are not academics.  But try getting a job in folklore today without a PhD.

Karen Armstrong writes for Western audiences.

I have participated in academic conferences in places like South Korea, Japan, India, and Israel.   Are at least some of them sufficiently non-Western for you?    You would find that they strive to emulate the intellectual standards of the West in many fields, including the arts.    The conference in Jammu, India, at which I was the kick-off speaker, duplicated the conduct of any Western conference (except that the food and the conversation were much better).    The result of colonialism?     Whatever the source, the West has long set the standard to which academics aspire.   Wonder why so many budding academics seek degrees from the US and the UK and Western Europe?

I trust that you know the annual world rankings of universities.   Universities in China, India, Japan, Singapore, and many other places are committed to achieving excellence--as measured by "Western" criteria.  Have they been brainwashed--or enlightened?

Your reaction to my innocent claim evinces a view of the West and of the world as a whole that is decades out of date.

And you still confuse an analogy with a non sequitur.

You are welcome to reply, but I doubt that I will do so in turn.

Robert Segal (Prof.)


________________________________________
From: Society for The Academic Study of Magic [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of N.W. Azal [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Sunday, April 22, 2012 11:48 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ACADEMIC-STUDY-MAGIC] academic career

Dear Professor Segal,

Your very much culturally located  notions of what constitutes scholarship, and a bona fide scholar, is only accepted as legitimate within the limited confines of your cultural Anglo-European contextual cloister, that is, the elitism and professional territorialism of your own Ivory Tower industry in the West. The rest of the world, fortunately, does operate completely yet by the stultifying impositions of such uniquely arrogant expressions of intellectual colonialism as how you have articulated the matter below.

There are institutions in the world - such as those in Qom in Iran or Najaf in Iraq or in Nepal or in Japan or elsewhere - with very much sophisticated intellectual traditions of great antiquity  that do not grant Western Ph.Ds, and many of the scholars produced by these very older institutions produce thinkers and scholars who can write and intellectualize concentric circles around the creme de la creme of what the Western Ivory Tower has ever produced. Of course, later on many such figures from non-Western institutions of learning become topics of study where good people such as yourself build your Western academic careers writing about them, raising funds and lobbying assorted foundations for research grants to publish their papers and writings, etc.

Be that as it may, if you cannot see the vacuous illogicality of your comparison of a Western Ph.D in the humanities/social sciences to a pilot's license, then what can one say. But please note that your career or department is not an aircraft so kindly do not condescend or insult intelligences of those who know the score.

Good day!

N

On Mon, Apr 23, 2012 at 12:03 AM, Segal, Professor Robert A. <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
April 22

Dear N. W. Azal,

I don't want to get involved in another long exchange that will simply anger persons on the list.

I was saying what is obvious:  not that one must be a scholar but that to be a scholar, one must have a PhD.   What you call IVORY TOWER ELITISM, I call professionalism.   And by the way, the more prestigious the university that grants one a PhD, the more scholarly one is assumed to be.

Armstrong has not needed a doctorate to sell books, but her books are not scholarly, and no academic would assign anything she has written to even a first-year course on myth, on religion, on the Bible, or on Islam.   Whether she recognizes that her stuff is sub-academic, I don't know.   Maybe she does, and does not care.   Certainly her many admiring readers do not know or care about her missing credentials.   There are scores of writers on myth, not least Joseph Campbell, who have hardly suffered because they are nonacademics.

I don't catch the non sequitur (the correct spelling) in my statement.   I may be wrong, but I am not thereby illogical.


Robert
________________________________________
From: Society for The Academic Study of Magic [[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>] On Behalf Of N.W. Azal [[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>]
Sent: Sunday, April 22, 2012 10:15 PM
To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Re: [ACADEMIC-STUDY-MAGIC] academic career

Writers without academic credentials are dismissed as popularizers or worse.    Not to have a PhD is akin to wanting to become a pilot without a license.

And that is the most poignant expression of Ivory Tower elitism, if there ever was, with an non sequitor of an example for the ages to boot!

On Sun, Apr 22, 2012 at 11:06 PM, Segal, Professor Robert A. <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]><mailto:[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>>> wrote:
April 22


Dear Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju,

If I may offer two cents (or pence):   if you wish to enter the academic world, you need a PhD.    Writers without academic credentials are dismissed as popularizers or worse.    Not to have a PhD is akin to wanting to become a pilot without a license.

Karen Armstrong is the proverbial exception that proves the rule.    Undeniably, she makes a healthy living from her books.   But she is a joke.   She has never done any research in any of the areas in which she has published--with, I suppose, the exception of her autobiography, which I wouldn't read even if I were immortal.   She has no conception of scholarship.    She thinks that she can write on the Bible without knowledge of Hebrew or Greek.   She has written, I believe, on Islam--without, I bet, even being to able to identify the Arabic alphabet.   She lists fewer sources in her bibliographies than first-year students at accredited universities would be expected to list in their essays.

My own field is theories of myth, and I reviewed her SHORT HISTORY OF MYTH for the Jungian journal, itself far from academic, SPRING.   I ended my review by calling her book the worst book on myth that I have ever read.   She knows nothing about the topic.

I know nothing about you and would not have uttered a peep had you know cited Armstrong as an example of what you might be seeking.   Obviously, you are free to ignore all that I have said.

There are academics who write for nonacademic audiences.    My own MYTH appears in Oxford's VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION series, which operates out of the trade division and which is marketed to lay persons.   But the authors of its own 200 or so volumes are experts in their fields.


With best wishes,

Robert (Segal)

Sixth Century Chair in Religious Studies
University of Aberdeen


________________________________________
From: Society for The Academic Study of Magic [[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]><mailto:[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>>] On Behalf Of OLUWATOYIN ADEPOJU [[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]><mailto:[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>>]
Sent: Sunday, April 22, 2012 9:19 PM
To: [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]><mailto:[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>>
Subject: Re: [ACADEMIC-STUDY-MAGIC] Looking for a publisher for translation of al-Buni's Great Sun of Gnoses

Thanks, Peter.

I'm developing a strategy to explore the possibility of earning a living from scholarly writing which uses the full academic framework, one way of describing the cultural identity that marks an academic work.

A writer who seems to have done this is Karen Armstrong but her career benefits from a peculiar confluence of factors- the sensationalism of her move from cloister to public life in her search for religious meaning, as described in her autobiographical Through the Narrow Gate and The Spiral Stair, her autobiographies giving graphic form to her religious and philosophical struggles in the context of her life's  vicissitudes, bringing the metaphysical issues she engages with closer to the reader,  her presence on TV, a list of books that study religious history  in terms of her conception of  religious meaning, a teaching appointment and newspaper writing.

How helpful would it be to adapt a related approach- making the subject of one's writing accessible to the reader in terms of its touching an intimate nerve in the depths of efforts at understanding that shape human life?

How helpful would it be to adapt online media for developing and stimulating a market for scholarly writing?

I have been struck by the interest shown by readers in various general interest online groups and on Facebook in some of my more ambitious essays. I have even got input from these sources on one or two of those essays  that I have integrated into the draft of the essay. Someone once asked whether there was a book where a particular essay I posted on Facebook can be found.

In enticing a reader to part with their money, various factors are at play. Scholarly books are among the best on any subject. Publication by a scholarly focused publishing house is often an imprimatur of high quality, at times the highest quality. Some of the best books on the Hindu and Buddhist phenomenon of Tantra , some of these books demonstrating  par excellence the erotic dimension of Tantra that Western enthusiasts seem to have found so fascinating, are in scholarly works, perhaps more so than in trade publications. The only translation known to me of Abhinavagupta's famous erotic mysticism in Chapter 29 of his Tantraloka is  the book<http://www.scribd.com/doc/54134989/John-R-Dupuche-Abhinavagupta-The-Kula-Ritual> that came out of John Dupuche's PhD.

Perhaps one could offer a smorgasbord of works, meticulous, rich in ideas, imaginative appeal and communicative strategies, from the dialogue to the essay, rigorously argued and yet possibly anchored in what can be seen as universally intimate to the self. Advertise widely using online and possibly offline outlets. Cultivate a presence on various social networks that whets people appetites for one's work. Give workshops and introduce and or sell one's books at such gatherings,  among other strategies.

I had once thought I would use self publishing but it does not motivate me any more, because it seems too narrowly focused for me. I prefer  the professionalism and strong book list of an academic publisher and the scope of a trade publisher.

thanks

oluwatoyin vincent adepoju


The University of Aberdeen is a charity registered in Scotland, No SC013683.

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