Affinities, Benefits, and Costs: The Abcs of Good Scholars Gone Public

Affinities, Benefits, and Costs: The Abcs of Good Scholars Gone Public AFFINITIES, BENEFITS, AND COSTS: THE ABCS OF GOOD SCHOLARS GONE PUBLIC 1 R  T. M  C  Those who are seriously interested in understanding the world will adopt the same standards whether they are evaluating their own polit- ical and intellectual elites or those of o ffi cial enemies. One might fairly ask how much would survive this elementary exercise in rationality and honesty. (Chomsky 2003: 49) Frustrated with the way in which some of our academic peers ventured into writing for wider audiences, in hopes of having impact on con- stituencies beyond the academy, I published in 1997 an essay in which I argued that the scholar of religion qua public intellectual was a trou- blesome notion. It was troublesome because it was based of the fallacy of misplaced authority: these so-called public intellectuals amounted to people trained in, say, the study of nineteenth-century American his- tory who, because they happened to study an aspect of the social world commonly classi fi ed as religion, were presumed to be legitimate author- ities on late twentieth-century geo-politics. What’s more, in many cases, the politics advocated in their interventions were simply an updated version of the social http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Method & Theory in the Study of Religion Brill

Affinities, Benefits, and Costs: The Abcs of Good Scholars Gone Public

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© 2005 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
0943-3058
eISSN
1570-0682
D.O.I.
10.1163/1570068053429857
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

AFFINITIES, BENEFITS, AND COSTS: THE ABCS OF GOOD SCHOLARS GONE PUBLIC 1 R  T. M  C  Those who are seriously interested in understanding the world will adopt the same standards whether they are evaluating their own polit- ical and intellectual elites or those of o ffi cial enemies. One might fairly ask how much would survive this elementary exercise in rationality and honesty. (Chomsky 2003: 49) Frustrated with the way in which some of our academic peers ventured into writing for wider audiences, in hopes of having impact on con- stituencies beyond the academy, I published in 1997 an essay in which I argued that the scholar of religion qua public intellectual was a trou- blesome notion. It was troublesome because it was based of the fallacy of misplaced authority: these so-called public intellectuals amounted to people trained in, say, the study of nineteenth-century American his- tory who, because they happened to study an aspect of the social world commonly classi fi ed as religion, were presumed to be legitimate author- ities on late twentieth-century geo-politics. What’s more, in many cases, the politics advocated in their interventions were simply an updated version of the social

Journal

Method & Theory in the Study of ReligionBrill

Published: Jan 1, 2005

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