Monday, November 20, 2006

Worst of the worst

The thing I like least about cultural studies is its language. It's friggin' ridiculous how obtuse scholars can be. You can imagine my reaction, then, when I received a conference CFP that included this lovely passage:

A principal polemic thrust of postcolonial theory to date has been the centrality of history-time and its mis/use-in the (re)production of both mastering and emancipatory narratives. But if, as John Berger suggests, "it is space not time that hides the consequences from us"** -in other words, space is so naturalized within the historical frame as to be inert if not outright duplicitous-then perhaps we should finally attend to space and spatiality of human being and becoming with the same criticality that has been lavished upon time.

Seriously, people. Let's remember those of us at public universities, at least, work in the public interest. Try not to sound too much like weirdos.

What's your pet peeve in your discipline? And do people in your field also speak a moon language?


Breena Ronan said...

I was thinking about trying to rewrite that passage in English just to see what would come out.

Anonymous said...

YES. There are entire books written by our illustrious faculty that I eventually just ignored in a fit of pique at the seemingly willful obstuseness.

I asked one author why he wrote as he did, assuming an extensive knowledge of theory, in a book that he stated on page 3 was to be accessible to the non-specialist. He had the honesty to say he tried to make his work accessible to said non-specialist, and he just couldn't do it.

betty said...

science is definitely like that. but there are all kinds of technical terms that we have to use in order to be precise. what happens when some people write for the general public is that the real meaning gets totally lost.

however, in writing aimed at scientists people often use weird terms that they must feel more 'scientific'. for example, there are many people who use the term "supernumerary" when they just mean 'too many' or 'extra'. that's just ridiculous and unnecessary in my opinion.

grumpyABDadjunct said...

OMG, what does that even mean?! I bet $5 there's a colon in the title.

People in my field speak several varieties of moon languages but I think the worst trait that everyone shares is the over-use of acronyms. I can't even pretend to keep track of them anymore.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

As a cultural historian, I have the exact same pet peeve as Trillwing's. I was turning that paragraph on its head and couldn't make any sense of it.

(But, for the record, I have a bad habit of putting colons in my titles. "Clever Play on Words: Long Description of What I'm Doing.")

Unknown said...

I was so disappointed to find that people in Comp/Rhet have started to use some language like that. Mostly, it's people on the rhetoric side, but still . . . I like comp/rhet because it usually is aimed at the practically-minded instead of the people with their heads in the clouds (or elsewhere).