Monday, November 21, 2016

The Hysterical Private Language of Higher-Ed


WaPo |  A doctoral dissertation at the University of California at Santa Barbara uses “feminist methodologies” to understand how Girl Scout cookie sales “reproduce hegemonic gender roles.” The journal GeoHumanities explores how pumpkins reveal “racial and class coding of rural versus urban places.” Another journal’s article analyzes “the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers.” A Vassar College lecture “theorizes oscillating relations between disciplinary, pre-emptive and increasingly prehensive forms of power that shape human and non-human materialities in Palestine.”

Even professors’ books from serious publishers are clotted with pretentious jargon. To pick just one from innumerable examples, a recent history of the Spanish Civil War, published by the Oxford University Press, says that Franco’s Spain was as “hierarchizing” as Hitler’s Germany, that Catholicism “problematized” relations between Spain and the Third Reich, and that liberalism and democracy are concepts that must be “interrogated.” Only the highly educated write so badly. Indeed, the point of such ludicrous prose is to signal membership in a closed clerisy that possesses a private language.

Institutions of supposedly higher education are awash with hysteria, authoritarianism, obscurantism, philistinism and charlatanry. Which must have something to do with the tone and substance of the presidential election, which took the nation’s temperature.