All entries by this author

Question Authority – But Which One? *

Feb 4th, 2004 | Filed by

Denis Dutton reviews Doubt and notes insufficient skepticism about Freud among others.… Read the rest

Top Ten Modern Delusions *

Feb 4th, 2004 | Filed by

Francis Wheen’s list: God is on our side, the market is divine, astrology is harmless fun.… Read the rest

‘Great stories, and some of them are even true’ *

Feb 3rd, 2004 | Filed by

Punk journalism is sparky, sexy, non-boring, what everyone is saying.… Read the rest

Amartya Sen on the Values of the Environment *

Feb 3rd, 2004 | Filed by

People are agents whose freedoms matter, not just patients with living standards.… Read the rest


Feb 2nd, 2004 9:23 pm | By

Our reader Chris of Intelligent Life alerted me to this wonderful essay by Frank Lentricchia. It should be required reading for all aspiring ‘Literary Theorists.’ I want to quote and quote and quote. But read the whole article (the whole shorter article: this is a reduced version of the original from Lingua Franca.)

Over the last ten years, I’ve pretty much stopped reading literary criticism, because most of it isn’t literary. But criticism it is of a sort—the sort that stems from the sense that one is morally superior to the writers that one is supposedly describing. This posture of superiority is assumed when those writers represent the major islands of Western literary tradition, the central cultural engine—so

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Hipper Than Thou

Feb 2nd, 2004 7:12 pm | By

I’ve just been browsing Scott McLemee’s site and seen so many items I want to point out to our readers that I’ll just have to do it here.

There is a highly amusing review of David Brooks’ silly Bobos in Paradise for a start.

David Brooks, a writer for the conservative Weekly Standard, is also an amateur sociologist; which is to say, someone who makes mental footnotes to the New York Times…The argument of Bobos in Paradise is simple, and the author restates it every two pages (perhaps as a courtesy to the people he is discussing, who must do their reading between cell phone messages).

But amusing is not all it is, because silly is not all Brooks is. … Read the rest

Robert Merton and Serendipity *

Feb 2nd, 2004 | Filed by

The importance of accident and luck in research.… Read the rest

Alternative to Female Genital Mutilation? *

Feb 2nd, 2004 | Filed by

Would a symbolic cut prevent worse, or endorse a terrible practice?… Read the rest

Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu Nationalism in India

Feb 2nd, 2004 | By Robert Nola

Meera Nanda’s book Prophets Facing Backward is an extraordinary and compelling book. Few in the West are aware of the alarming confluence of ideas arising out of the contemporary nationalistic politics of India with its endorsement of ‘Vedic science’ and the dominant postmodernist, social constructivist and sociological trends in science studies in the West. Nanda’s book is an intellectual bombshell dropped on this potent combination. No one interested in the ways in which science and culture can interact should ignore this book and the challenging case it makes against the prevailing orthodoxies of much that passes for Western science ‘studies’. It should serve for years to come as a reference point for what can go wrong in science studies when … Read the rest

Reading Instructions

Feb 1st, 2004 8:49 pm | By

I see where Socialism in an Age of Waiting has picked up my plug for Hazlitt from a few days ago. I’m pleased about that – the more advertising Hazlitt gets the better, as far as I’m concerned. So since that N&C is now below the fold, as the saying goes, i.e. in the archive where no one will ever look at it again – why I’ll just revive the subject for this month. SiaW think I even understated the case –

Via Butterflies and Wheels, there’s a collection of essays by William Hazlitt of whom Ophelia Benson writes: “It’s a permanent, settled grievance of mine that Hazlitt is so little-known. I think he’s the single most inexplicably obscure writer

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Silent Protestors at BORI *

Feb 1st, 2004 | Filed by

Citizens protest vandalism at Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.… Read the rest

Empty Bookshelves and Closed Minds? *

Feb 1st, 2004 | Filed by

Sumanta Banerjee on censorship by fundamentalist religious protests.… Read the rest

Evolution is a ‘Buzzword’ *

Feb 1st, 2004 | Filed by

Not going to be teaching the monkeys-to-man sort of thing.… Read the rest

Georgia Removes ‘Evolution’ *

Feb 1st, 2004 | Filed by

State education officials delete controversial word from science guidelines.… Read the rest

Saffron Infusion: Hindutva, History, and Education

Feb 1st, 2004 | By Latha Menon


On 5 January, 2004, the renowned Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune was vandalized by some 150 thugs. Priceless manuscripts and artefacts were destroyed. Those responsible declared themselves to be members of the ‘Sambhaji Brigade’, linked to the Maratha Seva Sangh, a regional organization with anti-Brahmin sentiments. They apparently chose this method to protest against allegedly insulting remarks made against their hero, Shivaji, in a recently published book by the American historian James W. Laine.

The link with the Institute was somewhat indirect: Laine had acknowledged the help of several academics at Bhandarkar with the translation of certain manuscripts. The book concerned, Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India, has been withdrawn by Oxford University Press, and the author has … Read the rest


Feb 1st, 2004 12:24 am | By

There is an amusing post here by a blogger who is eccentric enough to read B&W. He’s just been reading a N&C from back in early January, the one about academostars – which sent him to an article by Scott McLemee in the Chronicle, which prompted some reflections on Stanley Fish’s Reagonomical views of the merits of overpaying academostars.

To be fair, Fish may have a point: his presence in an English department may draw starry-eyed grad students into the department and increase funding for more useless graduate seminars on esoteric topics that will prove of little or no use to anyone teaching at most universities. In this respect, the “material conditions” of the other professors in the department

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What Does Rosenhan’s Hoax Show? *

Jan 31st, 2004 | Filed by

That labels influence diagnosis? That diagnosis is mere labeling?… Read the rest

This is Parody, Right? *

Jan 31st, 2004 | Filed by

No, apparently not. Amazing stuff.… Read the rest

False Consciousness

Jan 30th, 2004 5:52 pm | By

So here’s Nawal El Sadaawi, saying the demonstrations of women against the French proposal to ban the hijab are a ‘signal example of how “false consciousness” makes women enemies of their freedom, enemies of themselves, an example of how they are used in the political game being played by the Islamic fundamentalist movement in its bid for power.’ I have noticed repeatedly that a lot of Westerners who oppose the ban have an unpleasant (to put it mildly) tendency to accuse supporters and semi-supporters of racism and colonialist ways of thinking – as if there were total unanimity among people of Muslim background. But of course there isn’t. Far from it. Of course many Muslims and people of Muslim … Read the rest

Nawal El-Saadawi in Al-Ahram *

Jan 30th, 2004 | Filed by

‘Why should the head of women in particular be considered so dangerous that it must be made to disappear?’… Read the rest