Academia is Stupid

Part I: Research

eugyppius 19 Apr 2021

This will be Academia is Stupid Part I: Research

Almost all humanities & social sciences research in the Anglophone world happens at an extremely elementary level, and is to a large degree repetitive, unoriginal, or wrong.

For reasons we will get to, it is also deliberately banalised, i.e. made to seem as boring, uninteresting, and inaccessible as possible.

I can't be open about my field, but you need to know a little bit about what I do. Imagine I'm something like a papyrologist.

There's a literary/historical component, and a sort of material/archaeological/ more technical side.

What's happened since the arrival of Diversity in the 1990s, is the technical side of my field has been killed off in Anglosphere schools everywhere.

All the fancy Unis want big-picture scholars whose expertise extends to brown people someplace.

This means that a lot of basic technical and linguistic skills are beyond the abilities of most professors.

It is routine to encounter published articles in major journals that are premised on simple linguistic misunderstandings.

In a world where very few people know anything, it's hard to refute mistaken ideas, because literally nobody knows what's going on.

I once peer reviewed an article for one of the biggest English-language journals, that was just flatly, objectively mistaken. Its author could obviously hardly read the source he was analysing. This isn't ancient Sumerian, OK? There are high-schoolers who can read this language.

It took a lot of effort, but I finally got the editors to understand it was crap, and they binned it. The piece then appeared one year later in another top journal, under a slightly different name, because the author had in the meantime switched genders.

There's this very old, anonymous text, which many now agree was written by a certain Specific Dude.

Why do they agree?

Because one of the main guys writing on this stuff misunderstood a (German) footnote, which was actually saying almost the opposite. He then repeated this in a bunch of publications, and so it became true.

What is more bizarre, the author of the misunderstood footnote appears fine with this and now also attributes this work to Specific Dude and cites the guy who misunderstood him in support of the attribution!

All you need to make anything 'true' is 2 or 3 mutually supporting idiots, & an overwhelmingly uninteresting argument that doesn't challenge any other hair-brained theories.

One of my former American colleagues was on the verge of becoming a celebrity academic when I left the US. The kind of guy who gets interviewed on TV & whose books are reviewed in places like the Times Literary Supplement. If you read his work closely, you notice that all of the philological work on original-language sources he only has at second hand. A bunch of continental scholars from the late 19th & early 20th centuries did this work and he just restates their conclusions, connecting their ideas to the empty theoretical apparatus of Saidian Orientalism or whatever.

One night after we both had a lot of scotch, he confided that he only ever had a few semesters of the language he supposedly worked in and still "struggled" with it. He was hired by my Uni because of his expertise in this field, which at the level of language did not exceed that of many second- or third-year undergraduates.

There are many entirely fake historical events based on smooth-brained misreadings of straightforward statements. For 30 years people in my field have been writing about the supposed exile of this figure - we will call him a theologian - which never happened. You have to read all about the supposed political significance of his exile & what it means for this or that, on and on. In fact, the only source for this 'exile' are a few of his own remarks in a prologue to one of his tracts. The passage, in the edition everyone uses, is poorly punctuated at this key moment and everyone has just misunderstood what he is saying.

Likewise, real events are surely suppressed or ignored, down to equally astounding stupidity. Early in my career I came upon the work of some august wahmen, whose well-received thesis was flatly contradicted by a key historical document. What did she & her students do? They decided this document was an old forgery. No arguments or anything. Just: "It's fake."

She says it, her students say it, now everyone says it.

They got colleagues responsible for standard reference works in the field (indices & registers that track things like papyri and give them numbers) to agree that it was a forgery so now this is established opinion. A whole source, which is surely authentic, that nobody can use, because of the vanity of some wahman and her students.

The reason you can get away with being a total idiot in that world is that academia functions like a cartel, or a cabal. It is a closed community of unremarkable dim people who cultivate a false facade of knowledge by promoating each other's work.

If you are well networked and take part in the favour-trading economy, everything you do will be praised, regardless of how shite it is. I know of people who are so incapable, they have had to stoop to open plagiarism, and, still, they are protected.

In this world of incapable people, all research must happens within the confines of an all-protecting consensus. You don't want to disagree with anyone else. So the only arguments that get made are limp, empty assertions that ultimately mean nothing.

Also, everyone polices the boundaries of their stupid little postage-stamp sub-fields. They don't want to contend with others who might have rival interpretations. This explains a powerful drive of many involved, to keep everything as uninteresting as possible. Almost all publications that happen in the Anglophone world are done to secure the PhD, an academic appointment or (in America) tenure. The vast majority of books and articles are thus uninspired pro forma exercises done for overtly career purposes.

Real scholars, the people who write real books and publish real articles about things they have genuinely discovered or are truly interested in – the people who actually have something to say – are maybe 5% of my field in the US, maybe less. This kind of work will never get you a job in the Anglophone world now. Everything is faek and ghey.

That's enough for part I. More soon.

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