Category Archives: academia

Beryl Benderly wins award she deserves

Beryl Benderly is an accomplished book author, a wide-ranging magazine writer, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and, most important, a very nice and decent person.

So I’m happy to note that she and a story she wrote for me when I was editor of Miller-McCune, “The Real Science Gap,” have won the Iris Molotsky Award for Excellence in Coverage of Higher Education, sponsored by the American Association of University Professors. Here’s the nut of the announcement for the AAUP award:

Cat Warren, editor of Academe, presented the award at Saturday’s plenary luncheon, saying, “This is one of those stellar pieces of interpretive journalism that does it all: it garners an enormous number of facts; it takes those facts and gives them a new frame that upends some widely held beliefs. And it does so in a manner that is so graceful that when you reach the end of the piece and realize that it has done the next-to-impossible—change your mind about something—you don’t resent it in the least. You’re grateful.”

Congrats, Beryl. It was a great piece that I’m happy to have been associated with, however inconsequentially.

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Wonk summer reading recommendations that aren’t all that wonky

One might suspect that a summer-reading list from something called Foreign Policy would be full of turgid academic announcements of the urgent need for a more forward-looking approach to Moldavia, but then one would come to one’s senses and realize that, no, I was thinking of Foreign Affairs. Anyway, I highly recommend this FP summer books list, which skips back and forth from policy to foreign, and fiction to non-. Its most praiseworthy attribute: The recommenders appear to be trying to show off, so when they recommend you read Nabokov, they recommend Laughter in the Dark, which, despite being a Russian literature freak, I had never heard of, much less read.  Similarly obscure plugs pop up for Ian McEwan (Black Dogs) and John le Carré (The Secret Pilgrim). And overall, the recommendations, which come from Foreign Policy contributors, which means from very well-read people, are delightfully eclectic. You either have heard of the books (and think yes, I’d intended to get to that) or you have not (and think, sounds interesting, but where in the hell did he ever run into that?).

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Coordination to the fourth power

Well, the republic is saved and this week’s competition for best academic abstract is all but over. The title alone — “Emerging Theoretical Understanding of Pluricentric Coordination in Public Governance” — essentially ended the competition. But within the abstract itself, the Danish authors of the paper surpass the title by miles and miles, hitting this new height of obfuscatory explanation: “Although the traditional theories of coordination tended to view vertical and horizontal forms of coordination as radically different modes of coordination, the new theories question the analytical value of this distinction by pointing to the relational, interpretive, interdependent, and interactive aspects of all coordination processes including processes in which public authorities seek to govern their subjects.” Game, set, match (without mentioning four uses of the word “coordination” in a single sentence). Even if they were aided by a bad translation or less than fluent English language skills, I have only one thing to say to these researchers: Good work, Danes!

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Comedy and Theoretical Criminology

We have a clear winner this week in the competition for “best” academic abstract, and it comes from the wonderfully named journal Theoretical Criminology, which has set me to thinking along several tangents, including one that involves theoretical jaywalking. But that’s neither there nor here; what’s important are learned and impenetrable sentences such as:

Taking its cue from Bakhtin’s exposition of the grotesque realism of the Rabelaisian novel, this article explores the abstract notion of ‘justice’ through the lens of ‘folk humour’—specifically, stand-up comedy which references securitization in the post-9/11 period.

There’s more, including Habermas. Go here, and enjoy.

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