English


This is a short follow-up to my post about bad academic writing. As a response to my post, Guru suggested that bad writing was also caused by academics mainly thinking of the editor of journals as their reader, and does just the minimal to get above these rather shoddy standards.

I think the element of writing for the editor is certainly important, but I don’t think it causes laziness. For me, writing for an editor is still «writing upwards» – trying to impress and show how scholarly I am. In other words, I write for status rather than explanation.

The other aspect I wanted to bring forward is a paradox brought forward by globalisation in universities. I held a presentation for my fellow PhD candidates, an international bunch. I tried to speak in what I thought was an accessible, everyday tone. However, the response from several of the non-native speakers was that this made it more difficult to follow – the jargon of sociology was much more familiar to overseas sociologists than my attempts at presenting in non-academic english. Not surprising when you think about it, but a bit of a Catch-22…

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Just watched a film called «Shooting Dogs» – a BBC film about the genocide in Rwanda. I don´t know how to react really. I´ve seen it before in movies. I´ve seen it on the news. I´ve even heard personal survival stories from classmates. But I want to forget it every time. I want to forget the outrageous evil we humans are capable of. I want to forget the uselessness of the United Nations. I want to forget the rampant racism that decides what is important and what isn´t, who is important enough to live and who isn´t. And it is blatantly about skin colour.

I’m even going to add a little anger on the fact that we (we? who are we? a lot of people, I fear…) need white heroes to watch the film (thank you Hotel Rwanda for at least trying something else).

Meanwhile, in Darfur…

So, on friday I saw «This is England» – a film about skinheads in 80s England. I really enjoyed it, even though it was more for my mind than my emotions  – I´m not sure I cared that much about the characters, but I certainly got an understanding of what was going on.

Basically, it shows how real people (not just puppet evil-doers) could and can become skinheads. I really liked the way it showed that the style and the «look» of rebels was only connected to the racist idiocy at a later stage in the movie.

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I just watched Everything is Illuminated – based on the book of Jonathan Safran Foer. A book I found brilliant. Irreverent but serious. Funny and deeply respectful of the themes – pogroms and holocaust – which it handles. The movie works well enough, I think. The flashbacks are a bit hand-wavy, and Elijah Woods character is a bit extreme. The Alex character, however, is brilliant with his elaborate right-but-wrong english, goofy and trying to hard to be cool – but still a genuinly kind and likable person.

This is me waving shallowness in the air and shouting «hooray!» but, seriously, I get a lot more out of hollywoods treatment of human loss and betrayal than I did of the Royal Shakespear Companies.

This is really about academics trying to write, and why it often becomes so full of jargon. This first post is going to be a simple list. My plan is to flesh things out with seperate posts at a later stage.

1st reason for difficult language: Trying to sneak yourself to academic status.

2nd reason for difficult language: Not knowing exactly what you’re saying and hiding behind grand words.

3rd reason for difficult language: Being on a learning curve – still searching for the right words and images to convey your thoughts clearly. (The nice version of the 2nd reason…)

4th reason for difficult language: Common sense language is not specific enough.

5th reason for difficult language: Common sense language is too politicized.

6th reason for difficult language: Common sense language is what is being analysed.

Reason number 4 is often the excuse, isn´t it? I think number 3 is the interesting one. It conveys to me that when an idea is better understood, it can be expressed more simply. This also explains why cutting-edge research often is difficult to read: No-one has thought these thoughts before, so we are still on the learning curve of making them easier to think and say.

Which reminds me: Sometimes a text is difficult to understand, even if it is written in plain language – it could be because it is saying something new and different, something requires the mind to change direction for a while and think differently.

English readers also deserve a welcome! I decided to push forward and just write something and publish it – to get started with this blog. It resulted in a long post – but I guess that is alright – I guess some of these posts will be short, and some will be long.

I hope this blog becomes a nice place to read, comment and discuss – and I need you readers to help me! If you find that Norwegian posts are in the way, just press the category-button in the right column… Enjoy!

Very serious, this first real post in english, but – it is what is on my mind at the moment. Nick Cohen writes in the Guardian and is the author of this massive onslaught on what he calls «the liberal left.» According to Cohen, the opposition to Iraq has shown the left’s inability to stand up against fascism and tyranni. Opposition to Bush and Blair has become more important than fighting for democracy and human rights.

I remember marching in the 15. feb 2003 against the war in Iraq. I remember walking next to the Socialist Workers Party and their warped view of the world, and I remember walking past Islamist groups chanting «death to…» slogans that made me severly uncomfortable. But I still don´t regret marching.

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