Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Academic English

Back at university doing postrgrad work in history I made a determined effort to catch up with the journal literature. I really struggled to come to grips with many articles influenced by European left wing intellectuals. The closest equivalent I could find in my own mind were some of the theological debates at the time of the Reformation.

I was reminded of this by the following excerpt from the web page of the Identity and Cultural Transformations Research group at the University of Wollongong.

The central theme of this research grouping is various forms of cultural transformation and the involvement of identity categories (such as race, gender, sexuality and class) within these transformations. Cultural transformation involves the changing meanings and practices of a social formation that take place both at the level of the individual and more widely across culture. Investigating the personal and collective experience of identity is a productive means of analysing these kinds of changes, as identity constitutes a crucial component in the organisation and functioning of culture. In analysing the relations of various identity categories to cultural transformations, we can see how these transformations are enacted, complicated, or resisted.

As best I can work out, this group is concerned with social and cultural change, how and why it happens. They are also interested in the relations between individuals and cultures. I think that I know what they mean by "identity categories" although they appear to be using the term in a way that subsumes some very different meanings.

I wonder whether a course in plain English should be made compulsory for all academics?


Lexcen said...

It's a well known fact that academics develop a language exclusive to their field of study. It must be a way of keeping out those pesky foreigners.

Jim Belshaw said...

Not just academics, I fear. All professions seem to do it. Makes multidisciplinary working very hard.