Monday, February 15, 2010


I'm heading off the International Studies Association conference in New Orleans next week. Now, I'm a pretty interdisciplinary guy- I teach interdisciplinary classes, my job is half in an interdisciplinary program, I have interdisciplinary people I hang with. But when it's time to throw down and get rowdy, researchwise, I'm all economist, all the time. I've never actually collaborated with someone from another discipline, and the amount of stuff that I read from other disciplines is limited (though growing). As a result, my conception of People From Other Disciplines is limited to a binary classification system consisting of Good Guys, and Bad Guys. I have worked out that Good Guys are most likely to be anthropologists, though it's not necessarily the case that anthropologists are most likely to be Good Guys. In case any of you People From Other Disciplines were might be wondering which camp you fit into, I have prepared a handy list of clues; note that the list is not exhaustive, and just because a particular clue applies to you doesn't automatically make you a Good Guy or a Bad Guy:

  • Good Guy clue: Your work generates substantive claims that could (in principle at least) be tested and either verified or rejected
  • Bad Guy clue: Your work generates lots of new vocabulary words, which often begin with "re," "counter," or "post"
  • Good Guy clue: Your work contains more references to your subject matter or related analytical concepts than it does to things other academics have written
  • Bad Guy clue: You spend a lot of time refuting "alternative positions" that consist of cariacatured views that no one would ever actually hold- your formidable fangs are dripping with the blood of the strawmen you created in Section I!
  • Good Guy clue: You are not afraid of quantitative data, most of your papers probably even have some in it
  • Bad Guy clue: You use the words "discourse" and/or "neoliberal" alot
  • Good Guy clue: A policymaker or donor who is interested in doing a good job would (or at least should, and you can claim this with straight face) be willing to pay you for your expertise
  • Bad Guy clue: The only conceivable circumstances under which anyone from outside of academia would ever be willing to pay you for anything would be to make you stop talking and leave them alone.

Anyways, here's hoping I will come home from the conference with my horizons broadened and my views more nuanced... and not in a homicidal rage muttering about reconceptualizing post-colonial neoliberal discourses or something.

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