Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The Scholarly Imperative

[Media prompt] Academics and scholars must be mindful about using research done by only straight, white men, according to two [social] scientists who argued that it oppresses diverse voices and bolsters the status of already privileged and established white male scholars.
The Scholarly Imperative

Having walked from where the train stopped, midpoint between stations, Henry Rawls arrived at his class so late that the only students remaining were those who had fallen asleep at their desks. There were four of them, all brimming with indignation at being startled from their slumber. After vague threats they decamped, whereupon he found a fifth, curled up beneath a teetering tower of chairs in the back corner. Leery of disturbing him, Henry retreated to his office, on the door to which was pinned a note saying classes were cancelled for the remainder of the day, the consequence of a power outage and a fire in the library. Whether connected in some way or not, Henry was unwilling to speculate. Estimating by the natural light in the corridor that it was well after ten o’clock, he instead retraced his steps, thankful for another day at home. With luck he would be back in time for afternoon tea.

Henry was not the only one let off from work early. Half the city, in long ragged lines, weaved their way home by road and lane, across vacant lots, cutting through deserted malls and never finished condominium blocks. Despite the regularity of it, he never saw anybody he knew on these long traipses from one end of the city to the other. He half suspected most of his colleagues at the university had long since abandoned the notion of supplying even a modest amount of intellectual labour in return for a pay cheque. On days like today, he experienced an onset of sympathy for their view of the world.

At the sports stadium, piles driven and a truck or two of concrete poured a decade prior, there was a fracas between the Somalis and the Nigerians over slaves or prostitution, both perhaps, and the conga line of which he was part deviated to a path between the Ministry of Education’s twin towers. A woman in front of him twisted her ankle in one of the holes children dug and then concealed for just such purposes. He might have stopped if she weren’t white, but she was, and no non-coloured stopped for another these days. There had been some nasty incidents over the years, the least perilous consequence of which was the rise of the pejorative ‘white Samaritan’. You had to be a fool not to know where that led.

He arrived home by mid-afternoon, making himself a mint tea, a minor nod to his predictive accuracy. Although it was best to keep such things to oneself these days. He had heard the Department of National Values was in the process of formulating a decree against chronological computation. But who knew? Rumours multiplied by the day, numbering more than cockroaches now.

After finishing a pannikin of tea, Henry sat at his desk, opening a notebook in a show of scholarly rigour. He flipped through the pages, notes and a long list of references written out by hand, to his list of plausible titles for the journal article he planned to write. Outside, he heard the blare of North African rap-slam, a constant pulse of thrumming feedback and randomly generated noise signals. On a fresh page he had printed in neat letters, “On the Blackness of Shakespeare.” Biting the top of his ballpoint pen, he hesitated for a moment before crossing it out and writing underneath, “Shakespeare as the Archetypal African.” Blackness was definitely the wrong word. He wondered if alliteration was allowed any more. Melody Piper would know. Making a mental note to ask her, he thumbed a new page, where he began the first paragraph. He had no time to waste if he wanted to make a good start before the light faded. 

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