Radical scholarship: what’s it all about? So Clive Barnett, a geographer at the Open University, has been asking over at his blog, Pop Theory. Barnett has been ‘thinking out loud’ (his words!) about, among other things, some ideas outlined by Stanford University anthropologist James Ferguson in Antipode’s 40th anniversary special issue, The Point is to Change It.
Considering anthropology – but we might well consider geography – Ferguson argues one could be forgiven for concluding that radical scholarship’s goal is essentially negative: denouncing “the system” and decrying its harmful and objectionable tendencies. Is this the goal of critique, though? Is resistance its terminal point, refusal its final destination? Ferguson thinks it ought not to be, forthrightly posing some intractable questions: ‘…what if politics is really not about expressing indignation or denouncing the powerful? What if it is, instead, about getting what you want? Then we progressives must ask: what do we want? This is a quite different question (and a far more difficult question) than: what are we against? What do we want?’ (Antipode 41[s1]:167).
Negation and disdain, to be sure, have their place. However, there’s more to critique, to “being critical”, than being “anti”. Radical scholars aren’t saying – are they?! – “we simply don’t want social life to be organised/arranged/governed” but, rather, “we don’t want to it governed, etc. like that”. So, how do we, and the people we work with, want things to be? For those interested in this question (and given the crises all around us, the Occupy movement, etc. [on which see our Staff Reporters] who isn’t?!), Ferguson’s Antipode essay – supplemented quite brilliantly by Barnett’s thinking out loud (his blog is ‘shaped by a sense that…“I have nothing to say, only to add”’: read it!) – is invaluable.