"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


academic blogging

Stephen Walt comes out in favor of academic blogging:
Indeed, given the concerns I've sometimes expressed about the "cult of irrelevance" in academe, I've come to believe that blogging ought to be actively encouraged in the academic world. I'm not saying that all political scientists, historians, or economists ought to start their own blogs, but we shouldn't penalize scholars who do engage in this activity and we might even consider rewarding it, the same way we should reward scholars who care enough about public service to use their talents and training working in the public or NGO sector. It would be good for the IR field if academic scholars were expected to write a few blog posts every now and then, if only for the purpose of self-examination. If the typical academic had to write a blog for two weeks, they might discover they had nothing to say to their fellow citizens, couldn't say it clearly, or that nobody cared. That experience might even lead a few of my fellow academics to scratch their heads and ask if they were investing their research time appropriately, which would be all to the good.
Of course, I agree. Blogging has made me a much sharper thinker, and it's led to all kinds of professional opportunities I might not have otherwise had. I've also met so many interesting people who work on these same issues, as well as built ties with practitioners in the field. This all seems to me to be for the good. Here's hoping the tenure gods agree.

I think there's room to use blogs to engage students as well. I've done so in the past by having them post current events, but this semester I'm trying something new: having the students write their own explanations of political and economic events in a country they're following for the course of the semester. (I'm moving the "short & sweet" current event stuff over to Twitter.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would add that your blogging and that of other strong academics/writers is a great source of reliable information and a lens on current debates in the field. I am a grad student in a highly regarded international affairs program, but my program lacks regional foci. Your blog offers a convenient window into African studies that would be tough to find otherwise, as well as a refreshingly passionate, jargon-free take on things. You and other good academic bloggers truly are influencing many students other than those you meet in the classroom (I found out about this blog from an email to a school-wide listserve, so I know I'm speaking not just for myself). Thank you!

Friday, January 08, 2010 2:46:00 PM


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