Thursday, March 13, 2008

Finally sent off my paper yesterday, 10 days later than I had hoped to. These self-imposed deadlines are a bit inane but sometimes I need that kind of drama to kick my butt into action.

Speaking of action, the gov't decided last night, at around ten, that all primary schools, kindergartens and special needs schools will be shut for two weeks, due public health and public sentiments concerns. Now, that is pretty dramatic also, no? Why can't they sort this out earlier and make that decision say in the afternoon? It's not like this flu outbreak started just yesterday.

Speaking of yesterday ...

Yesterday there was a seminar at my dept and the speaker was someone I kinda knew from what must have been at least 15 years ago. I don't think he remembered me though. Fifteen years ago a professor at my university (I was a student then) was trying to put together a book on HK culture and so he got a bunch of people together to sit down and talk about their respective research and what they could offer to the project. The meeting was on a Saturday morning. I stumbled into the room, half an hour late, stinking of whisky and cigarettes, still wearing my clothes from the night before. My 'presentation', if one can call it that, was a load of gibberish and I felt nauseous the whole time. The professor, along the lines of Paula Abdul in American Idol, politely suggested some changes which I gratefully accepted. I promised to hand in a draft a couple of months later. But ten minutes after the meeting I had decided I couldn't really be bothered with all that work involved and emailed the prof. and lied: please count me out as I got so many other things on my plate etc.

Anyhow, the speaker at our dept yesterday was also present at that meeting, at the time he was studying Cantonese swear words, at topic that was obviously 100 times more interesting than my dreary old load of crap on class and cultural capital and symbolic boundaries..etc.. yawn. I think I made the right decision.

The talk yesterday was on the academic debates on race during Nazi Germany. It was quite interesting and the main point he was trying to make was that those debates were on-going for at least ten years, and the 'science' behind "the Jewish question" changed from racial anthropology (rasse) to genetics to the concept of people (volk) to something neither here nor there.

Many interesting questions can be raised, for me the most obvious one is the nature of the scientific/academic community in a totalitarian state. Next would be that age old dichotomy of essentialism vs constructionism. A final banal, yet intriguing observation is the fact that said speaker seems to have lost all his hair since I last saw him!

1 comment:

Mat B said...

Re: the Nazis. Very interesting topic that I've long found interesting, especially the way in which the Nazis managed to subvert and undermine academic independence, professionalism and self-assuredness. They were very good at doing this in all realms, of course, including the military.

Richard J. Evans' "The Third Reich in Power" is a study of the techniques used by the Nazis in power and includes an examination of policies towards the academy. It's a good read; part of a three part series that you might be interested in picking up if you have time...