All tagged public intellectuals

intellectuals and their publics

Most of the historians I know love to argue over the role, effectiveness and even the existence of the phenomenon known as the public intellectual, and the efficacy of the individuals who may or may not inhabit this role. Indeed, this year's presidential address at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians was on the subject of "Historians as Public Intellectuals." This ongoing conversation is often spurred on by the occasional outbreak of news relating to the subject. Last year, for example, Ta-Nehisi Coates labeled Melissa Harris-Perry "America's foremost public intellectual" because there is "no one who communicates the work of thinking to more people with more rigor and effect." Some disagreedwith that choice and a modest debate ensued. A larger brouhaha opened up a short time later when New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof expressed his opinion that "there are...fewer public intellectuals on American university campuses today than a generation ago" and he exhorted "professors" not to "cloister yourselves like medieval monks." Across the land, university faculty sputtered with outrage.

[more after the jump]