Jonathan Neale ~ Why Radical Academics Often Find It Hard To Write, And What To Do About It

No comments yet

Henriette Browne - A Girl Writing

Henriette Browne – A Girl Writing

This post will be of interest to only some of our readers. But we hope it will be very useful for them.

It is not easy to be both an academic and an activist. The values, the audiences and the constraints are different. Sitting down to write, you can feel yourself pulled in two different ways. The result is often muddled thinking and murky prose. There is too much ranting for an academic audience, and too much gobbledygook for the movement. In many cases, there is no prose at all, only silence, and pages crumpled in the wastebasket or erased on the screen.
The first half of this post offers some advice that can make writing easier, faster and more useful. The second half explains why universities make activists feel stupid, how they do it, and how you can cope.

Part One: Some advice for writing
The most useful thing I have learned in my own life is to split, writing one thing for the academy and another thing for the movement. Ordinarily, graduate students and young teachers try to write for both. In a sense, they are trying to write for people like themselves. This strategy puts them in a very tight and conflicted space. As they write each sentence, they notice it is too direct for the professors, or too convoluted for the activists – or, often, both at once. So they rewrite the sentence and then delete it. Or they write an academic paper, in academic language, while underneath there is a fury bubbling to be free. Suddenly they are ranting, and then, embarrassed, they return to silence.

The contradiction is real, and not their fault. One solution is to write for both audiences separately. That may seem like more work, but it is not. If you can write happily for both audiences, you can write twice as much in less time. Splitting your audience frees you to write for other activists, in language they can use, sharing assumptions and loyalties, directly to their concerns. The academy will not contaminate this writing.

Read more:

Bookmark and Share


Leave a Reply

What is 8 + 8 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)

  • About

    Rozenberg Quarterly aims to be a platform for academics, scientists, journalists, authors and artists, in order to offer background information and scholarly reflections that contribute to mutual understanding and dialogue in a seemingly divided world. By offering this platform, the Quarterly wants to be part of the public debate because we believe mutual understanding and the acceptance of diversity are vital conditions for universal progress. Read more...
  • Support

    Rozenberg Quarterly does not receive subsidies or grants of any kind, which is why your financial support in maintaining, expanding and keeping the site running is always welcome. You may donate any amount you wish and all donations go toward maintaining and expanding this website.

    10 euro donation:

    20 euro donation:

    Or donate any amount you like:

    ABN AMRO Bank
    Rozenberg Publishers
    IBAN NL65 ABNA 0566 4783 23
    reference: Rozenberg Quarterly

    If you have any questions or would like more information, please see our About page or contact us:
  • Like us on Facebook

  • Follow us on Twitter

  • Recent Articles

  • Rozenberg Quarterly Archives