Saturday, January 11, 2014

There is no ignorance so blind as academic ignorance.

Interesting: Exaggeration, lack of perspective or simple ignorance? I enjoy the Literary Review principally because their reviewers are informed and are more experienced in the real world than most academic reviewers. But sometimes examples of delusional mindsets creep in. This is from Trading Places, a review by Andrea Stuart of Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture by Gaiutra Bahadur. The topic of the book is an interesting one and not often discussed - the intra-imperial migrations of the British Empire. Not just white colonialists out from the Metropolitan to the colonies but all sorts of intra-imperial migrations to Fiji, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, South Africa, etc. Bahadur's family was part of those migrations, moving from India to Guyana sometime around 1900 (not clear in the review when).

Here is the sentence that leapt out to me. I am surprised it did not get caught in the editing process.
In 1987 they fled the troubled realities of British Guiana, still haunted by its slave past, and moved to New Jersey. There the new migrants would find the conditions almost as hostile as those that their ancestors had once encountered elsewhere in the New World.
Really? You are comparing conditions of a free immigrant in 1987 New Jersey to those of an indentured migrant in 1900 Guyana?

What were the harsh conditions in New Jersey? Local residents protested the arrival of new immigrants in their community. Someone spat on her father. One of the immigrants was beaten up. Obviously that shouldn't happen. But do you honestly think that is the equivalent of indentured servitude in Guyana in 1900? And if you don't, why say so?

Curious about who could make such a blindingly stupid comment, I looked up Andrea Stuart's bio at the front of the magazine.
Andrea Stuart is currently a Writer in Residence at Kingston University.
Enough said. There is no ignorance so blind as academic ignorance.

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