Montag, 31. März 2008

in the ivory tower

one day i'm sitting in a battered jeep, sweating in the mid-day heat, surrounded by street children outside, waiting to pass a military checkpoint manned by sri lankan peacekeepers who are trying to clamp down on the wave of kidnappings that is plaguing haiti. the next day, i'm sitting in an air-conditioned conference room on the 34th floor of a glass and chrome hotel in san francisco, listening to the same phenomenon being discussed by eminent academics. only this time the daily, ordered chaos of port-au-prince is called "challenges of external intervention in areas of limited governance." welcome to the academic ivory tower.

i'm in s.f. for an international studies conference, fascinated and a bit jet-lagged by my journey from planet praxis to planet theory. the panels at the conference range from the incomprehensible ("unfortunate performativity: towards a co-fertilization of the economy of qualities and polyheuristic theory") to the dubious ("different time, different place: insurgencies in contrast" chaired by the u.s. military academy); from the quirky ("the international relations of middle earth: learning from the lord of the rings") to the ballsy ("amitai etzioni meets his critics," chaired by: amitai etzioni, the panelists: his critics).

my favourite panel discussion was the one linking u.s. military policy and neo-colonialism with the lack of body hair on american comic superheroes and the size of vampirella's breasts. why did i ever choose to study something as down to earth as engineering?

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