The Ivory Webpage

We’re sporting a new layout, based on my re-consideration of what blogs are and do.

There have been discussions around the blogosphere — at Acephalous, Rough Theory, and elsewhere — about what blogs are, what kinds of intellectual contributions they can make, and how the content of a blog relates to the personal life of its author. Many of these discussions began with the response to the recent panel at blogging at the MLA conference.

For my part, briefly considering the distinction (to which I was introduced at Acephalous) between “academic blogging” and “academics who blog” has made me determined to break free of the notion of “academic blogging” altogether. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, it is unfortunately the case that some “academic” blogs linger on the unavoidable details of academic life — the bureaucracy, the occasional drudgery of working with a lot of paper, the thorny micro-politics of the profession, and so on. In most cases, this kind of writing isn’t interesting to people outside of academia, and it also isn’t very interesting to me, since it’s difficult to generalize about internal affairs and personal work habits. (It’s also usually a bad idea to make such things Google-searchable.)

Instead, what we have is a growing network of intellectual blogs that focus on culture and politics. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of such blogs are worth reading; what you have on the “Culture & Politics” blogroll to the right is a contingent list made up of the friends, and unknown standout writers, I’ve encountered so far. If these blogs seem “academic,” that is partly because of the American desire to confine intellectual discourse to campuses.

These blogs are in dialogue with thinkers like Richard Rorty and Judith Butler; they are also in dialogue with Thomas Friedman, Chuck Klosterman, and others who fill the uncertain role of the American public intellectual. This very uncertainty, unwelcomeness even, is what makes blogs so important — Friedman is a terrible spokesperson, confused and overambitious, and Klosterman sometimes comes across as an underachiever, trying to reach profound critiques via the most mundane and evanescent artworks. (NB: Some of these blogs are European or Australian. They have good content, but I don’t presume to speak for the other social contexts in which they exist.)

There are also musicians listed here, under “Friends,” and people close to me who have interesting and memorable things to say about their personal lives. They’re also part of this; I only make a distinction because of the difference in imagined audience, which is the difference between how I’ve been, and what I’m thinking.

I’m biased in favor of cultural criticism over political journalism and polemic. That is because culture is more accessible than news. I continue to get most of my news from places like The New York Times, and have no use for polemics that don’t offer new positions or affiliations. The two spheres are not really separate, however, and most good cultural criticism comes out of the Marxist, feminist, and psychoanalytic traditions of political concern.