Intellectual Thought in the Public Arena

I have, for a long time now, been a proponent of relating academic thought to a broader audience. From my perspective, the most significant aim of that goal is to educate the public on social constructs. In many regards, racism, classism, misogyny, and other forms of prejudice are not an overt display. Sometimes the most dangerous prejudices that permeate our society are covert prejudices because they manifest themselves in decisions and transgressions that we cannot immediately identify.

Remarkable work has been published that has set a stage for historical contexts. To reference an example of a man whose photo is shown in Thin is In, the introductory chapters of Michel Foucault’s Discipline & Punish describes, in painful detail, the historical contexts of criminal punishment. By including a narrative of Damiens the Regicide, a man who was drawn and quartered for his crimes against King Louis XV, Foucault launches into a historical context of punishment in different cultures and how we have come to regard criminal punishment in our own societies.

The fundamental message of Foucault’s publication is not that much different than the goal of Fulton and Frank’s discussions on the historical development of how our society has practiced misogyny through narratives of abortion. In each example, there is a person who is portrayed to be a villain or a lamb depending on which side of the atrocious “crime” she was positioned. By understanding these ideas within historic contexts, the reader can identify how the prejudice was manifested and possibly even begin to identify similar problems in our society today.

There are a number of academics who stress to their peers and students that academics need to come out of the ivory tower and make their work accessible by the public. I can guarantee that for each time I have heard this sentiment in my academic career, there is most likely a blog that takes intellectual thought, historic research, or social theory, and transforms it into an easily readable piece available in the public arena.

It is almost absurd that I, a proponent of public interaction and bridging the gap between sectors, did not realize that some of the most relatable information was already available outside of the peer reviewed journal.

 

-Sarah Love

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