Making Scholarship Matter
Edited By Cynthia Gerstl-Pepin and Cynthia Reyes
Chapter Eight: Reflections of a “Stunt Intellectual” : Caught In the Crosshairs of “Public” Controversy
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Reflections of a “Stunt Intellectual”
Caught in the Crosshairs of “Public” Controversy
The idea of a set of creatures called “public intellectuals” has long puzzled me, especially when that label has been affixed to me, as it has on occasion. The term always seems just a bit too lofty for me. If I’m any kind of intellectual at all, I’d think to myself, I’m a “stunt intellectual,” the guy the real intellectuals call when they have to jump off a bridge or hang upside down from the wing of an airplane.
It’s true that I write—books, articles, chapters, reviews, op-eds, blog posts—and that I speak whenever I’m asked to at conferences, on campuses, and in community gatherings all over the place. It’s true that I’m a life-long teacher and activist. It’s also true that I’m an advocate for a culture of democracy and for the creation of an expansive and generous public square where people can come together as equals, face one another without masks, and engage in dialogue: listening with the possibility of being changed and speaking with the possibility of being heard. And it’s also undeniable that my particular history and my ongoing activism have occasionally thrust me unwittingly into manufactured controversies not of my choosing. For example, in October 2008, officials at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln canceled three talks I was scheduled to give in mid-November at...
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