I have been having this conversation with a lot of folks lately, notably faculty, and the more I rehearse the argument in my head the harder it is for me to wrap my brain around why I do what I do in academia, and why it continues to be of critical importance to me.  I in no way want to downplay the fact that I think the academy is seriously flawed, but there continues to be something awfully compelling that makes me stick to it.  Even though I recognize that some of this may just be a willful ignorance of any other way to get done the things I’d like to do, because the academy is comfortable and familiar, I have other reasons for thinking that doing what I’m doing is good.  Not necessarily right, or the best, but definitely good.

My best argument in defense of academia, at least in my limited experience doing philosophy at a major institution, is that it has armed me with the tools I have found the most useful to dismantle, examine, and critique existent structures.  By existent structures, I am most interested in those which are used as tools of oppression, or at the very least (and closely related) the promotion of the status quo.  While the discipline of philosophy is dominated by figures who are largely white American, British or European men, the rigorous study of philosophy has taught me ways of thinking that do not claim to be infallible.  In fact I would go so far as to say that if anything, there is a certain amount of encouragement in the direction of critique by the discipline itself.

Which is encouraging.  But because I have used the master’s tools to hone my own wits, does that make me, after a fashion, the master’s tool too?  I have learned how to think, read, speak, and write critically, but the sort of critical thinking, reading and writing I do are academy-sanctioned.  Yet the ways I apply this critical awareness is not always so doted-upon by the powers that be.

I waffle back and forth between thinking that I am a clever one and I am a serious sellout.  On the one hand, submitting to the academy and its rules, explicit and implicit, has empowered me.  On the other, I feel like I should be able to do this on my own.  And the fact that my highbrow academic mind has a hard time breaking out of that framework even when creating a zine has interesting implications, as well.  It seems like I can’t turn that part of my brain off.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so worried.  I have gotten respect and encouragement from both sides of the coin — academic and casual — so maybe I’m doing alright.  I certainly don’t see the value in outright rejecting any way of examining the world, but then again, that seems to be a direct product of my training as an academic philosopher.  It’s kind of maddening that I can’t shift my frame of reference here in order to make better sense of my own thinking, but I suppose it has always been particularly challenging to think about thinking, because we need to think to think about thinking, and so get trapped by the boundaries of our own thought.

And again, a dead end in my struggle between my essentially anti-establishment self and my stodgily establishment self.