Peace and Mind: Civilian Scholarship from Common Knowledge

Jeffrey M. Perl (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


Addressed to veterans of the "culture wars" and their students, the essays collected here define and exemplify a genre of scholarship devoted to irenic ends and civil means. The humanities and human sciences are shown to employ concepts, strategies, and vocabularies more appropriate to martial than humanitarian pursuits. This war footing is especially inapt and regrettable in that contemporary anthropology, historiography, science studies, literary theory, sociology of knowledge, religious studies, psychology, and hermeneutics have developed a basis for more promising alternatives. Contemporary theory stipulates that opposites are mutually constituting, mutually deconstructing, and unendurably dependent, yet the theorists themselves have been embroiled in academic battles that belie the premises they defend. Clifford Geertz, Bruno Latour, Gianni Vattimo, Maya Jasanoff, Ulrich Beck, and other "civilian scholars" propose here that adversarial relationships be reconceived as dependencies (or covert agreements) and that scholarship recognize that enemies have agreed to fight rather than experience an ambivalence they share. If each party to a dispute is divided—divided as an individual—then words like "agreement," "disagreement," and "conflict" lose their usefulness in complex and subtle conversation. These sixteen case studies suggest that the terms now heard in such discussions are too primitive for use by intellectuals. Versions of all the essays in this volume appeared first in issues of the journal Common Knowledge published between 1992 and 2009. They appear together for the first time in this collection with a theoretical introduction and detailed analyses by the book's editor (who is also editor of Common Knowledge.)
Original languageAmerican English
PublisherDavies Group
Number of pages452
ISBN (Print)1934542164, 978-1934542163
StatePublished - 2011


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