By Any Other Name

by Kieran Healy on February 20, 2004

If current trends continue, “‘John Quiggin'”: may begin to challenge “‘Kieran Healy'”: as the most frequently misspelled name on Crooked Timber, with “‘Eszter Hargittai'”: a surprisingly distant third. In terms of sheer variety, however, “Kieran Healy” looks set to retain its dominance, as virtually all Quiggin-related mistakes are accounted for by “‘Quiggan'”:, whereas both the first and last parts of “Kieran Healy” offer multiple opportunities for error. Transposing the “i” and “e” or moving the “e” after the “r” are universally popular choices[1], while others show interesting cross-national variation. English readers find it hard to to resist converting “Healy” to “Healey,” while Americans love to change “Kieran” to “Kiernan.” This latter variant is linguistically interesting because Americans usually choose to misspell words by removing letters rather than by adding them. These errors are sometimes compounded with another common mistake. Beginning an email with the words

bq. Dear Ms. Healey,

does not encourage a sympathetic reading of your comments, for instance.

A subsequent post will give some handy tips on more advanced CT-related topics, such as how to tell “John”: from “Jon”:, “Henry”: from “Harry”: and “Ted”: from “Tom”:

fn1. Though their simultaneous use has yet to be observed in the field.

Axis of Evil, Part 2

by John Q on February 20, 2004

My post on Cyprus raised some eyebrows with its reference to the relative insignificance, in geopolitical terms, of the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Looking back, I’m not surprised that this was controversial. After all, the idea that the war in Iraq is crucially important is a common background assumption in most of the debate, shared by both supporters and critics. Of course, geopolitics isn’t the only criterion of importance – the costs and benefits in terms of lives lost and saved, human rights and so on need to be discussed, not to mention economic impacts. But still, I think it’s fair to say that most people assumed that the presence in Iraq of more than 100 000 US troops, with a demonstrated capacity and willingness to overthrow governments, would make for big changes one way or another.

The most obvious candidate for such effects is Iran1. It is number 2 country in the Axis of Evil (and everyone knows North Korea was only thrown in at the last moment for rhetorical balance). It has advanced weapons-of-mass-destruction-related-program activities. And its current rulers are the same ones who humiliated the US in 1979 and who were, until Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, US Public Enemy Number 1 in the region.

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Wie es eigentlich gewesen

by Henry Farrell on February 20, 2004

“Timothy Burke”: has a fascinating short post on Neal Stephenson’s _Quicksilver_ as a Foucauldian genealogy. As Burke says, Stephenson succeeds in looking at history from a skew angle, making the familiar strange, and the strange familiar. Read the piece – it’s an example of the very best kind of academic blogging. All that I can add is to point out one of the ways in which Stephenson (and Thomas Pynchon in _Mason and Dixon_) tries to defamiliarize the past; the use of anachronism. At various points in the narrative, Stephenson introduces modern ideas or inventions into the margins of his historical narrative (he can get away with this more easily, because _Quicksilver_ is an alternative history of the world, a history that never happened). He does this so as to make a tiger’s leap into the past.

Stephenson uses anachronisms to jar our sense of the seventeenth century as a fixed stage along the progression that has led ineluctably to the modern world. He wants to bring home to us how the past was, like the modern age, a ferment of possibilities. It could have developed in many different directions. In _Quicksilver_, the past and the present are related not because the one has led to the other, but because they are both the same thing at different stages; vortices of possibility. Even if _Quicksilver_ isn’t really a historical novel, it’s a novel of history, which to my mind is a much rarer and more interesting thing.

Nannies etc.

by Harry on February 20, 2004

Now that my cover is blown I feel inhibited from saying much about this (and looking after my 3 year old daughter means I don’t have time today anyway) but there’s lots of interesting stuff about childcare, nannies, and the mommy wars out there. Caitlin Flanagan’s rivetting piece in The Atlantic is finally online, and a follow up exhange of letters with Barbara Ehrenreich and Sara Mosle is very interesting. Laura at Apartment 11D has several posts on the debate which vary in temper but are all worth reading. Her initial take on the Barbara Ehrenreich letter is that it is defensive, and biased against stay-at-home moms, but I think she is misreading it — so, I think, does Russell Arben Fox, who takes Ehrenreich to be inserting the signifcance of class into the debate. I don’t think Ehrenreich is biased against stay-at-home-moms, but I do think she buys into a more productivist ethic than Russell and Laura (and I) subscribe to. Good stuff all.

Spoiling for a fight?

by Henry Farrell on February 20, 2004

“Corey Robin”: has an interesting article in this month’s _Boston Review_, arguing that prior to September 11, the intellectual wing of the US conservative movement had been in the doldrums because there weren’t any new battles to fight.

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The “function” of universities

by Chris Bertram on February 20, 2004

Professor Edward Feser “continues his self-immolation”: on TechCentralStation (see previous episodes “here”: and “here”: and Brian Leiter’s takes “here”: and “here”: ) and, in the course of doing so issues a challenge to his critics:

bq. The real question is whether on balance, in general, students tend to become more liberal as a result of their university experience; and this question can, for clarity’s sake, be broken up into a number of sub-questions [details below].

The answer to the questions is, according to Professor Feser, “yes”, indeed he

bq. … simply den[ies] the intellectual honesty of anyone who claims to believe otherwise — or at least doubt that he’s spent much time among university students. Yet to acknowledge that these questions must be answered in the affirmative is to acknowledge that the modern university does indeed serve the de facto function of undermining the commitment of the young to the traditional institutions of Western civilization.

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Equal opportunity for what ?

by John Q on February 20, 2004

In the middle of yet another scandal about American college sports, the NYT chooses to run an editorial calling for cheerleading to be recognised as a competitive sport (It is implied, though not clearly stated, that this sport would be open only to women).

I prefer watching cheerleading to watching American football and I have no problem with claims about its athleticism and so on. And I’ll concede Allen’s arguments that injuries might be reduced if the activity were run on a more professional basis (of course she doesn’t use the dreaded word ‘professional’, anathema to the NCAA).

Nevertheless, this seems to me to be a case where unsound premises have been pushed to their logical conclusions, with predictably bizarre results. The basic problem is the mixture of higher education and professional sport, which makes about us much sense as if high school cafeterias doubled as French restaurants.

Isn’t there even one university president prepared to take up the banner of Robert Maynard Hutchins and get universities out of the entertainment industry?

Memorial Memorial

by Kieran Healy on February 20, 2004

Time to compare and contrast “rejected proposals for the World Trade Center Memorial”:, from “prehistoric”: to “prehensile”:, from “schmaltz”: to “spikes”:, “literal minded”: to “questioning”:, “melted”: to “missed the point”:, “patriotic”: to “flowery”:, “amateur”: to “amateurest”: … on and on they go, all 5,201 of them.


by John Q on February 20, 2004

No one much has noticed, but what will probably turn out to be the biggest geopolitical event of the year took place last weekend. I’m referring to the announcement by Kofi Annan of a referendum on the reunification of Cyprus to be held on 21 April this year. There’s still room for something to go wrong, but I’ll present my analysis on the basis that the referendum will be held and approved, which seems likely at present.

Why should settlement of a long-running dispute on a Mediterranean island, with no recent flare-ups, be so important ? Let me count the ways.

First, this is another victory for the boring old UN processes so disdained by unilateralists.

Second, a settlement of the Cyprus dispute would mark the end of hostilities between the modern states of Greece and Turkey that go back to the achievement of Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire 200 years ago. Taking a longer historical view, the predecessor states of the modern Greece and Turkey have been at the frontline of hostilities between Islam and Christendom for 1000 years or more. By comparison with this dispute, the troubles in Ireland are of recent vintage.

Third, and most important, the positive role played by the Turkish government, until now the sponsor of the separatist government in Northern Cyprus, will greatly strengthen Turkey’s case to become a candidate for admission to the European Union. Admission of Turkey, which could be expected to follow by around 2010, would dramatically change the dynamic of Middle Eastern politics. Iraq, Iran and Syria would all have borders with Europe. With membership of the EU, Turkey would provide a model of a secular, democratic and increasingly prosperous state in a predominantly Islamic country. By comparison, the replacement of the odious Saddam Hussein with an imperfectly democratic Islamist government dominated by Shiites (the most plausible current outcome for Iraq) would fade into insignifance.

A decision by the EU to reject Turkey, despite its dramatic progress towards a fully democratic system of government, would be equally significant, but in the negative direction. The advocates of rejection, most notably the German Christian (!) Democrats would correctly be seen as being motivated primarily by anti-Islamic prejudice. This would be a big setback in the struggle against terrorist forms of Islamism.

Awards are their own Reward

by Kieran Healy on February 20, 2004

To my chagrin, it was “Laurie”: and not I who received this letter yesterday:

Dear Mr [sic] Paul,


The International Biographical Center of Cambridge, England, has published more than 1,000,000 biographies of people of note from all over the world in more than 200 editions of its reference works. Housed in libraries and research institutions in every country of the globe, these books provide vital information for academia, industry and private use. … It is my pleasure than to invited you to complete the enclosed form for this exciting new publication — 2000 OUTSTANDING ACADEMICS OF THE 21st CENTURY. This, the inaugural edition, will be published in late 2004 and will be distributed throughout the world immediately … Demand promises to be great but I have reserved a limited number of copies for the use of biographees only. Each copy is offered at a substantially reduced pre-publication subscription price as a means of thanking yo for completing the enclosed questionnaire. There is no obligation to purchase whatsoever as selection is based on merit alone. We are also proud to offer a fine range of Commemorative Awards to celebrate your significant achievements…

Priority Biographee Reservation Form: … Please supply EITHER

  •       Copy/ies of the case bound *Grand Edition* at US$225 or £135 Sterling each.
  •       OUTSTANDING ACADEMICS OF THE 21st CENTURY DIPLOMA, printed in three colours, inscribed with my name and chosen citation at US$225 or £135 Sterling each.
  •       OUTSTANDING ACADEMICS OF THE 21st CENTURY MEDAL, silver finished, engraved with my name and supplied in a presentation case at US$225 or £135 Sterling each.

… On the OUTSTANDING ACADEMICS OF THE 21st CENTURY DIPLOMA please inscribe the citation as follows: “In Honor of an Outstanding Contribution in the field of (Max 40 letters):                           .

I’m thinking I need one of these Diplomas, for my Outstanding Contribution in the field of “Excellence”: