Katharina Blum

by Chris Bertram on June 26, 2004

Heavy rain in Bristol today, so I spent the afternoon watching Volker Schlondorff’s “The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073858/ (based on the Heinrich Boll novel). For those who don’t know, the film is about what happens to a young woman after she spends the night with a man who turns out to be a terrorist suspect. She is alternately bullied by the police and villified by the gutter press. What is different today, of course, is the way that the blogosphere serves as an Insta-echo-chamber for tabloid coverage of such stories. One imagines the “Heh”s and “Readthewholethings” that would accompany posts linking to a contemporary Die Zeitung’s online coverage of events. (If you’ve not seen the film, don’t be put off by the sole IMDB commenter, who has also posted politically-motived negative reviews of Rabbit-Proof Fence and Bloody Sunday.)

IRRITATED UPDATE: Why is a classic of the New German Cinema available on DVD in Region 1 but not in Region 2 (including the UK and Germany)?

Noblesse d’Etat

by Henry Farrell on June 26, 2004

“Atrios”:http://atrios.blogspot.com/2004_06_20_atrios_archive.html#108825764687097446 reports that the White House have lodged a complaint with the Irish Embassy over the “disrespectful’ “interview”:http://www.rte.ie/news/2004/0624/primetime/primetime56.smil by an Irish journalist discussed “yesterday”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/002075.html. Mere journalists apparently aren’t allowed to interrupt the President when he’s trying to make a point. Nor are Presidents supposed to have to defend their policies against vigorous critique. Kieran “posted”:http://www.kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/000265.html on this rather bizarre feature of US public discourse last year – as he says, it smacks more of feudalism than democracy. Indeed, as in feudalism, the respect only goes one way – the vice-president seems to feel quite entitled to tell his critics to go fuck themselves, and not to apologize for it afterwards.

Sociology’s Final Frontier

by Kieran Healy on June 26, 2004

Via “Baptiste Coulmont”:http://coulmont.com/blog/ comes word of an effort to establish a new subfield of Sociology. Jim Pass, who as far as I can tell is an adjunct sociology instructor at “Long Beach City College”:http://www.lbcc.edu/, is trying to get “Astrosociology”:http://www.astrosociology.com [Warning! Monster Java Zombie Nightmare Website from Beyond 1996], um, off the ground. He has managed to get “a paper on this topic”:http://convention.allacademic.com/asa2004/view_paper_info.html?pub_id=502 accepted at an “Informal Roundtable Session”:http://convention.allacademic.com/asa2004/session_info.html?c_session_id=1479&part_id1=14066&dtr_id=4646 at the upcoming “ASA meetings”:http://www.asanet.org/convention/2004/ in San Francisco. He’s also organizing an Astrosociology Interest Group meeting[1] for the many, many sociologists who will want to join his proposed section-in-formation.

What is Astrosociology? You may well ask. According to Jim’s helpful email,

bq. Generally, astrosociology is the study of astrosocial phenomena (a subset of all social phenomena)

Well, obviously. My initial thought was that the field would be picking up where “Elizabeth Tessier”:http://www.eteissier.com/ left off. Elizabeth managed to “extract a Sociology Ph.D”:http://www.skepticism.net/articles/2001/000032.html from the Sorbonne a few years ago with the argument that Astrology was as good a science as any other, and vice versa. America is always a few years behind the French trend-setters. But this hope was dashed when I read Jim’s clarification that the field dealt mainly with

bq. all human behaviors related in some way to outer space; a neglected area of sociological inquiry.

Now, it’s true that outer space is a neglected area of sociological inquiry. My naive view was that this was explained by the fact that, at any one time, there are are perhaps three or four people in outer space. That’s enough to keep a social psychologist happy for most of their career, but the rest of us might run into problems. As a great sociologist once said, after all, the division of labor is limited by the extent of the market. But Jim is not confining himself to outer space. Although this is a wise move, it makes Astrosociology rather less interesting than it first appears. Jim’s “programmatic statement”:http://convention.allacademic.com/asa2004/view_paper_info.html?pub_id=502&part_id1=14066 on the field at the roundtable (“Table 15: New Ideas in the Sciences”:http://convention.allacademic.com/asa2004/session_info.html?c_session_id=1479&part_id1=14066&dtr_id=4646) is paired with just one other paper, by Juan Miguel Campanario of the Universidad de Alcala. Unlucky for Juan Miguel, you might think, but his paper title is “Resistance to New Ideas In Science”:http://convention.allacademic.com/asa2004/view_paper_info.html?pub_id=118&part_id1=23694, so they should be well set up for a good chat. In a creative scheduling decision, Juan Miguel is also supposed to be speaking simultaneously at Table 16, “Media, Sport and Science.”[2] Bizarrely, his paper title at _that_ Table is “Studying the Competence for Space in Sociology Journals”:http://convention.allacademic.com/asa2004/view_paper_info.html?pub_id=119&part_id1=23694. But it’s the _wrong_ kind of space! So near and yet so far!

fn1. Monday August 16, 6:30pm, Union Square 24/San Franciso Hilton. I’ll be there!

fn2. It’s a big tent at the informal roundtables, alright.

Chmess and twaddle

by Chris Bertram on June 26, 2004

Brian Leiter has a “couple”:http://webapp.utexas.edu/blogs/archives/bleiter/001529.html#001529 of “interesting posts”:http://webapp.utexas.edu/blogs/archives/bleiter/001531.html#001531 reflecting on the state of analytical philosophy, and also links to Dan Dennett’s “The Higher-Order Truths of Chmess”:http://www.ephilosopher.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=Sections&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=9 , which I hadn’t read before. Dennett cites Donald Hebb’s dictuum “If it isn’t worth doing, it isn’t worth doing well,” and remarks

bq. Each of us can readily think of an ongoing controversy in philosophy whose participants would be out of work if Hebb’s dictum were ruthlessly applied.

I confess to succumbing to feeling of utter despair whenever I have to listen to people talking twaddle about twater on twin-earth, so that would be my candidate even though I have dear colleagues who care passionately about the topic. But the twaddlers themselves would, no doubt, want to consign some of my pet interests to the bin. Commenters are invited to nominate the disputes that drive them crazy, and those who care about the tw-topic are invited to explain to the rest of us why we should think it matters.

And then there were six

by Chris Bertram on June 26, 2004

Germany, Spain, Italy, England, all gone. And now France! This is getting interesting.