Benedict Anderson, 1936-2015

by Corey Robin on December 13, 2015

Benedict Anderson has died. I’m hoping someone like Henry or Chris writes something more substantive in the coming days about his contributions. While I read Imagined Communities, it never touched me in the way it has so many other scholars and students. Reading people’s comments on Facebook and Twitter, I’m struck by how intellectually diverse his audience was, how ride-ranging his reach. All morning, people from so many different fields and persuasions have been testifying to Anderson’s impact upon them and their work. Which leads to a thought: I’d put Anderson up there with Clifford Geertz and, increasingly, Jim Scott as among the most influential scholars of the last half-century. All of them scholars of Southeast Asia. I’m sure other people have noticed this and/or perhaps written about this, so forgive my saying the obvious, but what is it about that region that has made it such a site of transformative scholarship and fertile reflection?

Update (10:45 am)

Somehow or other, it seems, Henry actually has already posted here on Anderson’s death. Weirdly, I only just saw it. Maybe he and I were writing at the same time? Anyway, read Henry.

Benedict Anderson has died

by Henry on December 13, 2015

Obituary here. His _Imagined Communities_ was an important book to me, as it was, I suspect, to many other people in the Crooked Timber community. Indeed, it’s the book that made me decide to do graduate studies in political science (how could it not be wonderful to work in a discipline where one could read novels and newspapers to reach grand conclusions about political and social life; I was to find out). He was of Anglo-Irish stock – how much that double alienation (membership of an unintegrated but socially privileged minority within a state based on the usual national myths) shaped his viewpoint has been the subject of a lot of amateur speculation. I liked his book on international anarchism (review here, combined with a review of Scott’s Art of Not Being Governed), but more for the details than the whole. There’s a funny anecdote in it about an assassination attempt on a Captain-General:

bq. With the help of two Asturian anarchists, a young Cuban nationalist called Armando Andre hid a bomb in the roof of the ground-floor toilet of the Captain-General’s palace. The device was supposed to explode when Weyler sat down on the pot, bringing the whole second floor down on his head. The plotters were unaware, however, that Weyler suffered so severely from haemorrhoids that he almost never used the facility, preferring an earthenware field-potty when he had to relieve himself. The bomb went off, but no one was hurt, and Weyler decided to inform Madrid that the explosion had been caused by stoppages which prevented the latrine’s gases from escaping normally.

with further references to how the General was “partly relieved” and to the “diehard colons” of the revolution. I like that he had a low (if somewhat pince-sans-rire) sense of humour, despite his formidable learning and clipped Etonian accent – I can only imagine that he took great delight in smuggling the story and dubious jokes into an otherwise serious and densely researched academic book. More of us should be like him.

Sunday photoblogging: Braunton Road, morning sun

by Chris Bertram on December 13, 2015

Braunton Road, morning sun