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Why I write? In a climate against intellectual dissidence

Shah, Alpa ORCID: 0000-0003-1233-6516 (2022) Why I write? In a climate against intellectual dissidence. Current Anthropology, 63 (5). 570 - 600. ISSN 0011-3204

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Identification Number: 10.1086/722030


Why write? The spaces of intellectual dissidence once provided by universities—promoting disinterested inquiry, encouraging critical analysis, challenging conventional wisdoms—are increasingly controlled, if not squeezed out. A lethal mix of neoliberalism, authori-tarianism, and right-wing populism is unfolding in different combinations around the world, and one of its key targets of attack is intellectual freedom. It is pressing for academics as writers to ask, What is our purpose? Who is our reader? How do we navigate the tensions between the constraints of academic evaluation criteria and the compulsions of writing for wider publics, scholarly fidelity and activist commitments, writing as scholars and producing journalism or fiction? This article reflects on these questions through the writing of the book Nightmarch, an anthropologist’s account of the spread of the Naxalites, a Marx-, Lenin-, and Mao-inspired guerrilla struggle among Indigenous people in the heart of India. The backdrop is the rise of neoliberal audit cultures in UK universities sapping writing of its vitality and Hindu nationalism in India clamping down fiercely on debate, deliberation, and critique, with human rights activists and intellectuals imprisoned as alleged Maoists or “urban Naxals.” The overall aim of this essay is to contribute to opening the space for intellectual dissidence and ignite scholarly relevance beyond academia.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2020 10:18
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2022 14:21

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