The American Studies Association has been much in the news lately for backing an “academic boycott” of Israel. That disgusting display of politically correct, anti-Semitic grandstanding has garnered the ASA some small portion of the obloquy it deserves. As my PJM colleague Ronald Radosh pointed out here, the ASA picked on “the Middle East’s only existing democracy to protest.” The ASA’s obtuse and juvenile leftism has even embarrassed other elements of the academy: MIT recently joined Yale, Harvard, Brown, Brandeis, and other elite institutions in condemning the boycott, which, as MIT President L. Rafael Reif noted, “fundamentally violates the principles of academic freedom that are central to the excellence of MIT and American higher education.”
You may not know much about the American Studies Association. The small (5000-member) organization is known to many outside the academy as the “Anti-American Studies Association” because of its reliably backwater, reflexive leftism. In that, it hardly differs from many, perhaps most, other academic organizations in the humanities (or perhaps I should say the “humanities,” since such organizations are antithetic to the spirit of humanism in any normal sense). The Modern Language Association, to take one obvious example, has long been a virulent redoubt of politically correct, leftwing attitudinizing.
I have to admit that is has beem quite a while since I have given such rancid, misbegotten products of wayward affluence much thought. Having labored in that repellent vineyard long enough to write Tenured Radicals and The Rape of the Masters, I have “supped full with horrors” and figure I have done my bit for the cause of academic forensic pathology.
Every now and then, however, something truly egregious bubbles up from the dismal pit of pseudo-intellectual academic lucubration, some special gem of fatuous, wood-pulp darkening nonsense that even now, at the fag-end of Anno Domini 2013, has the capacity to spark a little frisson of nauseated wonderment in this jaded breast. As it happens, the latest such production comes to us courtesy of our friends at the American Studies Association, that’s to say it comes from its official literary organ, the American Quarterly. Perhaps your subscription to this pointless agglomeration of polysyllabic, reader-proof grievance-mongering has lapsed. Mine has, too. But my fellow connoisseurs of repellent academic nonentity will not want to miss “Toward a Feminist Postcolonial Milk Studies,” by one Greta Gaard, “an ecofeminist writer, scholar, activist, and documentary filmmaker.” (According to an opus called Ecocomposition: Theoretical and Pedagogical Approaches, she is “one of the most influential ecofeminist scholars.” Ponder that.)
You might think I am making all of this up, that I somehow confused The Onion with the official publication of the American Studies Association.