Thursday, January 10, 2008


There are days when I think academia has become overspecialized. Everyone seems to feel the need to narrow down their field to these little sub-sub-sub fields, and then hold everything else in exclusion. Aside from creating too narrow a world-view, I think this also tends to skew perspectives on what's important. Academics start to think that their little niche is more important than anything else.

I got to thinking about this because of a text I'm working on. Not writing it myself, mind you, but editing it after a series of writers have been at it. And while there was this lengthy discussion on a particular ancient civilization, there was almost nothing on more recent events such as World War II. What really struck me as odd as this particular civilization was not one I'd heard of before, certainly not in any kind of academic context. And yet there they were, with an entire page to themselves. Meanwhile the events of WWII got a short shrift. No mention of Vichy France, or the Battle of Britain, or anything else like that.

And this wasn't something that was supposed to be more focused on the ancient civilizations, either. Moreover, it was the only such civilization, apart from Greece and Rome, given that much space. Not even Egypt, which the text admitted was a bigger civilization, got the full page treatment.

Which begs the question, if this wasn't written by someone who specializes in that particular civilization, what rational person looked at this and decided that there needed to be THAT much info on them, when it didn't match up with the others? It's almost as though somewhere along the line, someone decided there wasn't enough, or perhaps nothing at all, and then overcompensated.

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