Watch him when he opens
His bulging words – justice
Fraternity, freedom, internationalism, peace,
peace, peace. Make it your custom
to pay no heed
to his frank look, his visa, his stamps
and signatures. Make it
your duty to spread out their contents
in a clear light
Nobody with such language
Has nothing to declare
Norman MacCaig (1910-1996)
As usual, the last post – explaining the blog’s strange title - got a bit out of hand…
I was trying to make the point that boundaries – whether between countries, fields of study, professions, classes, religion or political party – are usually heavily protected.
But that those able and willing to cultivate cross-border connections are often hugely rewarded – not just with monetary profit but with new insights.
Just look at the Hanseatic League and the intellectual and cultural – let alone commercial - richness of towns and cities which lay on trading routes.
The first table in the last post looked at a small number of academic fields and then identified no fewer than ten separate sub-fields in a single one of them (Economics), That second table goes into important detail about the distinctive operational assumptions each of the sub-fields tends to bring to the subject.
Another recent post – 57 Varieties of Capitalism – looked at the very different treatment three broad schools in 11 different academic disciplines gave to the subject of capitalism.
Academic disciplines (and their sub-fields) are like countries – protected generally with barbed wire, passports, visas, customs etc. This is why I honour those who try to break out from their narrow specialisms and to look at the world with a different lens – Albert Hirschmann memorably called this “trespassing” and wrote an entire book about it in 1981. He was one of a very few academics who attempted this straddling act – JK Galbraith was another….
Of course, straddling borders can be painful and it can arouse suspicions – with loyalties often being questioned. Consider the Jews!
Journalists too (some of whom are to be found in academia) are often treated with suspicion when they enter a country undergoing turmoil. But, as generalists rather than specialists, they offer us fresh vistas…
The coverage of recent years of the centenary of the First World War has given “No-man’s Land” the image of devastation but, in using the title “Exploring No-Man’s Land” I am trying to celebrate and encourage those who dare to venture into such territory.
Crossing Borders – stories and essays about translation; ed LS Schwartz (2018) - the link gives a rather jaundiced review of the book from LARBEssays on Trespassing – economics to politics and beyond; AO Hirschmann (1981) A master of the craft
Border – a journey to the edge of Europe; Kapka Kassabova (2017) very poetic exploration of the borderland between Bulgaria and Greece
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jul/24/subtle-art-of-translating-foreign-fiction-ferrante-knausgaard Great piecehttps://aeon.co/essays/is-the-translator-a-servant-of-the-text-or-an-original-artist