What do professors look like, and do they visit outer space? (Week in Review)


Inspired by #ILookLikeAnEngineer, whereby debate over whether a cute and young bespectacled woman could ever connote “engineer” in our collective patriarchal imagination ensued, #ILookLikeAProfessor was born. A professor with tattoos? With brown skin? Really? Perhaps not as striking or as cutting edge in the humanities, where race and sexuality are important critical players, the hashtag nonetheless reminds of the persisting stereotype of the disheveled white mop of hair, patched elbows and tweed, white male academic that still accompanies imaginings of the profession. The recent article on the utilitarian standardization and machine-age logic of the “usage absolutists” Strunk and White, whose guidelines to prevent “grammatical violations” still rule with an iron fist, is but a case in point. I can’t count how many of my random interlocutors at coffeeshops and on airplanes have proceeded, upon my admitting that I’m an English professor, to make disclaimers about their “incorrect” grammar. Not all Strunk and White’s fault, admittedly. They don’t help, though.

Image credit: Terra Incognita, amazon.com
Image credit: Terra Incognita, amazon.com

The Los Angeles Book Review’s article on Terra Incognita and Killing in the Sun, the newest in an over century long tradition of African SciFi, makes note of the “post-apocalyptic” assumed in many discussions of “post-colonial.” If the radical reconfiguration of society that accompanied colonization is understood to be apocalyptic, so too must be the radical revelations that attend it. For more on the insights on humanity, territory, and society in this newest of po-apoc po-co lit, see the review here. On that note, @Nnedi Okorafors newest Lagoon is another to-read. If her creative combination of fantastical African SciFi and incisive political commentary in Who Fears Death is any indication, this alien interlude into Lagos life is worth a read.

And, even though I want the universe to devote its attention to giving me signs to interpret and hints to follow, I might think twice about my choice of terminology. See Bill Nye, Amy Schumer, and the Broad City team’s contentious definitions of “the universe” in parody here.

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