Re: on writing good

wilkr (wilkr@INDIANA.EDU)
Mon, 4 Apr 1994 19:52:26 -0500

As Usual I enjoyed Mike Lieber's comment.
But before we go too far down the path of careerism - that our ultimate
goal is to impress out colleagues, get published, get tenure....get
famous, have a chair named for us, a big festschrift, etc.. - and
therefore conclude that writing STYLE is a product of gamespersonship -
Let me make an alternate suggestion.

I believe there are a lot of careerists out there. But I also, perhaps
naively believe that there are many who do anthropology because they
find it deeply satisfying, and in some way important. That it scratches
in all the right places. (Personally I think that the careerists burn
out quickly, get tenure and then can't figure out what is left, and that
it takes something deeper to get you through all the bullshit involved
in an academic life).

Switching to the personal here - and I have been accused, at times, of
writing too clearly, I seek clear, understandable prose, an effort to
engage the reader, and consider it an obligation to make the most
complex ideas more comprehensible - not as a career strategy, but
because I find it personally satisfying when I get close to those goals.
I believe that anthropology does matter, and that it has an important
liberating message. And to hide that under in-crowd obscurity is a
horrible waste; it turns something I cherish into a cynical game. There
is another personal agenda here - I do a lot of my thinking as I write -
the ideas never become completely clear until I have to put them on
paper. And when I can get it written clearly, it helps me understand
things. When my prose reads like Bourdieu or Sahlins on a bad day, I
know it is because I really have not figured things out!

Rick Wilk
Indiana U.