Colloquium: Kevin Blankinship

Date(s) - 02/09/2023
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

3108 JKB


Kevin Blankinship, Assistant Professor of Asian and Near Eastern Languages will present at the Humanities Center’s weekly colloquium on Thursday, February 9. The presentation will be held at 3:00 PM in room 4010 JFSB.

Title: Brokers of the Trust Economy, or Why and How Professors Should Write for the Popular Press

Shaming. Deplatforming. Canceling. Doxxing. With the prospect of such nastiness hanging like a dark cloud over the public square, writing or speaking openly doesn’t seem worth the cost. Also, for professors in particular, public engagement has traditionally distracted from tenure requirements rather than fulfilled them. Yet now more than ever, scholars and other specialists are expected to be “public intellectuals.” University departments ask for popular press clips as part of yearly reviews. Book contracts give guidelines for starting and updating a Twitter account. As author and journalist Nicholas Kristof grumbled, “Professors, don’t cloister yourselves like medieval monks—we need you!” But how to go public without losing one’s sanity? In this colloquium, we’ll discuss a good way to do just that: writing for the popular press.

We’ll cover basics like how to contact editors, how to turn a topic into a pitch, and how to polish the piece itself. The benefits of doing this, like building networks, finding resources, sharpening one’s thinking, and promoting an informed citizenry, far outweigh the perceived risks. That’s because of what we might call the Trust Economy. Almost everyone gets back what they give out. People who get trolled typically give out troll energy to start with. By contrast, someone who tells the truth in good faith gets not just the attention, but in fact the recognition—the trust—of others. And that trust, as much as sturdy data or piercing insight, is what forges meaningful connections and fends off the haters. In fact, it’s the most valuable thing we can offer. The more people know and trust our work, through channels like the popular press, the more connections we make and the more we rebuild public confidence; and this, at a time when mistrust of academia is at an all-time high.

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