Foreign Policy’s Top 20 Public Intellectuals

In academia, anthropology, popular culture on July 22, 2008 at 4:22 am

So Foreign Policy magazine finally released their readers’ choice of the top 20 public intellectuals out of a list of 100. I am sorry to say that m’boy Jürgen came in a very close 22nd, while my other love Slavoj was #25- right before Havel [These lovely-and lovable!- post-Marxists clock in significantly ahead of I-Eat-Douche-for-Breakfast Friedman]. Of course I am going to be honest with you and say that I don’t really respect Foreign Policy as a publication. Back when I was still an IR dweeb circa age 18 I was a Foreign Affairs reader- the journal-like appeal, I guess. Anyway, we all know that I think IR and foreign policy are bull-caca operations so I’m not going into detail on that. I just want to make some comments on the top 20 choices, and the choices in general:

Yusuf el-Qaradawi: I can’t even pretend that I’m not a Muslim Brotherhood fan because I would be LYING. Ergo, an American ‘academic’ [personally I don’t consider FP all that academic, but still!] recognition of his worth and value as a public intellectual in Egypt is pretty awesome. Same goes for Amr Khaled and Tariq Ramadan. Funny enough, I’ve had pseudo-crushes on all of these men at one time or another.

Aitzaz Ahsan: swoon!

Mahmood Mamdani: well thank GOD that an anthropologist made it onto this list. This is just validating on so many personal levels. Mamdani is brilliant and does wonderful, wonderful work.

Shirin Ebadi: of course she deserves this recognition. An inspiring woman.

Noam Chomsky: linguist schminguist. You can drool over his activism all you want, I still would wipe my butt with Deep Structure. [But do you want a treat? If you don’t want a treat than don’t click here.] Is he as endearing to me as he was when I was 16? Hell, no. Do I discredit him for this? Nah.

Bernard Lewis: ‘Hmm,’ I said. ‘What is more disturbing? The fact that Samuel Huntington is in the top 28th percentile of this list, or the fact that Bernard Lewis made it all the way up to #13?’ I’m still not sure, I can be sure of only one thing: If I could kick Bernard Lewis in the balls with nary a consequence, I would.

Umberto Eco– I love that three novelists made it up here, a good acknowledgment of the importance of the fiction writer in reflecting the intellectual climate. Orhan Pamuk and Mario Vargas Llosa deserve equal applause. Just one query: the lady writers? You has them?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali– eeeeeeh. Have never liked her. There are so many good, Islam-positive thinking women out there that I don’t understand why they have to only focus on polemicists ALL THE TIME. Just helps to facillitate more Otherisation and Difference Making regarding the over-exoticised ‘Islam and the West’. [again, thanks, BERNARD.]

Amartya Sen– It is no secret that I adore this man. Same to Richard Dawkins. Bravo, mostly.

All in all, a solid list, and I can’t express enough my pleasure that so many Muslims made it to the top 20. This was a really delightful thing to see and a good acknowledgment of the restructuring of knowledge to include a Muslim and Islamic canon in the new millennium. It’s about time, I always say. A shout-out to my de facto boss lady Drew Gilpin Faust [#52], but I’m not saying I like Harvard’s gentrification intentions towards my ‘hood. I’m the only person who doesn’t think Christopher Hitchens is God, because I don’t think God is a misogynist, so I find his #27 ill-deserved. Mr. Hitchens, as Mr. Dawkins has proven, atheists can be endearing! You, my friend, are not! And you know? Even with powerhouses like Martha Nussbaum and Samantha Power in there, there still weren’t enough women. I know that there are a number of female public intellectuals out there who should have been on this list [Lila Abu-Lughod. Nancy Scheper-Hughes. Gayatri Spivak. JUDITH BUTLER, FOR GOD’S SAKE!] and this makes me, oh, pretty pissed. I guess it is to be expected that a readership that would elect Samuel “Have you seen my keys?” Huntington at #28 would be curmudgeonly and jingoist enough to not vote for a lady. The Academy, after all, is for men to circle jerk their great Socratic ideas with each other! No Girls Allowed!

The moral of this story is that if you want your children to take interest in normal, healthy, American things, you should enroll them on an organized sports team instead of in theatre and Model UN.



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