Circles of Esteem, Standard Works, and Euphoric Couplets
Dynamics of Academic Life in Indonesian Studies
Indonesian Studies as a field is strongly influenced by its own social
character as a community of competing and cooperating scholars. Outside
individual universities, the dominant social form is not the powerful
professor, but rather the “circle of esteem,” a cluster of scholars who
respect each other, cite each other's work, push each other's ideas
into the academic marketplace, and, occasionally, rise to each other's
defense. Circles of esteem arise because academic work has less to do
with the industrial production of knowledge than with a constant search
for novelty, which may arise from new sources or new uses of sources.
Although novelty is prized, the value of new work is hard to judge, and
it will be more easily accepted when backed by a circle of esteem.
There are two effective ways to gain academic prestige outside a circle
of esteem. The first is to write a standard work, a conservative
strategy to create a work that will become citation fodder for others.
The second way is to coin a “euphoric couplet,” which is an unexpected
adjective-noun combination encapsulating a previously elusive
analytical truth. Euphoric couplets are easy to remember, dissociated
from theory, and intriguingly ambiguous.
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