Diasporic Intellectual


Over the last few years I have found that continuing theological education, and reflection has been deeply life giving and written about it's impact on my own life previously. I have always been suspicious of intellectualism, the pursuit of academic thought for it's own sake, and always desired to see reflection earthed in the praxis. Indeed I am convinced the the modern dialectic of intellection and action is a false polarization and one that is breaking down. To take action I need to think, and to think I must take action.

I was reminded of this today, reading Sivin Kit's blog, where he posts a quote from Cornwell West (who drew his inspiration from Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci), that is over at the Generousorthodoxy think tank site. I won't put the whole quote, here, you can read it there. But Cornwall West suggests that there is a distinction between 'Organic Intellectuals' and 'Traditional Intellectuals'.

'The traditional types revel in intellectual thought for it's own sake, removed from the world, whilst the organic kind are 'are those who, because they are organically linked to prophetic movements or priestly institutions, take the life of the mind seriously enough to relate ideas to the everyday life of ordinary folk...Organic intellectuals are activist and engaged; traditional intellectuals are academic and detached'.

The quote is well worth reading in full. As I dug further in the nature of intellectualism, not surprisingly there is much intellectual research on the nature of intellectualism!

In the progression from 'traditional' to 'organic', there is another type of intellectual, the 'diasporic':

"While an "organic" intellectual who works chiefly for the community from which he/she emerges, a "diasporic" intellectual moves among nations, cultures, languages, and other positions. In this connection, the position and location of a "diasporic" intellectual are more mercurial as s/he also works from the perspective of an exile and/or immigration."

There is a great short study of this here.

For those of us in emerging contexts, I think we are called to take intellection seriously, and do so as organically and diasporically (is that a real word?) as possible.