She tweeted- “I do wonder how hard it must be to sustain ‘civilised’ values in a disaster zone,”- and this is certainly a topic which other classicists could weigh in on.
My own feeling is that classical philology by itself has no magical power. However, it could be used as a costly signal for a separating equilibrium of an elite type. Here the 'classicists' would compose a caste with high esprit de corps and a well bred contempt for sexual or financial misconduct. I suppose, the ICS or the Sudan Political Service might qualify as elite castes of this type.
Beard has been attacked by Indian origin women. Why? They think the word 'civilised' is racist.
'There was also that word, “civilised”, heavy with colonial connotations that Beard, being a classicist, ought to have harnessed with more care and self-awareness. (Encasing it in inverted commas didn’t quite cut it.)This is rather strange. Either higher education has a moral value- it makes people more not less civilised- or it is a type of barbarism. Certainly, the JNU campus does look like a barbaric shambles but is that a good reason for wishing British Universities to suffer a like fate?
Priyamvada Gopal, in particular, raises the ghost of Adorno in this context.
As Theodor Adorno shows us with exemplary economy, it is part of intellectual morality to be utterly precise and clear even in the shortest of sentences particularly when it comes to matters of life, livelihood and the dignity of peoples.Adorno had some absurd beliefs about the economy and the nature of Culture. Surely it is part of intellectual morality to admit that his research project failed? In particular, why quote that Eurocentric racist- who believed Jazz was not just barbaric (because of the complexion of its greatest artistes) but also something machine made and thus not truly creative?
Gopal says she learnt something at JNU. Why is she not in JNU now defending it? The place is being dismantled over the heads of its Leftist incumbents in an unprecedented manner.
As an upper-caste woman from a liberal-ish Hindu family in India, I grew up with whole sets of unexamined assumptions and well-meaning notions that didn’t just magically disappear with my feminist education or my radical university years at JNU. It has taken a lot painful listening and learning from Dalit and other non-upper-caste intellectuals and campaigners for me to even begin the process of unlearning some of my habitual notions, for me to even get to the point where I realise how deeply ‘casted’ my habits of mind can be. It’s not fun and it takes a measure of humility, not something we mouthy women take to very easily. But it has to be done. The hardest thing to learn was that saying I was on the side of the oppressed castes was not enough; that all my progressive and radical aspirations notwithstanding, it was possible for me to be less than sound in some of my analyses and articulations.So Gopal was a casteist but has become less so. Instead of remaining in India which genuinely does have a caste problem regarding which she says she has acquired some knowledge, why is she here in England attacking a Classicist for asking a question about the moral value of paideia?
Even if Mary Beard is reduced to tears, what great victory has been achieved? There may have been some point in chasing away Adorno- with the slogan 'If Adorno is left in peace, Capitalism will never cease'- but what possible good can come of attacking everybody's favourite Don?
Consider what happened to JNU- which thought it important to praise terrorists and hold beef eating parties. It alienated ordinary people. Now it is being dismantled and no one will speak up for it. Similarly, people like Gopal are feeding a backlash against 'woke' politics on the campuses of privilege.