Marharytha Fabrykant: Arts and Scholarship-Experiencing change with Ukrainian authors
At a literary evening organized by the Forum Transregional Studies and hosted by the Literary Colloquium in Berlin on 4 December, the academia and the bohemia came together. As four Ukrainian poets and their translators into German were reading their, or, more accurately, performing their works, I realized that during that evening I experienced more poetry than for the last half year in the least. The same would apply to any other full-time social scientists, which are more likely to learn new code for data analysis than to indulge in fine arts. The contemporary academic writing is, for good reason, highly technical and aims for clarity and objectivity by eradicating metaphors, hidden meaning, emotional appeal, and any way of wording turning attention to itself as opposed to content. As creative and academic texts run along different and diverging treks, would not a scholar better dedicate an evening to catching up on his own texts in the infamous “publish or perish” competition than attending a presentation of a very different sort of literature?
Yet, as Liubov Jakymchuk, Aleksandr Kabamov, Marianna Kijanowska, and Serhiy Zhadan were reading their poems – mournfully, sarcastically, reservedly, provokingly – I started to recognize all the familiar issues the cutting-edge social science is now about. Transitivity, borders, identities, nationality, sense-making, violence, social differentiation, intellectuals’ responsibility and power – you name it. The event proved that sometimes not even a three-volume nineteenth century realist novel, but a three-stanza poem can not just “tell you something about society”, but to give you an experience of social structure and dynamic that can be shared by Eastern European academics and German amateurs of fine arts. Apart form the pure enjoyment and mind-broadening, more events like that literary evening would help the academia in a purely down to earth pragmatic way. Maybe if we in the social sciences cared more about the performative and expressive quality of our texts, our writings would be less formulaic, but more dense and worthier of slow-reading, the writing process, more enjoyable and less prone to the omnipresent procrastination? Maybe even then social scientists would not get many invitations to read their recently published papers to a wider audiences, but at the very least, if less technical and more readable, our texts might become more widely read, and their social impact, more plausible.