North America Scandals and Scoundrels

Scandals and Scoundrels

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About the Book

Ron Robin takes an intriguing look at the shifting nature of academic and public discourse in this incisive consideration of recent academic scandals—including charges of plagiarism against Stephen Ambrose, Derek Freeman’s attempt to debunk Margaret Mead’s research, Michael Bellesiles’s alleged fabrication of an early America without weapons, Joseph Ellis’s imaginary participation in major historical events of the 1960s, Napoleon Chagnon’s creation and manipulation of a “Stone Age people,” and accusations that Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú’s testimony on the Maya holocaust was in part fiction. Scandals and Scoundrels makes the case that, contrary to popular imagery, we’re not living in particularly deviant times and there is no fundamental flaw permeating a decadent academy. Instead, Robin argues, latter-day scandals are media events, tailored for the melodramatic and sensationalist formats of mass mediation. In addition, the contentious and uninhibited nature of cyberdebates fosters acrimonious exposure. Ron convincingly demonstrates that scandals are part of a necessary process of rule making and reinvention rather than a symptom of the bankruptcy of the scientific enterprise.

Reviews

“Refreshingly free of moralism and alarmism–a must-read. . . .Though not condoning his subjects’ behavior, Robin is more analytical than judgmental, more interested in understanding the meaning of these offenses than in administering another slap to their sorry culprits.”—David Greenberg Slate Magazine

“Ron Robin’s Scandals and Scoundrels is a clever provocation but more: It opens into a fascinating tour through treacherous postmodern territories, culminating in an economical explanation for what he calls ‘the inflation in deviancy spectacles,’ all in stylish prose, no mystification added.”—Todd Gitlin, author of Letters to a Young Activist

“An engrossing and convincing account of how the academic professions have lost much of their jurisdiction for disputes about scholarly integrity to popular media that prefer contentious litigation to patient, reasoned deliberation.”—David A. Hollinger, author of Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism

“Robin proposes a new way of thinking about the radically shifting nature of academic disciplines by using a set of recent controversies to explore the current state of society itself. Wonderfully readable, this is a book which should have a large and appreciative audience.”—Marilyn Young, author of The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990

“Robin presents a rather distressing picture of the academy as its boundaries have become more and more blurred and its standards indistinguishable from those of the rest of society. Cases of intellectual dishonesty and lack of professional integrity have often become sensational news, conveying a picture of academic corruption to the wider world, even as the latter has induced scholars to commodify their research and writing to suit its tastes. It is a fascinating story that says as much about contemporary society and culture as about the academic disciplines.”—Akira Iriye, author of Global Community

Ron Robin (Author)
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