Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Free Dissertation Topic!!!

You know what I (& TM, who actually brought the subject up) would really like to read? A cultural history of nerds.

Seriously. Are they in fact projections of American anti-intellectualism? Did they appear as a consequence of wider access to education (and, thus, with the fear of intellectual domination)? Where did they come from? Somebody write this book, quick!

(Unless, of course, it already exists. I haven't actually checked to see whether such a thing's been written. Perhaps I'll do that now.... A cursory search of Amazon says No, as does the first page of results from a WorldCat search. People! This is uncharted academic territory! --And if I'm wrong, and you know it, please tell me so that I can go read about this fascinating topic.)


Sisyphus said...

Been done. There's some linguist (uh, Bucholtz I think) who wrote a book about the linguistic markers of the habits of nerds, and the ways these nerds constructed their whiteness.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

When I first read this post, I thought "American Studies topic", but then I started wondering about the possible permutations: are nerds an international phenom?

And what about the gendered aspects of nerd-dom?


heu mihi said...

Sis--Interesting! I'm also interested, though, in the fantasmatic nerd (if I can use that phrase): When did he (and she, but mostly he) become such a figure of scorn? To what extent is he real? And, as Notorious asks, are they an international phenomenon? Perhaps I need to read this book of which you speak!

One of the things that TM and I talked about was how a nerd could, technically, be a snob, but will never be *read* as a snob because he is not perceived as having any power (and, to be seen as a snob, you must be seen as threatening/powerful). Is the creation of the nerd a way of stripping intellectuals of their potentially threatening status?

R said...

I remember reading an NYT article about that book about nerds, I think: it actually sort of annoyed me, because it seemed to be putting the pressure on nerds to create more diverse friend groups, without *ever* talking about the cultural issues that made academic achievement/"nerddom" a negative in some minority communities. (This may not be a feature of the actual book.)

The thing that I think is weird about nerds on TV or in movies is how the markers seem not to change over time. I mean, suspenders and high-water pants? Really?