Academics are practitioners
Some midnight thoughts:
* The conventional divide between ‘theorists’ (e.g. media scholars) and ‘practitioners’ (e.g. journalists who teach at academic institutions) that we find in higher education parlance is unhelpful. Both scholars and non-scholars are practitioners, albeit of different kinds. That is, both operate within fields of practice that require long years of learning and secondary socialisation.
* Scholars operate within the field of academia and one or more of its numerous subfields (politics, sociology, chemistry, art, etc.)
* They play different games from those played by non-scholars. Accomplished scholars have acquired and internalised a ‘feel’ for the academic game and acquired symbolic capital (publications, degrees, grants, honours, etc.). They are invested in the ‘illusio’ of the academic game; a belief that this is a game worth playing well (Bourdieu).
* Like any other embodied practice, scholarship can be performed with more or less skill, commitment, and flair. Sometimes scholars may even experience ‘flow’, that ‘mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity’ (Csíkszentmihályi)
* Academics interact with other academic players in field-specific sites, both in regular ‘stations’ (to borrow Giddens’ practice-theoretical term, e.g. conferences, seminars, journals, mailing lists) where ‘normal science’ takes place and – if they’re lucky – irregular ‘arenas’ (V. Turner) of contestation and ‘revolutionary science’ in which the existing paradigm of their field of knowledge is replaced by a new paradigm (Kuhn).
* Fields of practice are highly social – academia is no different from tennis, scuba diving or salsa dancing in this regard. Yes, the sites and types of sociality may vary greatly from one field to the next, but practitioners still relate to one another – and to practitioners from other fields – in thoroughly social milieux.