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Spode Reflection Essay in SHAD Volume 18

The latest in our long-running series in which prominent scholars sketch an autobiography of their research interests, Hasso Spode's essay, "What Does Alcohol History Mean and To What End Do We Study It?: A Plea for SpeciRalism," appears on pages 16 through 34 of SHAD volume 18 (2003).

Regarding the unusual word in his title, Spode writes:

A generalist is someone who knows less and less about more and more until he knows nothing about everything, while a specialist is someone who knows more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing. I have no idea who coined that witticism but it points exactly to the dilemma of knowledge production. (25-26)

He further writes:

Every scholar is free to position herself or himself on the scale of abstraction ranging from nothing to nothing, let's say between Alcohol throughout the Ages and The Marital Status of the Icelandic Wine Importers, 1861-1863. If carried out thoroughly, almost every position has a right to exist (and during an academic life the preferred level often changes). Generally, I try my luck somewhere in the middle. Both historian and sociologist, I am a born "speciRalist" who strives to combine new empirical findings with a critical consolidation of the immeasurable treasure of knowledge gathered on the shelves. To this job many are called but few are chosen, but I want to encourage brave scholars to join the speciRalist group. (26)

Dr. Spode's essay also features anecdotes about undertaking research in Germany before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The full essay may be found here, in our permanent archives.

Posted by Jon on February 10, 2005 at 10:49 AM in Academia, Alcohol (general), Executive Council, Germany | Permalink


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