By Ignacio Martin-Baro

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The latter word is inhabited by the god Hermes…messenger between the gods and the living, between the living and the dead, patron also of the resistance of meaning to mortality. (Steiner 1989:7) Note Steiner’s point: science is the loser when reflection is disengaged from the political act. In the same context he refers to the concept of the ‘speech act’ (1989:18), which joins thought and action. The Hebrew word daba suggests a similar insight since it encompasses both thinking and doing, indicating that the two are inseparable.

Words and concepts that used to have meaning have lost their substance for both the speaker and the listeners. Investigating the process of the production of knowledge within its own branch (Crick 1982; Parkin 1982), reflexive anthropology finds that this production—this industrious metaphor enjoyed sudden and ubiquitous popularity during the 1980s—proves susceptible to external political conditioning, fashions, prejudices, susceptible also to the internal power struggle for funds and reputations and to attempts by winners to edge out the losers in this battle.

The open space in the heart of town is vitally important for all. We should restore the idea of the market to its old Greek significance and win it back from the merchants who have appropriated it—‘goods’ are not always up for sale. But the call should be sounded loud and clear, for it must be heard above the institutional din. Universities, for example, are subject to various sorts of pressure to close their ranks and to cloak their vulnerability. The old handbooks are wrong when they tell us that in the forum of colleagues alone flourishes ‘true’ science.

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