The world is one of increasing diversity and pluralism. Our world is one of the different and of the many. Even the individual personality and the social self are increasingly diverse and plural. This is especially evident in racial and ethnic identities. The Ohioan, the New Yorker, the Texan, all became, after the cauldron of the Civil War, the American. Now the American is continually being hyphenated: Native-American, African-American, Latino-American, Asian-American, and a host of other hyphens. In the academy, the dichotomy between the fox who knows many things, and the hedgehog who knows one big thing (Archilocus), is giving way to different combinations and variations of learning, teaching, and expertise, as demanded by and reflecting the diversity and complexity of society and world.
While these differences and pluralisms can lead to fragmentation, these fractures can also be creative. The ethnically hyphenated person who straddles two cultures need not be marginal to both, but can use the riches of his/her diverse experiences to cross-fertilize the cultures of which they are now part and parcel. The other, the different, especially the poor, must not be marginalized, pushed to the margins of society as outcasts; they need to be empowered for their betterment and for the common good of society. The academic, well-versed in several disciplines, should not be considered master of none, but can bring the insights of one discipline to tame the fundamentalism of another discipline and to expand the horizons of all.
In one form or another, to a greater or lesser extent, this is what I have tried to do in the essays gathered in this second collection, the first being Critical Intersections (2006).