Circles of Esteem, Standard Works, and Euphoric Couplets

Dynamics of Academic Life in Indonesian Studies

Author: Robert Cribb


Indonesian Studies as a field is strongly influenced by its own social character as a community of competing and cooperating scholars. Outside individual universities, the dominant social form is not the powerful professor, but rather the “circle of esteem,” a cluster of scholars who respect each other, cite each other's work, push each other's ideas into the academic marketplace, and, occasionally, rise to each other's defense. Circles of esteem arise because academic work has less to do with the industrial production of knowledge than with a constant search for novelty, which may arise from new sources or new uses of sources. Although novelty is prized, the value of new work is hard to judge, and it will be more easily accepted when backed by a circle of esteem. There are two effective ways to gain academic prestige outside a circle of esteem. The first is to write a standard work, a conservative strategy to create a work that will become citation fodder for others. The second way is to coin a “euphoric couplet,” which is an unexpected adjective-noun combination encapsulating a previously elusive analytical truth. Euphoric couplets are easy to remember, dissociated from theory, and intriguingly ambiguous.
Countries: Indonesia

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