As birds fly south in the winter, so academics feel an irrational urge to go to conferences where they can exchange knowledge, along with the latest virus to have leapt from chickens to man. Global warming scientists fly around the world to warn others against doing so. Literature professors cross frontiers to talk about trans-nationalism and visit former colonies to discourse on post-colonialism as their rooms are cleaned by low-paid women working for distant corporations.
Young American PhDs talk of hegemonic patriarchalism and go to sleep muttering the names of French theoreticians. Germans lie awake waiting for the verb. Others spring into consciousness, paradoxically remembering that they had forgotten their memory sticks – and this in a country where computer keyboards know nothing of QWERTY, so that urgent messages home arrive as though fresh from an Enigma machine.
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