Academia and traditional cultural communities
I spent a couple of hours today at the Powderhorn Phillips Cultural Wellness Center in Minneapolis, at a presentation and discussion of how communities can obtain support from philanthropies using cultural rather than academic approaches.
There were strong challenges to the presumed academic approach of objectivity, personal distance, striving for individual reputation, etc. By contrast, the community cultural approach was stated to rest on history, knowledge based in community elders, group consultation, etc.
Without wishing to oversimplify a deep and important discussion, I maintain that there's more concordance between the academic and cultural approaches than may be immediately apparent. At base, academia is also a culture, with its own customs, expectations, initiation ceremonies, and even elders: leaders of the disciplines, people with long experience and deep acculturation, who embody the history and set the standards of the disciplines. They are both respected and challenged by the young people in the field, and I suspect that challenge by the young is not unknown in traditional cultural communities.
We were also told that discussion in traditional cultural communities values "symbiosis" and related concepts that emphasize collaborative and integrative approaches. I think there's a parallel with academia's growing valuing of "multidisciplinary" approaches, integrating rather than dissecting to help solve the complex problems that we face.
There are differences between traditional and academic cultures, to be sure, but I think there are more similarities than meet the eye - enough to form a strong foundation for fruitful mutual exploration and collaboration.