The dialogue composed by Charles Hirschkind captures a key challenge for our New Directions in the Study of Prayer meetings and virtually all Social Science Research Council-type projects. In order to land a typical job in the academy, you need to have some sort of disciplinary home. But as any reader of Stephen King’s Misery can attest, a home can become a prison.
Sometimes the metaphor is shifted slightly and the challenge is referred to as a matter of “intellectual silos,” highlighting the tendency to gather and guard one’s disciplinary fodder in what is perceived to be a safely personal, private environment. While there are different kinds of silos with distinct purposes in the life of a farm (that’s for a different blog!), a commonality is that what is put into silos is generally meant to be taken out in a relatively short span of time. If you don’t follow this guideline you can end up with an amazingly pungent aroma that permeates clothing and skin more deeply than soap can cleanse. The situation is not so very different in the academy.