Ulrich Oslender
Department of Geographical & Earth Sciences
University of Glasgow, Scotland (UK)


In this paper I engage with current debates over the role of the public intellectual in a world shaped by re-emerging binary thinking and old dualisms in new disguise. As some see “new public intellectuals” emerging in critical Geography, I examine these issues beyond the Anglo-American context. Through a personal account of a lecture given by the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy at the University of California, Los Angeles, in April 2006, I will reflect on the embodied performance strategies of much public intellectual debate today. Drawing on Bourdieu, the paper goes on to argue that new public spaces of critical intervention have recently emerged, in which collective intellectuals act within a series of critical networks that resist the imposition of a global neo-liberal ideology. While some of these spaces may start as apparently small-scale attempts (such as the launching of a critical journal, an independent radio station, or internet site), it is here where collective intellectualism is put into practice and the proliferation of public intellectual intervention becomes apparent.

Keywords: Bernard-Henri Lévy, anti-Semitism, Pierre Bourdieu, collective intellectual, media, domination, resistance to neo-liberalism, social movements, World Social Forum