‘The pragmatism of non-consequential aesthetic irrationality: a discussion of tropes in research modalities’ is a both a research presentation and creative performance made specifically for the symposium. It is a scathing yet humorous critique of institutionalised, elitist and often impenetrable academic art language and rhetoric, parodied through the authority and context of the doctoral research presentation. The oration uses a nonsensical weaving of ‘International Art English’ phrases, entirely fabricated references and absurdly complex grammar, spoken with deadpan and stoic conviction. Its purpose is to live test the authenticity of performance and presentation by monitoring the collective receptivity of the audience.
Of this English upper-middle class speech we may note (a) that it is not localised in any one place, (b) that though the people who use this speech are not all acquainted with one another, they can easily recognise each other’s status by this index alone, (c) that this elite speech form tends to be imitated by those who are not of the elite, so that other dialect forms are gradually eliminated, (d) that the elite, recognising this imitation, is constantly creating new linguistic elaborations to mark itself off from the common herd.
—E. R. Leach, Political Systems of Highland Burma: A Study of Kachin Social Structure, 1954