Let me begin with a self-evident point, perhaps too often taken for granted. When academics participate in conferences and debates, we find ourselves operating under the rule of law. Protocols exist. We must keep to agreed time limits, disclose our sources, accept criticism and renounce any temptation to use threats, material inducements or force. There is status competition, certainly. But status is determined on an intellectual basis by peer evaluation alone; we compete to demonstrate relevance (Sperber and Wilson 1995 ; Dessalles 1998) in one anothers’ eyes.
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