Re: rank, hierarchy, and power

Sat, 7 Jan 1995 14:25:00 PST

Pinsker writes:

" The problem for us, re dominance-connected issues, has to do with what
Charles Taylor called the "politics of recognition"... "recognition" having
to do with the public acknowledgement and valuing of important aspects of
one's "identity," ... is NOT a cultural universal -- it's bound up w.
historically and culturally specific notions of what it means to be a person
and what the relationship between the person and the collective is and/or
should be -- i.e.human rights. Once one has accepted the premises (that
people are individuals in the Western sense ... THEN [[and only then???]] it
makes sense that one can be socially or psychologically damaged if the
unmarked term, that when used to refer to a higher logical type includes
one's self, does NOT include one's self-identity when used in in its
lower-logical-type sense."

I find this an intriguing approach as it attempts to account for the
conditions under which individuals, qua individuals, are likely to or not to
react negatively and vehemently to culturally constructed categorizations
that seem, from an etic viewpoint, to deny equality; i.e., why do some
people in some situations accept such categorizations, yet people in other
situations react strongly against such categorizations? Or, even what are
the categorizations that are reacted against? Pinsker's argument suggests
that answers do not lie in facile characterizations of power versus
powerlessness, etc., but require a more complex analysis that takes into
account several different concepts and how these interrelate. When I was
doing fieldwork with the !Kung San, I was struck by the contrast between my
own cultural baggage which assumed that persons culturally placed into what I
would view as a relatively powerless role (e.g., the position of women
vis-a-vis men in !Kung society) would react against it, yet clearly that was
not the viewpoint of !Kung women. At the time I was willing to attribute it
to what we call "lack of consciousness raising;" Pinsker's post makes me
think that the matter is much more complex.

D. Read