Re: anthropology and activism

Nick Corduan (nickc@IQUEST.NET)
Thu, 11 Jan 1996 12:20:03 -0500


> Again with all due respect, Nick, I think I did understand your
> opinion--as you now write, "it is the connection of anthropology to
> activism which I disagree with." My principal objection, which I don't
> think you addressed in your reply, is that as anthropologists we have an
> obligation to work for the good of the people we study--otherwise we are
> merely exploiting them. I think this is as true of academic anthropology
> as applied anthropology. The theme of the AAA meeting in 1994 was human
> rights, a commitment to which necessitates activism.

True enough, but the AAA speaks for itself, not for anthropology.

But to get to your specific point, I did address that issue in my response, in
a way, but perhaps not in clear enough language, and not to a far enough

A man problem is that being singling out anthropologists as people with a
special obligation to fight for cultures' lives, we are letting (to an
extent) other people off the hook. We are givng them an exucse to say,
"Well, it s the special duty of anthropologists, not bankers."

Furthermore, I do not agree that simply because we havea greater knowledge of
or familiarity with native cultures we are somehow placed in a position as
their special keeper. Doesn't that seem a bit arrogant? As if we posess the
secret keys, that normal people cannot compehend? Or that what
anthropolgists do for a living somehow puts them in a psecial position in
regard to native cultures?

> I agree that "we should all be concerned about such things" as atrocities
> commited against other people, but of course not everyone is. My point
> was that we have a special obligation as anthropologists.

My contention is that people are people are people, no matter what their
occupatio is.

> Jeez, was Robert Johnson right about anthropologists, that we are just
> one more type of exploiter? Tell me it ain't so!--

I also feel that "exploit" is a rather strong term . . .


Nick Corduan "...there is as much dignity in tilling
at a field as in writing a poem."
( --Booker T. Washington