Anthro's mission to the public...
Steve Mizrach (SEEKER1@NERVM.NERDC.UFL.EDU)
Wed, 15 Jun 1994 11:41:05 -0400
>So what anthropological facts do people think are so important they
>should be known by everyone? Taught in school? (And no, you can't
>get away with "American Culture is superior to all others" should
>be taught in schools :-). My first pick would be that there are
>no such thing as "races" (that 90+% of human genetic variation is
>intra-communal rather than inter-communal).
The Boasian mission of educating people about the misapprehension of
race, and the separability of race, language, and culture, is still needed
now more than ever. I mean, it really gets my goat to see people who do not
seem all that stupid talk about things like miscegnation - as if there were
"breeds" of humanity that should be kept "purebred" like dogs...
And since various nationalisms are rampant all over the globe,
clearly anthropology still has a long way toward combatting chauvinism,
xenophobia, ethocentrism, and racism on a global scale...
We still have to fight the naive variant of cultural evolutionism
which says that people who are pre-literate or pre-industrial are "savage,"
"primitive," or "inferior," e.g. need to have their cultures wiped out and
replaced by our own.
I would say the most difficult mission of anthropology is to teach
people cultural relativism. Not to reopen the debate about morals/universal
human rights/standards of justice - I really don't want to: what I'm
talking about here is what Voltaire (or was that Montaigne? getting my
philosophes mixed up.) is talking about when his man from Jupiter visits
and he says, "Forgive him. He mistakes the customs of his tribe to be those
of the entire world."
We need to teach people - my god, especially Americans - that not
everyone has the same worldview. That the customs of our tribe may not
always be the best customs for another. And that people don't always see
the world from the same perspective. And that sometimes it's a healthy
practice to try and see the world from another's point of view rather than
your own - a skill oft called empathy. It's something that anthropology has
to offer the world. We really are doing something important, from my point
of view - we are the "communications network" helping to bring together a
Just some musings...
Seeker1 [@Nervm.Nerdc.Ufl.Edu] (real info available on request)
CyberAnthropologist, TechnoCulturalist, Guerilla Ontologist, Chaotician
Discordian Society, Counter-Illuminati Operations Branch
"The map is not the territory." -- Alfred Korzybski
"The menu is not the meal." -- Alan Watts