obligation and advocacy

Fri, 12 May 1995 11:59:02 +1200

diam9018@TAO.SOSC.OSSHE.EDU asks: "Do you feel that anthro's
thus have an ethical and moral obligation to act as advocates for the
people that we earn our living studying about?"

No, I don't. Apart from denying individual anthropologists rights to their
own moral and ethical judgements, such a position denies variation in
practice and interests among the members of any group studied. It also
ignores anthropology that studies other than small-scale, indigenous groups
and attempts to study up, study conflict and study people of whom the
investigator does not approve. I'm only guessing, but I don't suppose the
author of the question would support obliged advocacy of the US Congress,
multinational corporations, or the armies in the former Yugosalvia when
these are our subjects.

[I'm also not sure that indigenous is a non-problematic term, hence the
quotes. I am thinking here not of cases where more than one indigenous
group claims possesion of the same land, but of cases like that referred to
by Bourgois (p 114 in Decolonizing Anthropology, F Harrison, ed) where
people currently considered peasants and non-indigenous may be only a
generation away from coerced change from indigeneous status. But that's a
separate issue.]