Mr John Ford (John.Ford1@JCU.EDU.AU)
Sat, 13 May 1995 09:43:42 +1000

I'm caught between discouses.

One, as Ruby identifies, is the smokescreen put up by a western discourse
that hides behind certain 'facts' that indicate that indigenous peoples
have altered the landscape and thus changed the ecology. While generally
refusing to acknowledge the power impalance between the 'north' and the
'south' and the consequence imbalance in the use of the world's energy,
this discourse alleviates and responsibility to the global crisis by
re-directing blame on the 'other'. This discourse does have certian
'facts' with which to argue its case, but to reverse the 'blame' onto
indigenous people ignores the west's enormous appetite for energy.

Another discourse - the political correct one that constrains talking
about the changes indigenous peoples did make to their ecology because to
do so is seen as 'negative'. This is a moral judgement discourse that
places any debate into 'good/bad' dichotomy and leaves it there along with
the participants. In other words - disagree with the discourse and you
condemn yourself to the morally corupt person you obviously are. So much
for debate.

The corollary to this discourse - 'west-bashing'. If one is to lay the
blame for the global crisis at our own doorstep them one is now charged
with a guilt-complex or bashing the west.

Yet another discourse - you either with 'them' or agin 'them'.
Anthropology is now suppose to be about 'advocacy'. This is small 'l'
stuff. But again the discourse is powerfully utilised to constrain other
voices - those who ask; what is anthropology? Is it now a political
movement - a tabloid for the liberation fronts of the world. Or do we
still study us-in-the-world?

Perhaps this liberationist discourse is an extension of the
economic-rationalist discourse that demands that everything must seen to
be 'useful'. And the only way anthropology can be seen to be 'useful' is
apparently in the role of an agent for the oppressed. After all, just
what is the 'benefit' of all those research funds?

OK - so I'm off track; left field stuff. But I am not the dispassionate
being that perhaps you may think. I too agorinse over the oppressed and
imbalance of power. But for the discipline to decend into the murkiness
of ideology then I have fears for the discipline's future. After all, can
we, as social scientists, demade how our knowledge is used. As Foucault
says - leave it the police to make sure our papers are in order. (Where
did that come from?) Our world is the messy human relationships that make
up that world. We try to do this 'objectively' - not always successfully,
but at least that's our aim. Perhaps we should be scepticable of all
discourse that serve to constrain that aim.

john ford