ethnocentric anthropologists (was: diseases and immunity)

Gerold Firl (
3 Jul 1996 22:03:47 GMT

In article <4r8su5$>, (Domingo Martinez-Castilla) writes:

|> 6. Mr Deitiker also raises the issue of time spans as a very important
|> one, for example when he writes, very matter-of-factly:

|> >2. At least 2,000 years behind in the domesitication of seeds than the
|> >best of eurasia, (not unexpected if the variety of HG type foods
|> >available without neccesity of agriculture) and several thousand years
|> >behind in the development of animal husbandry. (not unexpected if wild
|> >food stocks are avialable)

|> This line of "thought" really drives me nuts. What does "behind" mean
|> here, please? I demand an answer.

This kind of dialog is not very useful. It's interesting to observe
people, allegedly interested in anthropology, stridently trumpeting
the virtues and superiority of some particular group. Isn't one of the
benefits of an anthropological education supposed to be an
appreciation for different cultures? Yet we have the spectacal of mb
williams trying to prove that *her* tribe, the haudenosaunee or
whatever, had population densities just as high as england, *and* they
were so egalitarian - it's too bad they didn't conquer the world.

You *demand* satisfaction - the inca have been slighted! - calm down a
little. It's great to be passionate about anthropology, but a more
level-headed approach will get us farther in the long run.

New world development of the potato and maize is certainly the equal
of old world development of wheat, rice, the olive and the vine. Does
that make you feel any better? Animal domestication, on the other
hand, lagged far behind. If we were in the business of trying to prove
that our particular ethnic group is better than all the others, that
might be a problem, but that has no place in anthro. Get over it.

|> Last, and this may be my *opinion*, if I may as well indulge on that:
|> There is clearly a difference in philosophy here. Mr Deitiker (and I
|> would believe Mr Firl as well, on spite of their differences) seems to
|> be partial to the strong belief that everything in history is a path
|> towards "progress", and that indigenous Americans were, mostly, just
|> backwards and with very bad genetic luck, and that is what did them in.

You're still playing cowboys and indians, domingo. Get over it. It's
worth while trying to understand exactly why europe was able to
conquer the globe; this is one of the most important historical
developments in the history of man, and will be reverberating into the
future for many decades to come. (see mcneill, _rise of the west_, for
an excellent analysis) What it is *not*, for anyone interested in
understanding, is an excuse for either crowing in triumph or carping
in bitterness. By all means, let us celebrate the great achievements
of the past, no matter from which culture they derived. Let us note
the unity of man at the same time we explore our diversity. But be
very careful about overplaying the victim card; it can be very hard to
get-out from behind it after a while.

The best way for us to learn from each other is to conduct our discussion
with civility. We all have different areas of knowledge and ignorance;
when you see someone who is ignorant, it works better to provide them
with facts, rather than assuming that they have some kind of
malevolent agenda which you need to combat.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf