Politics & Cover-ups (Re: zoosexual cave art?)

Michael Bauser (MBAUSER@kentvm.kent.edu)
Tue, 09 May 95 14:45:39 EDT

In article <STEVEW.95May7230244@debretts.comp.vuw.ac.nz>
stevew@debretts.comp.vuw.ac.nz (Stephen Wray) writes:

>> The whole idea that anthropologists would suppress taht acts of bestiality
>> were portrayed frequently in cave art seems to be the final application of
>> a Freudian point of view as applied to the "big picture."
>I dunno... I just have this feeling that academics making any kind of noise
>about such things could find themselves censured.

Nowadays, I don't think there would that much problem with *cave paintings*
If an anthropologist came up with, um, purient information about a con-
temporary culture, s/he probably would catch all sorts of hell from
members of that culture, members of cultures nearby, anybody interested
in that culture, and anybody on campus who just dislikes anthropology.
Paleolithic painters, on the other hand, don't have much of a media lobby.

Even if "all the academics in the world except one" *did* think it
shouldn't be talked about, I don't know how long they could conceivably
keep something as schlocky as bestiality covered-up. Compare it to
Barry Fell and his "America B.C." arguments (humanity evolved in
California, built supercities, etc, etc). Yeah, we anthros all know
it's nonsense and constantly and loudly proclaim "Fell is a moron", but
he's written books, appeared on talk shows, made money, won the adoration
of all sorts of goofy people, and so on.

Face it. If a "dumb theory" is marketable enough to the masses,
there are alway people willing to drop out of "respectable academia"
and go for the cash cow. (Have I mentioned Carlos Castenada yet?)

Either way, I'm inclined to think an anthropological cover-up is
unlikely. (But I'm not really sure how marketable cave man porno
is, so I could be wrong.)

>Did any academic ever openly discuss (what seem to be) widely regarded as
>highly abberant sexual behavior and get into trouble over it?

I wouldn't call it "highly abberant", but Margret Mead's work on
Somoa *did* discuss people who engaged in more sexual experimentation
than most Americans at the time considered "proper". Her work had
its detractors, but there were no special attacks about sexual content.

(You know, I can vaguely recall reading an anthropological rant about
the "voyeurism" of early ethnographies, that consciously or unconsciously
catered to Euro-American interest in sex/violence/toppless women, because
defining a culture as "exotic" let people avoid guilt/shame by saying it
was "educational". I just can't remember who's ranting it was.)

>Heck -- academics got into trouble over LSD of all things. Nowadays any
>academic discussion of (god forbid) beneficial aspects of LSD research
>(except for military applications, of course) seems to bring trouble.

It's not quite *that* bad--there are anthropologists who openly discuss
legalization, for instance, as an option worth considering. Come to
think of it, I can even remember papers on South American coca farming
and its positive effects on the local peasantry. The "trouble" a social
scientist faces when dealing with drug topics is largely dependent on
their personal style, and what kind of university they're at. I would
wager that academics at small universities can get away with a lot by
just avoiding talking to the college dean.

Michael Bauser <mbauser@kentvm.kent.edu>
"It's participant observation. Honest!"