Re: Reply to Lieber

Tue, 6 Dec 1994 11:32:26 -0700

I did mean something along the lines of both interpretations you give,
but opted for the Rushton etc example rather than the one closest to my
work, assuming that that eg was most familiar.

I agree that the refutations of Rushton, Murray etc are effective, or at
least many of them. But I think the reactionary, pc examples do as much
damage as the effective ones do good, which is likely to be exactly the
reaction some of these new authors are seeking. When these reactions are
on the anthro-list, I think this is in part that due to the fact that
many cultural anthropologists who no longer are receiving fourfield
training only see "straw men" representations of biosocial approaches,
and have leared that it's okay to use all such approaches as foils for
more constructivist arguments.

Like you, I don't know of additional examples of biosocial strategies of the
New Right along Murray & Rushton's lines. But one place where you see the
socio-cultural folks being, I think, unduly antagonistic toward biosocial
angles is in gender studies. I work on domestic violence (mostly
male-to-female) in Brazil, and I feel (because of differential physical
strength and reproductive issues) that it's crucial that my analysis be
informed by sociobiology. I argue for a gender theory that insists that
all genders, however multiple and non-deterministic they be, will refer
to sex (maleness and femaleness) as referents, if only on a symbolic
level. Often actors of what I call counter-hegemonic genders (ie
travestis or Brazilian transvestites) are constructing their gender
identities *against* the dominant models, but they nonetheless use "male"
and "female" as referents in order to do so. This derives, I think, from
the pervasive dimorphism of the species, and if "gender discourses" don't
use these referents, I have no way of knowing it is about gender (as
opposed to ethnicity or other distinction fields) at all. While I
emphatically believe that this way of conceptualizing gender as a
theoretical category does NOT have to be ESSENTIALIST, again and again I
am dismayed by how easily dismissed as such it is by many feminist

Anyway, a long explanation about why I think that the increasing
"biosocial-phobia" of many cultural anthropologists is costly to the
discipline as a whole.