Decolonizing Anthropology

Fri, 3 Feb 1995 01:24:52 -0700

first that a question is not necessarily a statement of one's position.
Mr. Dark assumes quite a bit when he states my position for me on these
Clearly ethical questions are integral to any endevor that claims to
be humanistic in its approach. Such issues are certainly not "too murky
to pursue", but neither are they decided by simple historical derivations.
I would hope that it would be obvious to most considerate individuals that
these types of conflicts can, as Dark points out, be resolved through
dialogues undertaken in good faith. Such is the responsibility that falls
to all of us as members of this larger civil society and as people of
good will.
I believe that this point is understood by most anthropologists regardless
of what "Ethnic" background they claim. Obviously Dark assumes that I am, to
use his term, a "white" anthropologist, only interested in objects because
of their "ethic content". Of what account then should we make of Historical
archaeologists, Egyptian egyptologists, and ethnologists studying
their own cultural traditions? Granted ours is a western pursuit with all
of its requisite baggage, but it is not necessarily driven by racism, as
Dark implies. That we are still viewed as racists by many Native
Peoples should be a point of great concern and embarassment to all of us. Yet
some Native Americans do not view anthropologists as enemies, but as allies
in re-establishing historical and cultural claims to objects and lands.
The fact that some decry our narrow motives does not mean that they are narrow.
Archaeologists study Native American sites because that is what is here, along
with the pre-1945 historical sites which we also "appropriate" frequently.
Money can help redress the terrible poverty and illness that typlifies
many Native communities, and I feel that we as a nation have a moral and
legal obligation to support these people. But it is unlikely that the
government, as a reflection of this society, will ever return substantial
portions of former Indian lands. In fact some would argue that the country
is under no obligation to do so, although I am not one of those.
There are several other points to address, but I don't like long
posts either, so enough is enough. I only posed the questions to R. Johnson
because of the naive simplicity of the propositions, not as a derision of
his personal sentiment.

Jim Eighmey
Department of Anthropology >>>---------->
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ. 85287-2402