Decol Anthro and Zealots

Ian Mast (imast@SUN.CIS.SMU.EDU)
Sat, 11 Feb 1995 20:39:10 -0600

I would like to go on record as being sympathetic toward the idea of
"decolonizing anthropology" but I'm not terribly interested in supporting
hollow and abstract ravings which call for the total dismantling of the
discipline of anthropology. Rich Wilk made a very strong point in a
recent posting. The usurpation of culture, and corresponding economic
colonialism is a function of the power and money brokers of our culture,
not of anthros. While the history of anthropology contains expressions of
anthropolgy,s relationship with colonialism, I would posit that
anthropology in general, has been more sympathetic, in relation to the
cultural context in which it existed, to indigenous communities than the
general populace.

With this said, I would like to comment on the expressed paranoia found in
Johnson's "Dissident voice" and "New Journal" postings.

It is not uncommon for fringe individuals to utilize the "They're out to
get me" mentality to construct a cultic form of leadership. David Koresh,
Jim Jones, radical anti-abortionists and a host of self-proclaimed
"enlightened" individuals seem to believe that "Truth" is relegated to a
persecuted few. I wonder which is more important to RJ, indigenous rights
or making a name for himself.

It seems to me that Robert Johnson has turned his back on a fundamental
component of Anthropological understanding. That is, that individuals are
part of a larger culture. Culture in turn is the complex
of said individuals and the strucutres and rules which govern their social
interaction. Anthropology is flawed in many ways, but I believe it's
structure is conducive to understanding, empowerment and development.
Thus, I play by the rules, good ones and bad. I do not choose to splinter
off and revel in my own conception of "the way things ought to be,"
because if I've learned anything in this complex world, it is that
community and constructive interaction are integral in moving forward.

I do have one compliment though for RJ. Moses was only able to obtain ten
commandments on the mountain top, but RJ has been able to come up with
thirteen so far. I guess RJ has a clearer link with God.

Ian Mast