Cultural brokerage?

John Mcreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Sat, 22 Jul 1995 10:19:08 JST

Ian Mast writes, "I have a host of ideas
and thoughts regarding advocacy anthropology and cultural brokerage that I
won't bore the list with."

Ian, come on, this is the place to try them out. In hopes of sparking a
response let me hazard the assertion that, as a foreigner who works for a
major Japanese advertising agency and deals with both Japanese and foreign
clients on the scale of Canon, Coca-Cola and BMW, I am up to my neck in
"advocacy anthropology and cultural brokerage" every working day. I don't,
of course, make the mistake of stereotyping the people for whom I work as
advocate and broker as victims. On the whole, they deal pretty well with
the world system we live in.

In this week's _Forbes_ there is a bitter tirade by Thomas Sowell, a distinguished black economist. He is--oh, how could this ever happen!--a conservative
thinker who disapproves of a lot of government programs. I am far from agreeing
with everything he says, but I do agree with his condemnation of "helplessness" as a state to which members of spurious racial categories are supposed to be
condemned if forced to rely on their own devices.

As I read Sowell, I am reminded of a stroke I earned by stereotyping South
Asian illegal workers in Japan as living in the hole of the donut that is
foreigner society in Japan (as compared to ex-pats who live in the sugar, and
independents, like myself, who live some where in the cake.) The occasion was
a training session for workers on a telephone crisis line, and my colleague,
an international school teacher from India, chided me. "They are," she said,"on
the whole, pretty smart and capable people, who know what they are doing." You
don't scrape together the air fare to come to Japan and the means to support
yourself while you're here, unless you are pretty tough."

John McCreery