open discussion

Wed, 2 Mar 1994 11:33:16 -0500

John O'Brien argues that a series of apparently new problems have
been introduced into Sociology/Anthropology. These include
"political correctness", which he seems to conflate with hiring
people on the basis of "race, gender and age" RATHER than on
"competence". Then after complaining about political correctness he
goes on to complain about political orientations within anthropology
and "irrelevant" research foci.

Well I guess John you and I have been on different planets. Hasn't
one's ethnic background, one's gender, age, and one might add class,
always influenced who ended up with faculty positions? Hasn't that
fact influenced what was researched, taught and published (even
assuming the best of motives of those involved)? Isn't it important
that we have African-Americans, Native Americans, Women contributing
their understandings, their points of view to discussions relevant to
anthropology? Doesn't that make a department/a field more

I am also somewhat taken aback by the complaint about "political
orientations" and irrelevant research foci within anthropology.
Anthropological work has always had political implications--to the
groups studied, the people reading and applying the results, and to
those whose lives were influenced by that work. Sometimes I like the
orientations, sometimes I don't, but I don't fool myself into
thinking that the research results are simply neutral. Irrelevant
research foci?? Perhaps, but what is irrelevant to me may not be
irrelevant to others. Perhaps grappling intellectually with those
new points of view might make your anthropological life less boring.