Gender Studies in Anthropology

Fri, 31 May 1996 20:13:47 EDT

indeed, to understand many socieities, particularly those in Oceania,
it is essential to understand the relations between male and female, for
they are considered to be of different substance. Nonetheless, I think
the problem with introducing the 'feminist paradigm' into anthropology is
that it often becomes a moral critique of power relations in the cultures
under analysis. To pronounce on the morality of a culture's conceptual
scheme and social relations is really unbecoming of anthropologists;
moreover, when we do this we are implicitly subscribing to the notion
that our moral canon, whether 'feminist' or 'conservative' or whatever,
really has some sort of universal truth and applicability. The question
really becomes whether we want to describe and understand a culture, or
to play politics and become an advocate. Seeing our discipline
subordinated to political or moral considerations of any sort is, to my
mind, disappointing and will vitiate many of the analyses undertaken.
It is apposite to bear in mind the antiquated and much ridiculed
paradigms of nineteenth century anthropologists such as Tylor and
Frazer. Let us hope that intelligent discussion and not moral
partisanship prevails in the discipline as well as here on the Internet.

Best Regards,
Independent Studies Programme
University of Waterloo
Waterloo, Ontario