Re: Gender Studies in Anthropology

Robert Snower (rs219@IDIR.NET)
Fri, 31 May 1996 22:09:16 -0500

At 08:13 PM 5/31/96 EDT, Kristian Pedersen wrote:
> I see nothing wrong with gender studies in anthropology --
>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
I am sure professional anthropologists know what you are talking about, but
I am an amateur, and an admirer of Frazer's work, and don't have the
slightest notion of why or how he exhibits antiquated and much ridiculed
paradigms. I would appreciate hearing.

R. Snower