Re: Race differences

Eve Pinsker (U56728@UICVM.BITNET)
Sat, 22 Oct 1994 20:16:39 CDT

On Sat, 22 Oct 1994 17:10:37 -0400 J. Philippe Rushton said:
> As to politics and policy, I leave that to others.
Hiding behind a positivist construction of "fact" to evade the social and moral
consequences of your representation of the "data," huh? A good argument for
the moderate postmodernist-constructivist position contending that we must exam
ine the social and political context of discourse. And counter to the extreme
postmodernist position that normative evaluation of different discourses is no
t possible, I'd maintain that examining the social and political contexts of st
atements, as we've been doing here, does allow us to decide which discourses we
want to participate in and perpetuate, and those whose terms we need to
challenge and redefine. Rushton's statements are also a good argument for not
accepting a deep division between applied and theoretical anthropology (and in
the other social sciences as well).
I concur with Rebecca Joseph's call to activism, and not to leave it
to others -- we_can_be activists as academics and writers. I heard Gloria
Steinem speak two weeks ago, and she said that naming is a powerful act (of cou
rse speech act theorists agree) -- she gave the examples of"spousal abuse"and
"date rape" in our own society, saying that the practices represented by these
terms were not able to be challenged or even investigated before we named them.
Naming and classifying human discourses and practices, and critically
investigating acts of naming, as we've done here with "racism," "intelligence,"
"war," etc., that's our business (and I'm suddenly feeling like anthropology
does have a reason-for-being, and we've got reasons for writing, after all).
Re McCreery's comments on epistemology and ethnography the other day -- I
recommend Jocelyn Linnekin's June 1992 article in _Oceania_, "On the Theory
and Politics of Cultural Construction in the Pacific"(pp 249-261). She does a
very good job of examining the epistemological and political complexities of
talking about "culture" and "tradition," which has been informed by her
experiences as a white woman teaching about Hawaiian culture and
history in Hawaii, to an audience including Hawaiian students and colleagues.
She's done an excellent job in this piece connecting recent theoretical debates
in anthropology to the practice of teaching anthropology in the context of
ongoing political, nationalist debates, without running away from difficult
questions (unlike Rushton), either about the evaluation of differing
constructions of history or about the contemporary political consequences of
talking about them.
Eve Pinsker