Re: Third Culture:Reply to Tomaso

Robert Johnson (johnsorl@COLORADO.EDU)
Mon, 4 Sep 1995 16:12:37 -0600

On Mon, 4 Sep 1995, James R Davila wrote:

> On Tue, 5 Sep 1995, John Mcreery wrote:
> > humanities have plunged themselves into confusion and have little to say
> > but "commentaries spiraling on commentaries" and no commentary more valuable
> > than any other--because, after all, all voices are equal, a group of literate
> > scientists has emerged who write directly for the educated lay public.

John's got the first part right, the second is an economic response
to a vacuum.

> > Anthropologists...perversely narrow specialization

This is the result of economic restructuring. Its "perverse" aspect
is the results it engenders. "Narrow specialization" has either lead
to the degree of ignorance and lack of ethical acumen rampant in
anthropology today, or it is the facade which provides the reason
and excuse to the blindness of an anthropology that sells itself to
a corporate economic structure, or directly aids the exploitation
of non-western peoples. The "perverse" runs rampant in the
genocide and arrogance against peoples and cultures we forcibly
"develop" after having driven them into debt from the previous
schemes to "develop" them, and the "perverse" runs into the
necessary payoffs to the "political masters" and murderers
anthropology appeases to grant it access to its research "subjects."

> > Our "critiques
> > " are typically little more than invective, driven by a sense that we know
> > appalling things, but have little to offer in the way of solutions. Like two
> > year-olds on a playground, we are left with tantrums, screaming and moaning,
> > "They (the big, bad oppressors) did it! Somebody should make them stop!"

This strangely sounds like what "white liberals" say when they are
inconvenienced by the indictments of "third world" scholars.
The "our critiques" you are referring to are the "case study"
"concerns" and "sensitivities" of the anthropological "observers"
who merely record poverty, injustice, and, cultural genocide. It
is they who have little to offer but more "articles" to fuel
the "impotent" academic journal industry.
The "big, bad oppressors" you describe in your reductionist statement
actually exist, dump people in ditches, terrorize their families,
and sell them to the "development" and debt "restructuring" of the
World Bank and IMF. Doesn't it give you pause that you are speaking
about murder and terror and complicity in them?

> > The claim is, alas, too often valid.

Alas, "somebody" should make them stop. How can you help?

> > But the serious intellectual and political work remains undone.

The perennial excuse of the "white liberal intellectual."

> > Or, perhaps, others are doing it.

They are John. There are anthropologists among the Zapatistas
and others who are rising against injustice and the NEW WORLD
ORDER. There's even an anthropologist who's found a battlefield
on the internet and in American Universities which engender the
tyranny both present and envisioned for the future.

> > And we, too absorbed
> > in our bickering, have failed to notice.

Your "we" are the conscious and unconscious "reactionaries" who have
failed to notice and self-absorb themselves in "bickering."
That is why ethnomethodology is effective in exposing this

Then, James R. Davila writes...

> John,
> please don't dismiss the humanities quite so quickly. Not all of us are
> writing "commentaries spiraling on commentaries" and many of us are
> rather horrified at the ideological and nihilist trends in our fields.

The "ideological and nihilist trends" in the humanities are either
the excuses for tenured academics to justify their inaction, the
"what is to be done" refrain, or its the denigrating critique these
same "critics" bring to those who indict "what is" rather than
concentrate on "utopias" that don't threaten these same "academics."

> Also, I've been on many humanities discussion groups and have never seen
> anything like the level of irrational hostility often found on Anthro-L.
> (Granted, this has come mainly from one source, but hardly exclusively!)

"Humanities discussion groups" are the good and "acceptable"
burgers and sewing-circle PollyAnnas who have castrated the
ability of the university to be a force for justice, but have
rendered it to Caesar as hypocritical front.
Besides, they're not happy when someone sets their bonnets askew
with unpleasant observations on the world they tolerate.
Many Black and Chicano scholars have this observation also.

Also, that "one source" you allude to may be accurately described
as "hostile," but he speaks of injustice which doesn't touch
your life or engender a desire to enlighten yourself about.
What is it about murder and cultural genocide that eludes you?

> There is still plenty of useful traditional work being done in the
> humanities, such as editions of texts, historical-critical analysis, and
> philology.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this.

> And the more modern methods, such as feminist studies and
> deconstruction certainly have their place, although in my opinion their
> value is grossly inflated in the current job market in the U.S.!

We could have made book on this opinion.

> There are even some of us who use the social sciences in our humanities
> research

This is a revealing statement and admission.

> (and even subscribe to Anthro-L :-)).

My response to this would be too cryptic.

> This having been said, I fully agree that the scientists may be
> undercutting the humanities and tackling even metaphysical and
> theological questions.

Scientists are old hands at getting and fielding multiple grant
studies. Scientists as academics and research associates aren't
making enough money, hence this phenomena.

> Frank Tipler's _The Physics of Immortality:
> Modern Cosmology, and the Resurrection of the Dead_. Tipler is a
> respected mathematical physicist at Tulane University who claims that a
> proper projection of the principles of global general relativity to the
> recollapse of the universe in the big crunch indicates that God will
> emerge from intelligent life after it engulfs the universe and controls
> its collapse in such a way that infinite energy, computing power, and
> subjective time become available. Then Tipler describes a purely physical
> process that God (the "Omega Point") can use to raise from the dead everyone
> who ever lived. All that's required is sufficient computing power. Physics
> meets theology!

I thought Mary Shelley had examined this already?

Robert Johnson