Friday, March 22, 2013

"She's Got the Look": Binaries and the Culture of Anthropology

This essay was written when I was a graduate student in Anthropology at SUNY Albany between 1987 and 1989. My original intention was to take a doctorate in Anthropology. I found myself, however, less than enamoured by Anthropology’s totalism or wholism (biology, culture, material remains, language) and my interests were more in the evil half of the anthropological binary, the modern West. So after doing my comprehensive examinations and writing a thesis on 17th century English Quakerism I left the programme for Sociology and eventually History because of my frustration with Anthropology's obsession with the "primitive", Anthropology's inattention to what I thought was the far theoretically superior sociological theory, and Anthropology's far too little attention to history and historical dynamics.

This paper was my goodbye or kiss off, if you will, to Anthropology, something reflected in the original title of the paper "In Through the Out Door". It was written in 1989 for my Cultural Anthropology proseminar with Robert Jarvenpa, the last Anthropology class I ever took. I have updated the bibliography. I was assigned to do a discussion of Dialogical Anthropology, which was hip at the time, and this is the result. Given its broader context it should be no surprise that in this essay I am dealing exclusively with Cultural Anthropology, Social Anthropology, or Ethnography, and particularly American Cultural Anthropology in this essay. Perhaps the reason for the tenuous relationship between the four subsections of Anthropology in the US (linguistic, biological, cultural, archaeological) is the different culture (symbols, rituals) and different cultural history each of the subsections have. One of the things that should be clear in this essay is how much I was impacted by Max Weber, semiology, and Michel Foucault and how much I was striving to bring a historical dimension to my thinking about Cultural Anthropology.

One final word: I have long had a love hate relationship with academia and this paper, I think, reflects my ambiguity about academia and my disillusionment with mass American education. Once upon a time I believed in the liberatory qualities of education, and I still do believe that learning can liberate, but I am not sure that educational bureaucracies with their hierarchical structures, their ties to the nation-state, its bourgeois culture, its narcissistic egos, is education as liberation. It seems to me to be more education as ideology, education for citizenship, education to vouchsafe the status quo.


Contrary to those who argue that American ethnography has either not had a paradigm, a dominant consensual interpretive frame, or that its old paradigm has fallen into disarray, I would like to suggest that cultural anthropology in the United States continues to be dominated by the meaning system which gave the discipline its initial key symbol and institutionalising impetus, namely, the search for and analysis of the “primitive”, “non-literate”, “exploited”, or “traditional” “other” through “fieldwork”. This symbolic continuity in cultural anthropology has generally gone unnoticed because of a tendency for human groups to fetishise their own culture seeing it as a given and because of the belief that the more things remain the same, the more they actually change.

American cultural anthropology has been characterised by a binary structuration semiologically parallel to that of western and American culture generally. Western discourse has been dominated by binary distinctions such as science/non-science, sacred/profane, left/right, good/evil, male/female, object/subject, spititual/material and body/mind. Several of these binaries have operated in anthropology as well, while others have arisen within the specific institutional and cultural framework of the discipline itself. For example, Ethnography's object/subject distinction is tied to the distinction between observer/observed or us/them symbols.

One major sign opposition structuring the anthropological discipline in general, has been the nature/culture or nature/nurture one. This opposition has played a role in constructing the binary bioanthropology/social or cultural anthropology, for instance. Anthropological binares sometimes exhibit the positive/negative opposition coding so typical of western culture. More on this later.

While western culture with its binary distinctions has set the boundaries of anthropological discourse in general, this rhetoric has also framed the institutional form anthropology has taken. American anthropology reflects the trend toward routinisation, and bureaucratisation which began in the west in the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. Anthropology, then, must be seen as one instantiation of the spread of rational (means-ends efficiency calculations) political and economic forms, as well as “rational” (secular humanist and scientific) Enlightenment ideologies that have permeated the western world (including the racial and social evolutionary distinctions that become common in the west at that time).

The beginnings of Anthropology with Edward Burnet Tyler, Henry Maine and James George Frazier in England, and Morgan in America, were characterised by a more or less unrestricted conception of the discipline. Anthropology was largely what the charismatic individual did. Such personages were anthropologists because of the subject matter they dealt with. Imbued with the Enlightenment ideologies of unilinear biological and cultural evolution, of high civilisation and western social and cultural superiority, they divined the evolution of magic, myth, ritual, religion, law, science, and even civilisation itself. They were renaissance men, individuals who attempted to understand the whole template of human existence from (what they thought was the) solid ground of western science. Their mission or calling was to understand humanity in the broadest and fullest of terms.

These “armchair anthropologists” often had no institutional standing. However, Tyler later became the first nonconformist to hold a position at Oxford University and Frazier held the first chair of Social Anthropology at Cambridge after both had established their anthropological “reputations” through the publication of their very wide-ranging writings. The charismatic analyst of “man” had become an institutional patriarch.

With Franz Boas, A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, and Bronislaw Malinowski, Anglo-American anthropology was to change forever. Both Boas and Malinowski were trained in physics while Radcliffe-Brown was a trained ethnographer. All three had an impact on the institutionalisation of anthropology in the United States, but no one more than Boas. Boas first academic post was at the newly established Clark University. In 1896 he accepted a post at Columbia University in New York City. He remained there until his death in 1941. During that time Boas became the most influential teacher of anthropology in the United States (and perhaps the world).

During Boas' long career he was active in the American Ethnological Society, Curator of Ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History, organiser of the ethnographic exhibit at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, a founding member of the American Folklore Society, president of the American Anthropological Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, founder of the International Journal of American Linguistics, editor of the Journal of American Folklore and the Handbook of American Indian Languages. Perhaps most importantly he was teacher of students, students like Alfred Kroeber, Clyde Kluckhohn, Robert Lowie, Edward Sapir, Melville Herskovits, Paul Radin, Clark Wissler, Leslie Spier, Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, Jules Henry, Ashley Montague, and Ruth Bunzel, Leslie White (who in an act of oedipal like rebellion would restore materialism and evolution—the mother of anthropology—to a central place in anthropological theory) to name a few. All Boas’s students on this list became quite influential anthropologists in their own right.

Many of them, in fact, were responsible for the establishment of anthropology departments across the United States and Canada whether in universities, museums, or in government bureaus. Kroeber and Lowie, for instance, were instrumental in establishing anthropology at Berkeley, Sapir at Chicago, Herskovits at Northwestern. Many of Boas’ students, in other words, had an immense impact on the developing discipline of anthropology.

What all of Boas' students were socialised or enculturated into was a particular vision of cultural anthropology. Boas distinguished between “proper” and “improper” anthropology. To differentiate one from the other he spent much time delineating proper methods of ethnographic research from improper ones. Dense fieldwork, of course, became the symbol of “good” anthropological research.

Boas also codified certain specific binary oppositions into the developing anthropological discourse. He differentiated his cultural specific diffusionist approach (a kind of multilinear evolution) from the unilinear evolutionism of the armchair anthropologists like Tyler. He differentiated his fieldwork centred social science from the amateur “armchair anthropology” of his forebears. He counterpointed his “holistic” approach against that of the “overgeneralists”. He damned the racism of his competitors (and of the world at large) and expressed a distrust of nationalism. For him, good anthropology was grounded in fieldwork, and was holistic, critical of unilinear evolutionist perspectives, free of racism and wary of nationalism. Bad ethnography was just the opposite.

Perhaps no one received more scorn from Boas than did Edward S. Curtis. Like Boas, Curtis was involved in “research” among the Kwakiutl of the Northwest coast of North America. Curtis attempted to “reconstruct” the “storied” past of this Native American group. To do this he filmed and photographed “reconstructed” aspects of Kwakiutl life. He also collected Kwakiutl material culture items for study and exhibit at a number of important American museums.

Boas found Curtis's historical reenactments problematic. For him the essence of fieldwork was to record the life of the culture as it was at the moment, not to “reconstruct” fanciful representations of what it might have been and probably never was. Boas' approach to fieldwork had a salvage element in it as well. An attempt to save the lifeways of a rapidly disappearing culture for academic analysis undergirded his rationale for doing fieldwork. In other words, Boas viewed fieldwork as a necessary undertaking, as a method of observation through which one recorded the “facts” of particular cultures before they disappeared before the tsunami that was the modern world and whose purpose was to expand scientific understanding.

Boas' vision of fieldwork was fundamental to his important role in the institutionalisation of anthropology in American academe. It was a vision which, as I have intimated before, was carried by “Papa Franz's” (as many of his students called him) students across the United States and to Canada. In Boas' scheme “proper” fieldwork became the central cultural sacred symbol of the emerging discipline of the “study of man”. In order to gain professional entree into the world of the ethnographer one had to pass through this sacralised rite of passage.

Of course, fieldwork or ethnography was counterpointed to an evil “other”, namely the demon of facile historical reconstruction and museum collection. Fieldwork in this context was no short-term odyssey. It was rather an attempt at deep, holistic cultural analysis of a specific group. Only after the collection of specific cultural data was generalisation thought possible. Boas believed that only “psychological” generalisations would result from comparative ethnography.

Fieldwork experience became a fundamental and foundational experience for anthropological novitiates. In fieldwork one entered a liminal, betwixt-between state in which new statuses became attached to the initiate. Successful completion of fieldwork meant that the postulant was on the way to becoming an anthropologist among anthropologists. After completion of the necessary doctoral dissertation, based upon, of course, one's fieldwork experiences and data, one gained one's credentials and took his or her (the her is important here: Boas trained a number women who would become influential anthropologists, folklorists, and literary figures) position within the universities, museums, or government bureaus of North America. Boas' students were not “amateurs” but professionals. And they now had the experience and academic credentials to prove it.

With Boas the charismatic (with a bit of the patriarchal thrown in as well) tradition within Cultural Anthropology had come to an end. No longer could one lay claim to anthropological authority on the basis of specific personal achievements (as did Frazier, Morgan, or Curtis). One now had to have academic credentials and the ritual experience of fieldwork in order to lay claim to anthropological expertise. Of course, it was a perk if one could lay claim to have studied at the feet of the great patriarch, “Papa Franz”, himself.

Like Boas, Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski placed great emphasis on fieldwork. Both of them spent time teaching in American universities, Radcliffe-Brown at Chicago, Malinowski at Yale. While they challenged the theoretical dominance of Boas' historical diffusionism somewhat with their emphasis on social structure and functionalist necessity respectively, they never disavowed the sacred symbolic element Boas so emphasized, ethnographic fieldwork. Moreover, both had extensive “proper” fieldwork experience themselves.

Inevitably the students of these anthropological “big men” began descending on “primitive” “traditional” cultures all over the world: Mead to New Guinea, Benedict to the First Peoples of the Southwest, Kroeber to Mexico and the First Peoples of California, Horace Miner to “backward” peasant Quebec, Herskovits and E.E. Evans-Pritchard to Africa. Anthropological tradition had been established. The spirit of Frazier and Curtis had become part of the dustbin of history.

Very soon even the traditional paternalist form of anthropological authority would wither away too. With the spread of cultural anthropology departments throughout the American university system as well as to museums and the government bureaucracy, it was no longer satisfactory to simply be a student of one of the big men (though one might claim authority kinship by pointing out that they were students of students of the great man himself). Now one had to have a Ph.D from an “accredited” (and a preferably high status one at that) department of anthropology. Professionalisation was now complete. “Amateurism” was fully conquered. The necessity of doing fieldwork under the direction of a properly credentialed authority was fully routinised.

Interestingly, the discourse and anthropological culture this routinisation gave definition to was, like its predecessors, strongly binary in nature. “Objective” analysis of the “primitive”, the “traditional”, the “peasant”, the “folk”, in sum, the non-western “other”, was defined in the context of western objective/subjective and western/non-western cultural categorisations. Moreover, given the synchronic nature of most fieldwork, time was often erased from anthropological theory and practise and in its place (if non-reflectively) a kind of timelessness was fetishised. Today's “primitive” could be used to analyse “primitives” from the human past, the ethnographic analogy.

While some anthropologists explored history through stylistic changes in pottery shards or emphasised the role of evolution and adaptation, only some recognised the impact Anglo settlement of the Americas had on First Peoples or the role the spread of western political, economic, and cultural modes had on the people they studied. Malinowski's “Argonauts of the South Pacific” and Mead's New Guineans seem to be peoples with a hermetic history.

This forgetfulness reflected a romantic predilection in anthropological thought. It is perhaps no accident that many ethnographers had a humanities background. Benedict, Kroeber, and Sapir, for instance, had English Studies degrees. Enmeshed in romantic ideologies many of the early anthropologists saw the “primitive” as remnants of cultures uncorrupted by the social and cultural ravages of western capitalism and “occidental” ways of life. Given this isolation several anthropologists used them as counters to Western ways of life. Margaret Mead, for example, used her fieldwork data to comment on what she perceived as negative aspects of American society in the hope of improving life-ways in twentieth century America. The “other” was held up as a positive mirror through which Americans could see themselves. And what some anthropologists hope they saw wasn't always so good. The primitive appeared as a “good” and “natural” cultural and personality formation in opposition to the “bad”, “unnatural” United States culture and personality formation.

While anthropological analysis has changed since the 1930s, the same binaries continue to structure ethnographic discourse and analysis. Fieldwork continues to hold pride of place as (far too many) prospective anthropology Ph.D.'s move through the system. It continues to mark an important rite of passage through which all ethnographers must traverse.

The discipline is also becoming more conscious of the role history, especially capitalist expansion has played in “primitive cultures”. Marxist anthropologists emphasised the role colonialism, imperialism, and inequality played in the world of yesterday and today. Eventually questions were raised about the synchronic meanings attached to such terms as “tradition”, “authentic”, and even the term “culture” itself. Nevertheless, these terms remain bandied about so frequently by anthropologists and other social scientists that one sometimes wonders whether all of this reflexivity has had much of an impact on the social sciences at all.

Eventually a number of ethnographers pointed out the fact that virtually every culture on the face of the globe has been touched by western political, economic, and cultural forms. Eric Wolf, George Marcus, and Michael Fischer have been particularly cognizant of this fact. While many social and cultural anthropologists continue to undertake fieldwork in non-western cultures they are once again seeing themselves as salvage ethnographers. What they are now trying to salvage is as much data on the “other” as they possibly can before they are totally transformed by the omnipresent tentacles of “Western” globalisation.

For some anthropologists the style of fieldwork has also changed. Many have realised the difficulty in traditional ethnographic reliance on single informants. Mesmerised by the doctrine of reflexivity they have begun to excavate the role anthropological discourses themselves play in constructing the “other”. Seeing their writing as reflective of western culture imperialism, in that they have traditionally effaced the voice of the informant other within their rhetoric of scientific “objectivity”, Western discursive imperialism in their reflexive terms, they have sought to bring the voice of the “other(s)” within the text in all their “subjectivity”. “Dialogical Anthropology” has arrived.

The practitioners of this carnivalesque form of anthropological analysis, individuals like Marcus and Fischer, James Clifford, Vincent Crampanzano, James Boon, and others, believe that by opening up the “discourse” in this way, that they are avoiding the problems of the realist, unilogical, imperialistic, scientistic discourse of previous anthropological writing.

Despite this claim (or is it a kind of utopian hope?), however, dialogically oriented anthropologists (ironically) often end up replicating many of the binaries that have inhabited anthropological (and western) discourse from the beginning. Dialogical anthropologists remain marked off (binarilly) from the “other”. Despite the reflexivity of the dialogic ethnographer, it is still this collector of multiple voices who allows the other to speak through the authorial text. It is the “expert” anthropologist who remains firmly in control of textual modes of production. The other speaks but speaks at the behest of the professional and often Western cultural anthropologist.

Textual control by the anthropologists means that the distinction between westerner/non-westerner remains in dialogical anthropological writing. Even though this distinction is somewhat different than that of the previous more “objectivist” anthropological texts, the more reflexive, subjectivist style of the writing, still replicates the western object/non-western subject split. The western anthropologist remains the textual authority. And such authority is legitimated on the basis of the ethnographers anthropological and political sensitivity and their “expert” credentials and authority.

There is a romanticism in dialogical ethnography as there was in earlier forms of anthropological rhetoric and practise. The “other” is read as a romanticised figure standing against the on-going ravages of Western capitalism, Western politics, Western culture, and Western rationalism. This heroic figure is depicted as the last of a dying breed. The dialogical anthropologist becomes the medium through which the anti-capitalist, romantic discourse is spread. Like the disappearing rain forests of Brasil, anthropologists try to preserve what little of the traditional past remains. He or she salvages the memory of the “other” while simultaneously raising the consciousness of academics, intellectuals, and activists back home about the tragic and impending disappearance of our “primitive” past (hoping perhaps that the process may be reversible). In the process, “the other” becomes subject to the salvage anthropologist.

Rather than the “primitive” as “evolutionary past”, however, the “primitive” “other” of dialogical anthropology, is a metaphor for a simpler, more basic recent human past, a past through which the West once traversed. The “other” is a symbol of gemeinschaft, the traditional face-to-face culture of our own more egalitarian pre-capitalist past (rather like the role the plainest of Amish play in contemporary North America). In that past community still existed. In that past there weren't the stark differences between rich and poor that now exist. In that past our political and economic institutions existed on a more human scale.

Dialogical anthropologists, then, end up recapitulating the modern/traditional binary which gave anthropology its birth in large measure. Instead of the scientist-ethnographer trying to undertake an objective analysis of the primitive, or the humanist-ethnographer, using the romantic lives of the other (a la Margaret Mead) to critique Western society the dialogic-ethnographer becomes the protector of past lifeways and, in the process, a critic of modern globalisation.

A clear binary coding of good/bad remains. Global capitalism is the dark evil force threatening the very existence of “traditional” lives. Activist oriented reflexive anthropology now becomes a consciousness raising device which can bring such dastardly deeds to light, and, in the process, raise the consciousness of those few social science and humanities intellectuals who read the writings of reflexive anthropologists.

Though dialogical anthropologists would like to think they avoid imbalances of power (carnival as a class equaliser), they don't. A number of aspects of power come into play in dialogic anthropological discourse and writings. The ability of many anthropologists to even do fieldwork today in particular locales, is a product, in part, of Western cultural, political and economic “influence” in certain areas of the world. It is no accident that anthropological fieldwork in Central and South America coincided with American political, economic, and cultural influence in Latin America.

Additionally, it must be pointed out that contemporary anthropology exists largely because of the largesse of American governmental and private monies funneled through the universities, research institutes, and government departments. Academics, intellectuals, and civil servants have a curious and ambiguous relation to those who control the money. While they have a measure of intellectual autonomy and can and do criticise the government, institutions and foundations which fund them, in the final analysis these monies often come with a price (silence, research findings that reflect the wishes of their funding sources, aiding the nation-state in some way, shape, or form, aiding the institutions that fund them in some way).

Still, it is in the discursive or rhetorical realm of power where academic and intellectual power really becomes apparent (and often dangerous). Foucault has defined power as the ability to categorise and classify. These classifications are usually binary in form and derive from specific social and cultural contexts rather than from the universal mental schema of oppositions pointed to by Claude Levi-Strauss. Anthropologists and other social scientists have long been able to classify and categorise the “other”, whether this classification has been the “other” as “primitive”, the “other” as “traditional peasant or folk”, or the “other” as an “exploited heroic figure” trapped within the iron cage of capitalist world expansion, and so on. Regardless of the term used to describe the “other”, it is the westerner who categorises the non-westerner. It is the “other” who remains subject to western classificatory practise. These categories always reflect the personal, social, and cultural contexts of the categoriser more than the categorised.

This power to classify and categorise goes beyond the western categoriser/non-western categorised binary, however. Along with western modes of economic operation (private ownership of capital), Western styles of political practise (representational government), Western ways of thinking and living (disneyfornication) are being disseminated to the non-Western world. In the recent past, socialism and democracy, both Western derived political ideologies, long dominated the discursive political life of non-western states. Today it's neo-liberalism (with help from the “philanthropic” World Bank and the World Trade Organisation, of course). Similarly, reflexive dialogical anthropologists bring their discursive frameworks to bear on their fieldwork experiences among “exploited” others. Their rhetoric frames the rhetoric of the “other” they allow to speak.

This doesn't only occur on the level of fieldwork. In university settings it is Western anthropologists who largely control the production, reproduction, and dissemination of anthropological knowledge and practise. Thousands of foreign students are trained in American anthropology departments every year in the proper way or ways of doing and thinking about anthropology. Many students come to the US to study because of the prestige of American universities and the status of American anthropology and its “big men and women” (others come to escape the political or economic “realities” of home). In the process non-Westerners are enculturated and socialised into culturally specific knowledges which they mix (to a greater or lesser degree) with the local knowledges they brought with them. Those newly trained non-Western anthropologists who return home to teach, do research, or to do government service often put this Western derived knowledge to use.

In fact, in many ways it is these discursive forms of power which have proven more difficult to critique and more impossible to escape than the more obvious Western economic and political forms that have impacted the non-Western world. While Western anthropologists and other academics have sometimes been critical of their country's political, economic, and military machinations, and, on occasion, critical of the ideologies that underlie and construct their cultural formation's manichean binary forms, even critical and reflexive anthropologists, like their predecessors before them, often remain trapped within the gilded cage of the binary forms they are (sometimes) trying to escape. Dialogical anthropologists evidence us/them, westerner/non-westerner, me/”other”, subject/object, good/bad, romantic/realist, industrial/traditional binaries just as their predecessors did. They continue to delineate the same things as sacred (fieldwork, wholism, and professionalism) and the same things as profane (armchair anthropology, simulations, and amateurism) as anthropologists in the past. Like their forefathers and foremothers, contemporary anthropologists of every stripe continue to build the discipline on the sinking sand on which Western anthropology was first built—the Western/non-Western binary. In the end I guess it really is true that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Notes and Sources:
In this paper I have been heavily influenced in my approach by Max Weber; Economy and Society: An Essay Outline of Interpretive Sociology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), Michel Foucault; Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (NYC: Pantheon, 1977), Michel Foucault; The Archaeology of Knowledge (NYC: Pantheon, 1972), Jean Baudrillard; Simulations (NYC: Semiotext(e), 1983), and Jean Baudrillard; The Mirror of Production (St. Louis, MO: Telos, 1975).

On the concept of paradigm see Thomas Kuhn; The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970). Of course, most anthropologists shared the notion (or hope) that increasing knowledge and better methods would lead to knowledge nirvana. I would argue that dominant paradigms and dominant symbol systems are synonymous referents to specific modes of practise.

On the concept of the other in cultural anthropology see Johannes Fabian; Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object (NYC: Columbia University Press, 1983). On the concept of the “primitive” see Adam Kuper; The Invention of the Primitive Society (London: Routledge, 1988), George Stocking (ed.); Functionalism Historicised: Essays on British Social Anthropology (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984), Stanley Diamond; In Search of the Primitive: A Critique of Civilization (New Brunswick, NJ.: Transaction), and James Clifford and George Marcus (ed.); Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986). On fieldwork and its centrality to ethnography see George Stocking (ed.); Observers Observed: Essays on Ethnographic Fieldwork (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983). On meaning systems and key symbols see Sherry Ortner; “On Key Symbols”; American Anthropologist, 75:5, 1973, Clifford Geertz; The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (NYC: Basic,1973), Clifford Geertz; Local Knowledge: Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology (NYC: Basic, 1983), Victor Turner; From Ritual to Theater: The Human Seriousness of Play (NYC: PAJ Press, 1982) and Roland Barthes; Mythologies (NYC: Hill and Wang, 1972).
As distinct from the past, there seems to be little regional variation in America in the practise of cultural anthropology today. Different university departments will have their area specialties, of course, but by and large Cultural Anthropology is practised the same everywhere in the United States. What does vary, is the status of departments. Status seems to be dependent on faculty quality (determined largely by research and publications, the publish or perish rite of passage), departmental tradition, numbers and quality of graduate students, departmental financial support, and facilities (library, departmental, university). On variations in cultural capital see Pierre Bourdieu; Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984).

On different types of authority and different types of authority structures see Max Weber; Economy and Society: An Essay Outline of Interpretive Sociology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968).

On orientalism see Edward Said; Orientalism (NYC: Pantheon, 1978) and Said; “Impossible Histories: Why the Many Islams Cannot be Simplified”, Harper's, July 2002. On Eastern Europe as backward other (vis-a-vis civilised and advanced Western Europe, of course) see Larry Wolff; Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment (Palo Alto, CA.: Stanford University Press, 1994). On European conceptions of otherness see Victor Kiernan; The Lords of Humankind: European Attitudes to Other Cultures in the Imperial Age (London: Serif, 1995). On American conceptions of otherness see Matthew Frye Jacobson; Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad, 1876-1917 (NYC: Hill and Wang, 2000). “Orientalism” and “Eastern Europe” were two important categories of “otherness” that became common during the Enlightenment. Both of these types of exoticas remain alive and well today in a variety of “disciplines” including anthropology with its conceptions of the “exotic” and the “primitive” other. It is no accident that East European “peasants” remain one of the few European groups studied by ethnographers. The one aspect of European and North American society anthropologists found it possible to study, by the way, was the culture and social organisation of its “peasant”, “folk” or “aboriginal” societies. These were all seen as “other”, i.e, “pre-modern” or “non-modern”.

On the history of anthropology see George Stocking; Victorian Anthropology (NYC: Free Press, 1987), Stocking; Race, Culture, and Evolution: Essays in the History of Anthropology (NYC: Free Press, 1968), John Haller; Outcasts from Evolution: Scientific Attitudes of Racial Inferiority, 1859-1900 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, revised edition, 1995), Eleanor Leacock; “Marxism and Anthropology” in Bertell Ollman and Edward Vernoff (eds.); The Left Academy: Marxist Scholarship on American Campuses (NYC: McGraw-Hill, 1982), Stocking (ed.); The Shaping of American Anthropology, 1883-1911: A Franz Boas Reader (NYC: Basic, 1974), Thomas Gossett; Race: The History of an Idea in America (NYC: Schocken, 1963), Eric Wolf; “American Anthropologists and American Society” in Joseph Jorgensen and Marcello Truzzi (eds.); Anthropology and American Life (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1974). As Mary Douglas has pointed out (Implicit Meanings (London: Routledge, 1975) another “armchair anthropologist”, Emile Durkheim (himself symbolic of the early boundary permeability between sociology and anthropology since both claim Durkheim as a totem), differentiated primitive thought from western science in his work, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (Emile Durkheim; The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (NYC: Free Press, 1967) and saw the latter as “sacred”.

For an indication of how much the social and cultural anthropology changed relative to the work of the “armchair anthropologists” and it new emphasis on fieldwork as an integral part of anthropology see the work of Bronislaw Malinowski; A Scientific Theory of Culture and Other Essays (NYC: Oxford University Press, 1944) and A.R. Radcliffe-Brown; Structure and Function in Primitive Society (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1965). Malinowski is generally regarded as the “father” of anthropological fieldwork. Interestingly, it was war, specifically World War I, which promoted his own fieldwork in the Pacific. Malinowski, who had been doing fieldwork in Papua, New Guinea in 1914, was, as a subject of Austria-Hungary Empire, an Empire at war with Britain and Australia, not allowed to return to Europe from the British-controlled region during World War I. Instead, thanks to Australian authorities, Malinowski conducted ethnographic research in the Trobriand Islands off the eastern coast of New Guinea during the Great War.

For Boas’s approach see Franz Boas; Race, Language, and Culture (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1940) and Boas; Anthropology and Modern Life (NYC: Norton, 1928). Boas saw societies as evolving toward internationalism. He took stands against war, attacks on civil rights, and warned of the dangers of anthropologist spies in the service of the state. Boas, in Weberian terms, had charismatic, paternal, and bureaucratic authority for his students and most of his peers. This does not mean that there were not territorial disputes and other conflicts between Boas and others in the field.
Ironically several of Boas’s students, Mead, Benedict, and Kluckhohn played leading roles in data collection and data analysis for the American military during World War II and the Cold War. On the academy and wider society see Ellen Herman; The Romance of American Psychology: Political Culture in the Age of Experts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), which, despite its title, explores the role anthropologists and historians, as well as psychologists and psychiatrists, played during World War Two and the Cold War, Laura Nader; “The Phantom Factor: The Impact of the Cold War on Anthropology” in Noam Chomsky, et.al.; The Cold War and the University: Toward an Intellectual History (NYC: New Press, 1997), Judith Coburn; “Asian Scholars and Government: The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” in Mark Seldon (ed.); America’s Asians: Dissenting Essays on Asian-American Relations (NYC: Vintage, 1971), Peter Buck; “Adjusting to Military Life: The Social Sciences Go to War” in Merritt Roe Smith (ed.); Military Enterprise and Technological Change: Perspectives on the American Experience, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985), and David Price; Anthropological Intelligence: The Deployment and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second World War (Durham: NC: Duke University Press, 2008)
Benedict's research on Japanese national character helped McArthur administer occupied Japan (The Chrysanthemum and the Sword). Mead passed on information she knew about the war zone in the Pacific to the American military and wrote a plan to boost national morale (it was later expanded and titled And Keep Your Powder Dry (Morrow: NYC, 1942)) which she saw as the first step in a world wide programme in which social engineers would restructure the cultures of the world (the utopia of the academic social engineers). Kluckhohn had ties to the State Department and had done work or the OSS. Later he worked for the Russian Research Center at Harvard (along with Clifford Geertz, Barrington Moore, Talcott Parsons, and Jerome Bruner, amongst others) which was funded by the Carnegie Foundation with a little help from their friends at the CIA and the US State Department.
“Culture and personality” oriented national character studies became a popular cottage industry amongst psychologically oriented anthropologists slightly before, during and after World War Two. One collection of the published fruits of wartime national character studies can be found in the collection Research in Contemporary Cultures (1953) published at Columbia University. Mead later came to regret her role in government service in the entirely different environment of the 1960s saying “that psychological warfare rebounded on those who perpetuated it, destroyed trust, and simply prepared for later trouble...”, (from a draft of her Blackberry Winter (p. 214) quoted in Herman; The Romance of American Psychology: Political Culture in the Age of Experts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), pp. 173 and 360, n. 80). Perhaps Mead's words will prove prophetic for the 11 September generation as well.
Kluckhohn's Mirror for Man: A Survey of Human Behavior and Social Attitudes (NYC: Fawcett, 1967) has a chapter on applied anthropology, i.e., that branch of the “science of man” which serves as mediator between “natives” and governments, militaries, and industries. This chapter makes note of the roles anthropological “social health” “maintenance” “engineers” performed as employees of the War Relocation Board, the government entity involved with interring Japanese-Americans in concentration camps in the United States during World War Two.

On the necessity for a concept of time in social scientific analysis see, Anthony Giddens; Central Problems in Social Theory: Action, Contradiction, and Structure in Social Analysis (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney; Culture through Time: Anthropological Approaches (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press,1990), and Richard W. Fox; Recapturing Anthropology: Working in the Present (Sante Fe, NM: School of American Research Press, 1991).

For examples of anthropology as mirror to us see Margaret Mead; Male and Female: A Study of the Sexes in a Changing World (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1952), Clyde Kluckhohn, Mirror for Man: A Survey of Human Behavior and Social Attitudes (NYC: Fawcett, 1967), and Boas; Anthropology and Modern Life (NYC: Norton, 1928). For a history of the Boasian anthropology as mirror ideology see Richard Handler; “Boasian Anthropology and the Critique of American Culture” American Quarterly 42 (June 1990). Marxist anthropologists, by the way, had their own version of anthropology as mirror. In “Anti-Kaplan: Defining the Marxist Tradition” American Anthropologist 7 (1975), Stanley Diamond, Bob Scholte, and Eric Wolf, define the purpose of anthropology as the “revolutionary scrutiny of our own society”.

On the problem of time and history in Anthropology see Eric Wolf; Europe and the People Without History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982) and Laura Nader; “Up the Anthropologist: Perspectives Gained from Studying Up” in Dell Hymes (ed.); Reinventing Anthropology (NYC: Random House, 1972).

On activism in Anthropology see Edward M. Bruner, "Ethnography as Narrative" in Victor Turner and Edward M. Bruner (eds.); The Anthropology of Experience (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986), pp. 139-155.

On academia and cultural capital see Russell Jacoby; The Last Intellectual: American Culture in the Age of Academe (NYC: Noonday, 1987), Alvin Gouldner; The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class (NYC: Seabury, 1979), Robert Arnove (ed); Philanthropy and Cultural Imperialism: The Foundations at Home and Abroad (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980, Michel Foucault; The Order of Things (NYC: Pantheon, 1970), Michel Foucault; The Archaeology of Knowledge (NYC: Pantheon, 1972), Michel Foucault; Discipline and Punish (NYC: Pantheon, 1977), Pierre Bourdieu; Homo Academicus (Palo Alto, CA.: Stanford University Press, 1988) and Pierre Bourdieu and J-C Passeron; Reproduction in Education, Society, and Culture (London: Sage,1977).



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