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November 27: Nancy Scheper-Hughes

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ANTH 2200
Victor Barac

Nancy Scheper-Hughes • manifesto for a militant anthropology • multiplicity for multiple truths, anthropologists may be suspending the ethical • Martin Buber ◦ philosopher ◦ development of phenomenology • focussing on objectivity and science and accurate observation, in the process of doing that we’re suspending ethics • growing global census, Western bourgeois hegemonic if you will, defending the rights of women, children, sexual minorities, accused, sick, AGAINST traditional customary law • anthropology has had to dog this moral cape, where anthropology is the “protector” of these various oppressed minority from traditional culture ◦ traditional culture oppresses people ◦ uneasiness adopting this position from her perspective • if you’re adopting this universalistic moral/ethical perspective, at the same time she could be perceived as the enemy, as an imperialist ◦ the oppressor, is the traditional culture, not the protector ◦ same argue from Edward Tylor • “Death Without Weeping” ◦ fieldwork in Brazil, poor shanty-towns ◦ cultural relativism, read as moral relativism, is no longer appropriate to the world in which we live, and anthropology must be ethically grounded ◦ she’s alining two ideas of relativism into one ◦ insinuating that cultural relativism (as moral relativism) as obsolete ▪ posits a universal set of values that are applicable based on ETHICS ◦ emphasizing the moral and ethical aspects above all else ◦ call anthropology’s bluff?, expose it’s artificial moral relativism, and try to create moral and politically engaged anthropologists ▪ moral and political are essentially equated ◦ how did she go from being an anthropologists to a companion? ▪ it wasn’t an act of thinking about it, but her informants coaxed her into it because of their desperation ▪ as a politically committed community organizer, why was I now 20 years later passive to the destruction of the disassociation from right-wing political attacks ▪ What about left wing political attacks? ▪ Miskito, didn’t see eye-to-eye with the indigenous in Nicaragua ▪ Sandinista • cannot be an anthropologist and a companion at the same time, can’t be dispassionate observer and involved in their political struggle • realized this was colonialist, what she was doing • Summarize the arguments of Edward Said ◦ “Orientalism ▪ books used to critique anthropology as a colonial discipline, colonial gaze, etc. ▪ being Palistinian-American, framed that • Talal Asad ◦ “Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter” ◦ one of the major omnibus critiques of anthropology as the hand-maiden of colonialism ◦ comes from an extremely elite privileged background ◦ these people who come from incredibly rich backgrounds, working in the States, becoming the fiercest critics • These are the people who Scheper-Hughes draws on, in the 90s they were very fashionable • arguing that the attention that a work will draw, works that have a moral content, works that are more controversial from a moral perspective, attract more attention than those that are from a scientific perspective • socialist-workers party candidate for president, Brazilian president ◦ elected as a socialist-workers party, left-wing politician ◦ as soon as he gets into power he adopts the conservative, capitalist, brings economic growth to Brazil ◦ is contrary to the moral ideals in which he was elected, how can a socialist economy do so well? • she was a student of the late Hortense Powdermaker ◦ 30s and 40s ◦ studied the deep South, relations between aristocratic whites and the poor blacks ◦ Jewish background, writes about how she had to negotiate her entrance to both groups ◦ “Hollywood,” ethnography of Hollywood ◦ entire system, famous critiques, Pauline Kyle, great reviews, because she did the research, using anthropological critiques, applied it to studying the film industry ◦ system being transformed, more accountants and lawyers taking control of the industry and making artistic decisions ◦ also a socialist, labour movement • pg 411, what makes anthropology exempt from the human responsibility to take an ethical stand because we are privileged to witness them • South Africa, very little research backgrounding this area ◦ Apartheid system coming down, a lot of anthropologists were there ◦ interfering with community means of conflict-resolution ▪ you may not like the way they do it, but that’s how they do it ◦ popular justice, describes her horror at it, this is an example of traditional culture and how it deals with transgressions, swift and violent, against our filtered Western sensitivities • telling us that relativism is a problem, it’s even a bigger problem because now that it’s been reconstituted under post- modernism ◦ architecture ▪ Lyotard ▪ Fredric Jameson ▪ literary critic, philosopher, commentator ▪ Marxist type of tradition, but he’s less doctrinal, closest to an anthropological perspective without working in anthropology ▪ postmodernism is the culture of late-capitalism ▪ recent capitalism, most WWII, post-fordism ▪ Marxist posits a future development of the world, capitalism is going to disappear and be superseded by socialism, and global socialism ▪ postmodernism is about more marginal voices allowed into the discourse, people of colour, women, disabled people, are all more prominent ▪ these grand master narratives about the unstoppable wheel of progress, that’s what they’re rejecting ▪ “Science” growing and will ultimately replace other world views is also rejected ▪ postmodernism represents a de-centering of cultural production ▪ read more from indigenous communities, marginal voices ▪ for many people that was a good thing that the minorities and oppressed have a voice ▪ means that the modernist project was defunct and dead ▪ modernist hasn’t been stopped, still going on, many peoples around the world want modernism, they want schools, institutions, development ▪ it’s not a universalist position among all anthropologists and will be interpreted in radically different ways • Foucault ◦ historian of ideas e s r u o c s i d ◦ ▪ looks at what’s been said about a phenomenon ▪ language-oriented ◦ society is a prison • Derrida ◦ post-modern theorists focussed on language ◦ Of Grammatology • Jacques Lacan ◦ psychoanalyst , Marxist theoretician, linguist-based • referent, the reality to which symbols refer • need empirical techniques • they’re stuck at the signifier, the word or the symbol that is used to represent the referent • studying the phenomena requires work ◦ basis of science • terror is routine, normal, and even expected ◦ if anthropologists’ job is to describe this experience, wouldn’t that just compound the images? • Politics of Representation ◦ almost impossible to be continually conscious of the state of emergency in which one lives ◦ Michael Taussig draws on Walter Benjamin ▪ German literary critic, committed suicide because he couldn’t get out of Europe in the 1940s ▪ wrote this long work on the history of German tragedy ▪ American Anthropology is drawing on literary/language specialists/theorists ◦ this whole postmodern trend is rooted in the school to which Benjamin belonged ◦ Frankfurd School • what we’re involved in is tantamount to living under fascism, and we don’t even know it ◦ the state of emergency is so constant that we’re unaware of it ◦ she’s attacking post-modernism, but it’s not a generic attack, she has one specific beef with post-modernism as it relates to anthropology, and that it has to do with how the contemporary world is conceptualized ◦ for Scheper-Hughes, she says what the post-modernists have done is over-emphasized one aspect of the contemporary social life ◦ view that focusses on flows, not on boundaries and borders, but on crossing these, flow of workers, capital, information ◦ a lot of this comes out of the work of Appadurai ▪ writes about flows, scapes, stop thinking about nation- states and ethnicities as static entities ▪ critical study on ideas of flows ▪ people migrate, people go to different countries, but what percentage of the world is on the go, crosses borders ▪ the vast majority of the world does not, less than 2% ▪ but the post-modernists tell us this is the reali
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