Intro to Anthro #09 – it’s a wrap: Gillian Tett, nukes and other cool stuff.

And we’re done. I read, and blogged, a 400 page text book while in quarantine. The plan is to keep that habit (if not tempo) up over the coming 67+ days that I am out in the unReal World that is the world’s biggest country town (Adelaide).

Section 5 – “Anthropology in the World” was the shortest.

Eve Mackey kicked off with some good stuff on the myths Canadians use to elide landgrabs and worse. As an Australian, and as a “non convict stain” South Australian, I’m interested in these sorts of myths – the civilizing mission, the noble savage in the terra nullius (yes, I know).

She writes

“The analysis offered here explores the construction of dominant forms of Canadian national identity, and does so as part of a broader goal: to understand how Western projects of identity function in terms of culture, difference and power. I engage in what Asad calls ‘an historical anthropology which takes Western cultural hegemony as its object of inquiry’ (Asad 1993: 24) and what Chakrabarty (1992) calls ‘provincialising Europe’ and the West. Such an anthropology interrogates the ‘radically altered form and terrain of conflict’ 0 the ‘new political languages, new powers, new social groups, new desires and fears, [and] new subjectivities’ – that characterise Western modernity (Asad 1991: 322-323). (p.384)

Later she observes

“Meanwhile the hegemony of the market becomes stronger, the ‘white backlash’ grows louder, and marginalised populations have fewer and fewer choices. The important question for me in this context is not ‘How does dominant power erase difference?’ but rather, ‘How might we map the ways in which dominant powers maintain their grip despite the proliferation of cultural difference?’ Further, it is important to ask how ‘threatening’ and ‘dangerous’ differences are contained, controlled, normalised, stereotyped, idealised, marginalised and reified.” (p.386)

Am a big fan of Gillian Tett’s work. In the excerpt from the introduction to the second edition of her work on the quants, “Fool’s Gold” she observes

“Sometimes such a silence is maintained through overt strategies devised by members of a social group. They can consciously choose to hide facts, as part of a plot. But on many occasions, Bourdieu observed, social silences arise less deliberately, as a result of patterns of social conformity or shared ideology and assumptions – for example, about the ability fo the market to regulate itself. And it is at this semi-conscious level that the most insidious types of social silence develop; insidious particularly when they serve the interest of one particular group.Or, as Bourdieu wrote: “The most successful ideological effects are those which have no need of words, and ask no more than a complicitous silence.” In many ways, the tale of the boom and bust of credit is exemplary.” (p.390)

Should probably watch Inside Job and The Big Short again.

Nice piece on Organ Donatio , Genetics, Race and Culture and looking for the wrong answers to the semi-right questions because your categories are fuzzy/wonky. Need to read it again to really get it though (not a function of lack of clarity on the authors’ party, just I am not always that bright. So it goes.)

Sarah Franklin’s short excerpt on “The Anthropology of Science” is good, but would have benefitted from quoting Kurt Vonnegut – “Scientific truth was going to make us so happy and comfortable. What actually happened when I was twenty-one was that we dropped scientific truth on Hiroshima.”

Hugh Gusterson has a good piece on “The Second Nuclear Age” –

“Although the Cold War brought about a substantial US military presence in many countries around the world, the ethnographic literature on Turkey and the Philippines, for example, barely mentions the huge US military bases in those countries. Meanwhile, anthropological writing on American culture during the Cold War scarcely references the fact that the US was engaged in a project as remarkable in its own way as the Egyptians’ building of the Pyramids: the stockpiling, at a cumulative expense of $5.5 trillion… rationalized by ideologies as bizarre as any we have ever discovered in rainforests and jungles, of enough nuclear weapons to end all life on earth many times over.” (p.401)

A bit surprised there was no reference to this brilliant article

Carol Cohn. 1987. Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals. Signs Vol. 12, No. 4, Within and Without: Women, Gender, and Theory (Summer, 1987), pp. 687-718 (32 pages)

In W(h)ither Anthropology David Marsden argues that if anthropologists want to be useful/credible/whatevs,

“This requires the transcendence of the disciplinary boundaries that currently constrain us (and all the social sciences), and which have only emerged in the last hundred years. It also means a greater focus on particular histories and contexts that can then be jointly crafted into emergent paths. For me, that is what anthropology has always been about. I think we need to legitimize ‘anecdotes’ and ‘value judgements’ by foregrounding ‘storytelling’ and identifying the (often implicit) values in all e-value-ations.” (p.407).

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