0.178: The Social Production of Science and Anthropology as Knowledge for Domination

The intellectual heritage of European expansion that we inherit as anthropologists – certainly not without modification and criticism – is again the subject in this series. If Immanuel Wallerstein explained which agendas became dominant with the institutionalization of the social sciences, with some notes on why they became dominant, Pierre Bourdieu provides some explanation as to how they became dominant.

What Science?

One of the recurring features of some comments, on this and other blogs, surrounding anthropologists’ criticisms of the Human Terrain System, has been that we critics are not being “scientific” and “objective,” but rather “ideological” and “biased.” As I have held throughout, the dichotomy is an extremely crude and simplistic one. Now we will see how we can take that further: the dichotomy itself is pure artifice, the by product of low grade propaganda that has been popularly consumed in North America, based on views of science that very few even in the natural sciences would any longer dare to defend. The idea that anthropology should be “scientific” and “objective” is also derivative of the Eurocentric foundations of anthropology, as was discussed in previous posts in this series.

The Domination of “Scientific Reason”

As with the opening quote on the “cultural imperialism” of universalism in the last post, Pierre Bourdieu had a similar line of argument on the topic of scientific reason, reminding us that “reason, which thinks itself free from history, also has a history” (Bourdieu, 1991, p. 4). Stating matters more loosely, one can think of Bourdieu as placing scientific production within the context of academic politics:

“Even in the ‘pure’ universe where the ‘purest’ science is produced and reproduced, that science is in some respects a social field like all others–with its relations of force, its powers, its struggles and profits, its generic mechanisms such as those that regulate the selection of newcomers or the competition between the various producers. (Bourdieu, 1991, p. 5)

Scientific production is neither disconnected from the wider society in which it occurs, but it is also not totally reflective of it either. What Bourdieu draws attention to is the quest for authority in science, which is like a game, with established rules, and with competition. What he rightly dispels is the simplistic, popular notion that the science we know, and its products, are there simply because scientific production is true, objective, correct, and proven, without competition from rivals.

The capital of social authority that is influential in science, is capital “which rests upon delegation from an institution, most often the educational system” (Bourdieu, 1991, p. 7). Scientific success can, with time, be converted into social success, in heightening the profile of the university for example, or a unit within it. With more success, and the enhanced profile of the institution, it can happen that an institution acquires status as a leader, as a “prestigious institution,” so that in the future that fact will play a role in judgments of the merits of the science that institution produces – and of course, that does not mean that what is actually produced is entirely and solely deemed important on the basis of abstract scientific principles alone. What Bourdieu calls “strictly scientific authority” (derived from peer reviewers attesting to the legitimacy of solutions to problems that are also held to be legitimate) can also be converted into social authority, and that can impact on the science that is actually produced:

“Strictly scientific authority tends to convert itself, over time, into a social authority capable of opposing the assertion of a new scientific authority. Further, social authority within the scientific field tends to become legitimized by presenting itself as pure technical reason, and also the recognized signs of statutory authority modify the social perception of strictly technical ability.” (Bourdieu, 1991, p. 7)

Part of the reason for this is the fact that membership within the scientific community is predicated on learning, and becoming familiar with, the way knowledge is orchestrated, so that certain problems are defined as true, and others as false, some knowledge is authentically scientific, and other knowledge is fake science, that some methods are legitimate and others are not (Bourdieu, 1991, p. 8). Bourdieu speaks here of a very fundamental form of censorship that plays out in the minds of both orthodox and heterodox adversaries in a scientific game, where both agree to certain rules and schemes, having learned them, internalized them, and now utilize them with little conscious thought (1991, p. 9).

Going further, Bourdieu argues that every “scientific choice” — whether it is a choice of research area, a choice of methods, a choice of where to publish, or when to publish (or whether to quickly publish partially verified results) – is a choice that cannot be understood apart from the relationship between the dispositions acquired by a researcher as a member of a scientific community, and that researcher’s position within the scientific field (Bourdieu, 1991, pp. 9-10). Attention is then drawn to how dominance is achieved in a field, how choices are restricted, and how scientific actors are unevenly endowed with resources accumulated from the past. In addition, Bourdieu argues, the science that is done, and how it is conceived, is itself a product of power:

“Stated more concretely, they [scientific actors] try to impose the definition of science that best conforms to their specific interest, that is, the one best suited to preserving or increasing their specific capital.” (Bourdieu, 1991, p. 13)

Applied Knowledge: Playing the Game of Power

There is a demand for the “applied techniques of rule or instruments of legitimation” so that the requirements for the social reproduction of the powerful can be better assured (Bourdieu, 1991, p. 19). In facing the powerful that rule society, scientists can take different routes, and what happens here is by no means “purely scientific” – one finds it just as easily in the fields of literary and artistic production.

One route is for scientists to restrict their production to what some now call pure or “basic research,” one that does not cater to any outside market, one that markets only to itself. Another is for scientists to offer their services to the dominant powers. A third route allows scientists to avoid confrontation with their competitors by instead addressing themselves to a broader public of nonprofessionals. From that link with the public, they can derive a form of symbolic power which they can then attempt to bring back into play in the realm of scientific debate itself (Bourdieu, 1991, p. 19). As Bourdieu concludes:

“Claims to scientific validity can no doubt hide claims to symbolic domination, and scientific debates can no doubt conceal, underneath the confrontation between statements and reality, the struggle for power of those who put them forward.” (Bourdieu, 1991, p. 20)

The History of Scientific Reason in Anthropology: The Myth of Primitive Society

The victory of science in the rise of early anthropology was manifested in the “comparative point of view,” a view that, “rests on a recognition that there are physical and cultural differences among human populations which must be taken into account in any attempt to generalize about mankind” (Rowe, 1974, p. 61). Generalizing about humanity meant that humanity first had to be ordered and categorized, in order for there to be a science of humanity. As Rowe explained, “it is anthropology’s recognition of the scientific importance of such differences which chiefly distinguishes it from other disciplines concerned with man and human behavior” (Rowe, 1974, p. 61). It was a science primarily rooted in European expansion, the voyages of discovery, and Renaissance archaeology, a science that demanded perspectival distance in order for difference to be perceived and then “explained” (Rowe, 1974, p. 76).

Demonstrating some of Bourdieu’s propostions above, Adam Kuper (2005) provides us with a short  history of scientific reason in anthropology, noting its contending fields of origin, with the early anthropology of the mid-1800s emerging from law, philosophy, and (speculative) history. As an emergent discipline, anthropology made use of Darwinian evolutionism as capital, even if the appropriation was often superficial. Anthropology’s ancient ape was the idea of a universal, primitive other, the bedrock of all human existence. It is a myth, a “scientifically” validated myth, validated by men who took bits and pieces of the theory of evolution – meaning that the myth has been held by scientific anthropological and social authority as a legitimate answer to what were deemed legitimate questions (within the framework of evolutionism). The problem here is that Kuper appears to rely on the idea that there is a pure science somewhere from which one can criticize those “myths” that are in fact held to be scientific by its upholders. This is not really then about science versus myth, but emergent science versus subsequent science, or, following Bourdieu, between orthodox science and heterodox science.

To begin with, Kuper takes special aim at a construct of cultural evolutionism, whose influence has been pervasive throughout anthropology and multiple forms and theories, that being “primitive society”:

“The whole conception is fundamentally unsound. There is not even a sensible way in which one can specify what a ‘primitive society’ is. The term implies some historical point of reference. It presumably defines a different type of society ancestral to more advanced forms, on the analogy of an evolutionary history of natural species. However, human societies cannot be traced back to a single point of origin. Nor is there any way of reconstituting prehistoric social forms, classifying them, and aligning them in a time series. There are no fossils of social organization.” (Kuper, 2005, p. 5)

Kuper emphasizes that “the history of the theory of primitive society is the history of an illusion. It is our phlogiston, our aether” (Kuper, 2005, p. 10). And why is it that “anthropologists have busied themselves for over a hundred years with the manipulation of a myth” (Kuper, 2005, p. 10)? First, Kuper explains that,

A common way of accounting for the persistence of a myth is to suppose that it has political functions. Certainly the idea of primitive society could and did feed a variety of ideological positions. Among its most celebrated protagonists were Engels, Freud, Durkheim and  Kropotkin, men with very different political programmes.” (Kuper, 2005, p. 10)

Secondly, important political events in the colonial world also impacted on anthropologists’ need to devise certain politically suitable scientific explanations:

“British and American commentators on primitive society were also reacting to a variety of political events. The Morant Bay rebellion in Jamaica, and the Civil War in the United States revived earlier debates on slavery. Arguments about slavery in turn raised the great question whether human beings all had a common origin, or whether the races were separate species, with different ancestors. These issues divided Victorian anthropologists, and they formed two warring associations, the Ethnological Society of London and the Anthropological Society of London. The development of the Indian Empire and the colonisation of Africa raised further fundamental questions, about the nature of government, and of civilisation itself, which were heatedly debated in anthropological circles. In Germany, speculations about national culture and the Volksgeist fed the common belief that societies were based either on blood or on soil, but these romantic ideas were contested by liberal anthropologists in Berlin. In short, while the idea of primitive society was relevant to a number of great political issues, it was not necessarily associated with any one political position.” (Kuper, 2005, pp. 10-11)

On the Anthropological Society of London: Science and Race

Applying elements that we can see in Bourdieu’s approach, with the discussion of the history of the Anthropological Society of London, we can discern the creation of scientific authority, and the importance of social authority, in the invention of anthropology as a science. In 1863, the Anthropological Society of London was formed and “joined the ranks of England’s scientific institutions” (Rainger, 1978, p. 51). As Rainger tells us, that society was founded “with the object of promoting the study of Anthropology in a strictly scientific manner” (1978, p. 51). Unlike its predecessor, the Ethnological Society of London which Rainger claims avoided discussion of religious and political issues, “the Anthropological Society consciously mixed science and politics” (Rainger, 1978, p. 51). In particular, the Anthropological Society’s apparent fixation with race, and its justification of racist policies through racist theories, reflected the influence of the founder and president, Dr. James Hunt. (While Rainger says the ESL avoided politics, the fact remains that it was itself an offshoot of a political organization, the Aborigines Protection Society – see here for more details.)

[You can download a public domain volume of the Journal of the Anthropological Society of London published in 1869, or view it online. There is an excellent comprehensive collection of publications of the Anthropological Society of London that have been digitized by Google, and are all free to download from this page, consisting of The Anthropological Review, The Popular Magazine of Anthropology, and Memoirs Read Before the Anthropological Society of London.]

Hunt’s “personal scientific and institutional ideals” marked the influence he had on the development of the Anthropological Society of London (Rainger, 1978, p. 53), reminding us of Bourdieu’s observation that the struggle for power is imbricated with claims to scientific validity. He imposed his particular scientific definition of anthropology to suit his specific interests, using scientific authority to bolster his social authority. His work in relation to the wider society seems to blend two of Bourdieu’s approaches to applying anthropology, one by providing the supporting rationale for campaigns of conquest, and the other by trying to speak to a broader public in attracting interest to his Society, in its own campaign for primacy. In its explicit “scientific” racism, the ASL was the British counterpart of the American School of Ethnology, a society for which Hunt had obvious respect.

Let us keep in mind that the ASL was not a marginal, fringe organization in the founding of what later become institutional anthropology. Edward Burnett Tylor, who became the first Professor of Anthropology at Oxford, was a foreign secretary for the Anthropological Society of London. (Online, see his Primitive Culture and Anthropology: An Introduction to the Study of Man and Civilization.) Moreover, the ASL and ESL were later fused in what became the Royal Anthropological Institute that we know today, now a professional body for institutional anthropologists, for the most part.

In defining anthropology, Hunt declared that it is,

“the science of the whole nature of Man. With such a meaning it will include nearly the whole circle of sciences. Biology, anatomy, chemistry, natural philosophy, and physiology must all furnish the anthropologist with materials from which he may make his deductions. While Ethnology treats of the history or science of nations or races, we have to deal with the origin and development of humanity. So while Ethnography traces the position and arts of the different races of Man, it is our business to investigate the laws regulating the distribution of mankind.” (Hunt, 1863, p. 2)

With an eye on supplying “practical benefits,” Hunt even proposed an early version of military anthropology:

“How many thousands of our soldiers’ lives would be saved annually if we studied temperament in the selection of men suitable for hot and those for cold climates?” (Hunt, 1863, p. 3)

The luster of science, at the very start of anthropology’s climb toward professional status, and its initial dependence on the good will of the public to achieve its climb, is evident in Hunt’s remarks:

“Let us, then, show that we too can be earnest in our study, as well as the geologists or the astronomers. But let it be known we are as yet only groping in the dark, and know not yet what to study, or hardly what facts we want to get, to found our science. We have not only to found a science of Anthropology, but we have to do what we can to form some anthropologists….We have faith in the thinking public, and know that we shall be supported as long as we keep faith with them.” (Hunt, 1863, p. 19)

What the ASL also achieved, that was enduring in anthropology beyond the life of this particular society, was to imprint the discipline with a belief that indigenous peoples were destined to extinction, either in biological or cultural terms – and now that their expected disappearance is a grand failure, some of us elaborate theories to explain why they should not even be called indigenous (see for example, Kuper, 2003). One small sample of what the ASL published in the extinctionist vein can be found in T. Bendyshe, “On the Extinction of Races,” Journal of the Anthropological Society of London, 1864 (pp. xcix-cxiii). “The higher races are destined to displace the lower,” said a Professor Waitz, quoted by Bendyshe,

“This extinction of the lower races is predestined by nature, and it would thus appear that we must not merely acknowledge the right of the white American to destroy the red man, but perhaps praise him that he has constituted himself the instrument of Providence in carrying out and promoting this law of destruction. The pious manslayer thus enjoys the consolation that he acts according to the laws of nature, which govern the rise and extinction of races.” (quoted in Bendyshe, 1864, p. c)

Museumizing the World: The Luster of Science, the Quest for Capital, and Service to the State

Anthropology as the pre-professional, public practice of a budding science, would succeed in legitimizing itself in part by imposing order on chaos. “Rare, abnormal, bizarre” freaks and curiosities collected by travelers would be stabilized in an ordered scheme of understanding. This is better explained by Jenkins (1994, pp. 242-243):

“In contrast to these fragmentary collections, emerging natural history museums in the late nineteenth century functioned to sort the world systematically into drawers, glass-fronted cases, bottles, and filing cabinets. This represented a shift from delighting in the world’s strange offerings and the appeal of subjective involvement to an attempt to master and control the world’s diversity through new forms of conceptualization….Based on scientific notions of classification, spurred by the Darwinian reorganization of evolutionary theory, and increasingly connected to universities and government surveys, natural history museums abandoned many of the aesthetic and mystical criteria that had previously determined the arrangement of objects. Instead, these museums began to emphasize the summary relationships among objects, the sense that this or that specimen metonymically suggested a larger and coherent whole, and the idea that a general understanding of the world could be inferred adequately by a collection of things removed from their context of origin.”

Some museums mounted public displays, presumably for public education, but also for profit, and either deliberately or indirectly provided a testing ground for an emerging anthropology, as a “proof of concept” program one might say. In Wondrous Difference, a superb book on world’s fairs, ethnographic spectacles, and the rise of visual ethnography, Alison Griffiths details the negotiations that took place between anthropology, popular culture, and commerce in attempting to strike the right balance between education, spectacle, and profit (2002, p. 47). Franz Boas himself, the “founding father” of institutional anthropology in the U.S., was also involved in putting natives on display at the Chicago World’s Fair, the Columbian Exposition, in 1892-1893, his first fieldwork conducted under the auspices of a museum. In the sense of Bourdieu’s three routes to power for scientists, early anthropology was “applied” to begin with, by catering to a broad public as it then began to claim scientific status in search of a permanent home:

“If world’s fairs served to launch the public face of anthropology to a vast popular audience, they also evoked anthropology’s uncomfortable doppel­ganger, popularized exhibits such as ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show’ and other for-profit spectacles that, to the untrained eye, may have looked no different from the officially sanctioned displays of native peoples.” (Griffiths, 2002, p. 47)

Other prominent anthropologists were tied to world’s fairs, such as Harvard’s

“Peabody Museum anthropologist Frederick Ward Putnam…designated director of Department M (which included anthropology) at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and his job involved overseeing exhibits housed in the Anthropology Building (including mannequin life groups, photographs, material artifacts, and anthropometric equipment) as well as the ethnological exhibits and concessions found on the Midway Plaisance.” (Griffiths, 2002, p. 49)

One observer went as far as asserting in 1902 that “World’s fairs are necessary to the proper study of mankind” (Griffiths, 2002, p. 49). To some degree, anthropologists acted as entrepreneurs, seeking the attention of those who would fund them, and provide them with a stable home in a university.

The rhetoric of anthropology was first employed for commercial advantage, while making the public more familiar with the emerging field of anthropology (Griffiths, 2002, p. 48). “Some mid-nineteenth-century museums, such as P.T. Barnum’s American Museum in New York City, were run solely for profit,” Jenkins (1994, p. 243) tells us, “catering to a popular taste for the exotic and curious.” Indeed, P. T. Barnum, the founder of the circus company, put on shows such as the “Congress of Nations” and the “Ethnological Congress” (Griffiths, 2002, p. 55). The early American museums of natural history and ethnology “sought to collect, order, and display objects of the world….part of a general trend to objectify and, hence, dominate on a grand scale the world and its inhabitants” (Jenkins, 1994, p. 243). What Jenkins also notes is that the “search for profit and knowledge…found a similar institutional form” (Jenkins, 1994, p. 243). “Sanctioned by science but designed by commerce, as Griffiths puts it (2002, p. 61), ethnography was a hybrid at the intersection of “scientific research” and popular amusement, producing a spectacle that reinforced white supremacist ideals.

One could develop a genealogy of early institutional forms of anthropology. This would connect early freak shows in London and Paris, to subsequent world’s fairs and commercial ethnographic exhibitions, to museums, and then only lastly, actual departments of anthropology. Likewise, one may find family resemblance in a variety of spectacles:

“Comparable places of spectacle such as zoos, botanical gardens, circuses, temporary or permanent exhibitions staged by missionary societies and museums of natural history, all exhibited other races — other species — and testified to the imperialism of 19th-century nation-states. (Corbey, 1993, p. 338)

Thus a number of studies link social Darwinism with imperialism, nationalism, commerce and science, through the nexus of categorization and display. Jenkins’ approach to this subject links colonialism and classification, science and display, in a discussion of American anthropological practices that developed in the late 19th century. What I took to be his most poignant, summarizing statement from his survey was this:

At stake in the physical arrangement of objects was the relationship between knowledge and power, between an interpretation of the world and the means to justify that interpretation. By offering visible evidence–a ‘theater of proof’–of the natural progress from savagery to barbarism to civilization, for example, museums and expositions linked science with the concerns of American imperialism. In this way, ethnological displays validated the utopian projections of many late-nineteenth-century elites–those who, in concert with federal funding, supported by government surveys, and backed by the prestige of science, produced an interpretation of social reality dependent upon theories of racial development, national progress, and, in some instances, the ultimate disappearance of native peoples.” (Jenkins, 1994, p. 257; emphasis added)

One question we need to ask ourselves is to what extent we have really shed the history of collecting, organizing, and displaying others, both for profit and to buttress our theories of the world. Not even the argument that we no longer put on commercial spectacles in public is a safe one, to the extent that we sell anthropology through our own specialized retail outlets: universities. For others, the way to exhibit ethnography to the paying public is via the ever more popular medium of ethnographic film. (And there is no moral superiority here: I write this as someone who is as much a player as anyone else.)


Bendyshe, T. 1864. “On the Extinction of Races.” Journal of the Anthropological Society of London: xcix-cxiii.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1991. “The Peculiar History of Scientific Reason.” Sociological Forum 6 (1): 3-26.

Corbey, Raymond. 1993. “Ethnographic Showcases, 1870-1930.” Cultural Anthropology, 8 (3): 338-369.

Griffiths, Alison. 2002. Wondrous Difference: Cinema, Anthropology, and Turn-of-the-Century Visual Culture. New York : Columbia University Press. (Ch. 2, “Science and Spectacle: Visualizing the Other at the World’s Fair,” pp. 46-85.)

Hunt, James. 1863. “Introductory Address on the Study of Anthropology.” The Anthropological Review, 1 (1) May: 1-20.

Jenkins, David. 1994. “Object Lessons and Ethnographic Displays: Museum Exhibitions and the Making of American Anthropology.” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 36 (2): 242-270.

Kuper, Adam. 2003. “The Return of the Native”. Current Anthropology, 44 (3): 389-402.

Kuper, Adam. 2005. The Reinvention of Primitive Society: Transformations of a Myth. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge. (Ch. 1, “The Myth of Primitive Society,” 3-19)

Rainger, Ronald. 1978. “Race, Politics, and Science: The Anthropological Society of London in the 1860s.” Victorian Studies, 22 (1): 51-70.

Rowe, John Howland. 1974. “The Renaissance Foundations of Anthropology.” In Regna Darnell, ed., Readings in the History of Anthropology, pp. 61-77. New York: Harper & Row.

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46 thoughts on “0.178: The Social Production of Science and Anthropology as Knowledge for Domination

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  3. frenchguy-comingbackfromthesideshow

    Hi Max.

    Before I make more rigorous comments, I wanted to share this :

    This essay had me thinking about the great Tod Browning’ Freaks .
    I am wondering in what extent this story could stand as a metaphor for the ultimate decolonization of anthropology. The murderous white man (the self-proclaimed “able-bodied”) becoming one of the “others”, certainly despite his will, and in a truly horrible moment for his sentiment of self-worth :

    “One of us ! One of us !”


    1. Maximilian Forte

      I was looking in the wrong direction, since you mentioned “man” and “his” — it’s the woman who becomes transformed. I am not sure if I follow, or if I would see this as an apt metaphor. For one, it suggests that decolonization means becoming dehumanized, through violence, and while there are some who celebrate such a gory vision of revenge, it merely turns the tables, without ending the game. In this film, a woman who mocks freaks, becomes a freak, but freakness is retained intact…it just has a new member. Secondly, it might be decolonization if one thinks of that entirely as the colonizer’s loss of power over the other, but then that does not necessarily mean that the colonizer joins the ranks of the formerly colonized (although, again, in this film if you mean that the freaks are the colonized, they seem to remain colonized).

      Anyway, this looks like a grim movie. Do we need equivalently extreme solutions as we see here? Maybe, if we were still in the mid-1800s, and the work of some anthropologists in harvesting human remains and dissecting “freaks” such as Sara Baartman was still respected and not uncommon. Even then I am not sure.

      Before I go further, I really wanted to hear from you about why you thought this might work as a metaphor, because I am certain there is something/a lot that I am missing.

      1. frenchguy-comingbackfromthesideshow

        Yes, I was myself not sure in what extent it was an apt metaphor, for the reasons you outlined (although I could not have formulated it that clearly). As you said, that kind of change would just be about having one new dehumanized object, without ending the ghaslty game.

        My reason for thinking of it as a working metaphor is that, if anthropology is a kind of freak show, taking humans as its “objects”, then, even if one changes the “objects” under study, it nevertheless remains a dehumanizing freak show.

        I might be wrong (you’ll tell me), but it seems to me that, if “anthropology” is necessarily a colonial science, or a knowledge for domination, where one kind of humans takes another kind of humans as its “object”, then “decolonizing anthropology” necessarily leads to a contradiction (if not just a reverse dehumanization).

        As you stated, with support from Lévi-Strauss, a truly decolonized anthropology would (or should ?) certainly not even be recognizable as “anthropology”.
        No more freak shows rather than merely one more freak in the show.

        Sorry about that grim and confusing comment. :)

  4. Jeremy

    Great post again, Max.
    I’ve heard this appeal to “objectivity” a lot lately, particularly as a critique of “activist” or “advocacy” anthropology as opposed to “participatory” anthropology. What’s most astonishing to me, though, is that it comes from defenders of HTS or anthropologists who work for US Gov’t agencies! Do they really think that military embedded anthropologists or state funded anthropologists can be “objective”? At the very least, activist anthropologists acknowledge their biases and take the time to think out the ethical implications of their work.
    It really bothers me that there seems to be a large group of anthropologists – particularly in the up-and-coming generation – who are not familiar with the history of the field.

  5. Stacie

    I don’t know why this never crossed my mind before: If universities are about education, why do they focus on recruiting “smart” people? What a spectacle! Maybe they’re just looking for the “easiest” customers.

    On the video: you mean that you’d prefer we NOT violently disfigure you, Max? Joking!

    I think the comparison is interesting. Once she becomes “one of them” she’s just as much a target of ridicule. They remain “freaks,” with the same domination. BUT, the “freak” or “fool” is important to consider because the group we’re discussing holds its power through claims to knowledge and intelligence. Here’s another clip, from the movie Revolutionary Road. The son, at the far left, is out of the mental institution for the day, having a meal with his mother, father, and another young couple. Here, the “insane” gains his power by speaking the truths no one wants spoken. I wonder if this offers a middle-ground, a way to avoid “playing into the game” completely but retain a degree of personal power:

    (a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8I-56Xyr0Bw&feature=player_embedded”>link)

    On anthropologists not knowing the history of the field, it may even be that they KNOW some of the history but can’t, or refuse to, see it in the present. The might say: “These people were products of their time. We understand that it’s wrong to objectify people and market the exotic to the world. We don’t do that anymore today. And if we ARE caught within a certain historical worldview today, there’s nothing we can do about it. Does that mean we shouldn’t practice science?”

    I think Max’s post points to something slightly more timeless. Why they use certain terms and tactics is not wholly an “accident” of history and culture. Deliberate choices are being made for personal gain, and for power over others…. Some achieve a university degree for better salary, better credentials, better leverage … Or gain a seat in Congress to control the course of world events… Or “sell” HTS to the public as a way to make war more acceptable and *seemingly* conscious of social and cultural impact …

    It’s temping to say that we should take the same power for ourselves and use it “for good,” to directly make the changes we want to see in the world, but IMO that only sustains the situation of domination, with *you* now in charge.

    But consider, alternatively, a salesperson who spends all his time ranting about the products’ faults. He’s being supported by the company (maybe not for long!) and holds a position of power, with fancy marketing tools at hand, but isn’t using them for marketing. Rather, he’s undermining the company from within. If he CAN convince people to stop buying the product, or at least stop falling for the deceptive marketing tricks, the company loses its superior selling-power. At least something like this might be a start in the right direction for anthros.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Yes, it’s official, you and Jeremy have now succeeded in both depressing me and “freaking” me out. The two sets of videos are linked by the way…with Leonardo di Crapio serving as the link (in more than one way too), but that’s just a personal opinion.

      More seriously, I think that what the bulk of our subject matter is a huge part of the problem. This will stand out more once I get to Vassos Argyrou’s very challenging book, in coming posts. My view is that all along what we have really been studying is “empire”, and we are experts on it, from the inside, and through reflections in others. It would be like the organizers of ethnological spectacles in the 1800s realizing that, after all, what they are experts on is not “Pygmies” and “Eskimos,” but rather they are experts on the entertainment industry, on voyeurs and flaneurs. Argyrou seems to think the kind of “difference” we have studied is impossible to actually understand, and that anthropology is thus impossible. I am thinking that may be true, as long as we see ourselves as students of “difference.” Moreover, since we are as enveloped in empire as anyone else, and empire harms at home as it harms abroad, one would think that we too have a stake in analyzing how empire works at home, with the hope that it can lead to some action or change that makes its more global workings less tenable.

  6. harold

    I followed the link to the quotation of professor Waitz in the essay on extinction and I found that you had abbreviated the first sentence which begins: “According to the teaching of the American school, the higher races are destined to displace the lower …

    The sentence following “The pious manslayer thus enjoys the consolation , etc” reads: “Such a theory has many advantages: it reconciles us both with Providence and the evil disposition of man; it flatters our self-esteem by the specific excellence of our moral and intellectual endowment, and saves us the trouble of inquiring for the differences existing in civilization.” In other words Professor Waitz does not agree with the “theory of the American school” (presumably the supporters of the Confederacy who upheld slavery). Whereas your quotation makes it look as if both Waitz (who I guess is a German, since Bendyshe mentions a translator) and the author, T. Bendyshe, advocate the extermination of the Indians and are without irony in calling the slayers of Indians “pious”. When in fact the opposite is the case.

    The “scientific” racism of Hunt and other people at this time is revolting and deplorable. But people deserve to know the history of it in an honest and accurate manner. When you wrest quotations from their context this way to make them seem to say the opposite of what in fact they do say, you seriously harm your own credibility and insult your readers.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      “you seriously harm your own credibility and insult your readers”

      Do statements always need to be so dramatic and hostile because they are posted on the Web, by characters who needlessly choose anonymity? By your own account, “your quotation makes it look as if” — and do you understand what that statement does? It introduces doubt, and raises the issue of perception and opinion. So instead of rushing to make a severe statement, what an intelligent person does then is to pause, and ask a question rather than make a declaration.

      The fact of the matter is that I went to the “trouble” of providing the complete original, to accompany the article, so anyone who wants the full treatment, can read that. (So much for “insulting” my readers. As for the credibility issue — leaving aside that it’s news to me that I had any — anyone who generalizes from one item to cover many thousands, loses credibility in turn.)

      Nothing I said in the actual piece asserts belief on the part of Waitz. Here, read it again:

      “One small sample of what the ASL published in the extinctionist vein can be found in T. Bendyshe…“The higher races are destined to displace the lower,” said a Professor Waitz, quoted by Bendyshe”

      That is factually correct.

      (1) It is an extinctionist argument.
      (2) It can be found within a piece published by the ASL. In fact, that is where I found it!
      (3) The ASL’s Hunt was very sympathetic towards the American School, and this statement shows the kind of logic for which he had sympathy.
      (4) It was Waitz writing, and Bendyshe quoting. This is simply citing sources.
      (5) It is a small sample — there is much more, strewn throughout ASL publications, that repeats those ideas and many more like them, positively and in agreement. Yes, it would have been better to choose them instead, to avoid any ambiguities, and in any future versions of this piece I would in fact present a broad survey.

      So you have no case, when you seemed to really want to have one.

      The American School, for your benefit, refers to the American School of Ethnology, led by figures such as Nott, Gliddon, and Morton. I know you are interested in accuracy, so please do not inject inaccuracy here.

  7. Jacky V.

    Thank you for a very thought provoking piece! I would love to engage in a discussion of it but I am submitting my comps (anthro at UdeM) on Monday! But I will try to come back and make more specific comments in the next few weeks.

  8. harold

    Wow. I seem to have hit home.

    I am not making “a case” for anything but accuracy. I am well aware that Hunt was a terrible racist and that his society was the epicenter of the so-called “scientific” racism that had such dire consequences. The fact remains, however, that you chose a particularly terrible and deplorable quote about the race slayer being the instrument of Providence and omitted the sentence before and the sentence after that would have made it clear that the speaker was being ironic.

    I ought to have acknowledged that you yourself provided valuable references for people to check up on your accuracy (which I will certainly be inclined to do from now on).

    Still, your answer to me is not appropriate. You ought to say “Oops, perhaps I picked the wrong quotation” to illustrate my point, but there are many others of that nature: for instance…… and then provide a better one.

    I continue to be very interested in this topic which is the reason I subscribed to your blog in the first place ( and believe it or not you are just as “close to anonymous” to me as I am to you. It is up to you to maintain your own reputation through what you write and how you respond when queried).

    I will continue to look at it from time to time for the excellent references, but from now, especially after your response to me on this, on I will take what you say with a grain of salt.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      You should always take what anyone says with a grain of salt. Then to improve on that critical stance, what you should also do is hold your own propositions with a greater sense of self-doubt, as you seemed to initially, except that now it has become a game, where you have “hit home.” I certainly do respond to, and correct, any charge made on this blog that I believe to be baseless or incorrect. If that seems defensive, so be it.

      The point is that your comment does not touch on any of the substantive issues. I suppose if these long forgotten, mostly unknown characters, Bendyshe and Waitz, were the focus of this essay, along with their reputations, then you might have been making a more appropriate remark. Instead, you seemed to have missed the point — I really don’t know which “home” you think you hit, but it seems to be one that is well outside of this essay.

      I appreciate substantive engagement with the ideas of a post. When it gets petty, adversarial and pointlessly forensic, I lose interest in expressing anything other than my disdain. If you have something to say that actually addresses an essay, feel free to post your messages. Otherwise, you are wasting my time, especially if I have to re-explain that you misinterpreted what I wrote. You say I misrepresent those authors (when I treat the message, and not the authorship, as central) and then you proceed to misrepresent my work. This is supposed to be edifying, is it?

      In the meantime, you should learn not to immediately lunge for the jugular, over what is essentially a footnote. To take this to the level of “credibility” and reading into it an “insult to readers,” demonstrates what appears to be a knee-jerk reaction that favours hyperbole and engages in sweeping generalizations. That too, by the way, is an insult to readers. It would also damage your professional credibility, but you shield yourself with anonymity — and no, I am not as anonymous, I actually have a name and a background that can be openly checked. A simple test if you are confused: you know you are anonymous if you have something to lose, but choose not to put it into jeopardy.


  9. harold

    Why do you allow anonymous comments if you feel it allows people to unfairly “shield” themselves behind them? The fact is, I would still be anonymous to you if you knew my name, and I didn’t know you were a professor until I looked it up. It amazes me how intolerant Professors are to being fact checked. Res ispa loquitur.

    I was very upset when I looked up that quote (upsetting in itself) and found it had been misrepresented to make it seem even worse. I get it that you seem to think you covered yourself adequately by merely noting that it was the kind of thing “published” in that magazine and by providing a link to the source. Obviously, I don’t agree.

    I take your point however, that perhaps I could have expressed myself more tactfully (but the same is true for you in your hyperdefensive response). So I hereby apologize for allowing my disappoint to be so evident.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Harold, hopefully you are not what some would call a “one trick pony,” because you seem stuck on your original “Aha!” moment of self-validation in finding a reference you thought was fudged.

      Am I intolerant to being fact checked? Not at all. I believe you promised you would now check all my facts, and I hope that means across everything I have written, both here and published in print. When you have completed that task, I would be grateful for your report. You put a question mark on my credibility as a whole, now it is your duty to answer the question you have posed. Remember your point about accuracy: it’s neither accurate nor logical to say “Hey, ambiguously written reference here! Credibility as a whole in doubt!”

      I think you take anyone defending their work to be “hyperdefensive.” This, even when the commentary I am reacting to is unnecessarily offensive. Judges also get judged in this game.

      In any event, my disappointment is in seeing all this conversation about something that does not even address the substance of this essay. I believe the pretty distraction, the detour into fly swatting, is deliberate, and that’s what disappoints me more than anything else. In fact, I won’t allow it to continue beyond this point.

  10. Maximilian Forte

    …and one point, for those who may be (now) missing it, is not what a Waitz or a Bendyshe believed or agreed with, but rather the nature of extinctionist arguments favoured by scientific racists, and that achieved prominence in organizations such as the Anthropological Society of London under James Hunt. The broader point beyond that concerns the “secret” marriage of science with politics, that has always been present in anthropology, and the manner in which “science” was used to bolster authority and hoist the hopes of anthropologists for institutionalization. On an even wider plane, we see more of the context in which anthropology emerged, along some of the lines that Wallerstein described, but going into more particular detail about early anthropological work as imperial science and spectacle.

  11. Stacie Gilmore

    mmm… gotta love that salt. better yet, MSG.

    For whoever’s interested, the book Not Quite White: White Trash and the Boundaries of Whiteness by Matt Wray also discusses science as knowledge for domination, esp. in American eugenics.

    Clearly, I can’t reproduce the whole book here, but here are a few quotes:

    “Early race scientists, such as the ethnologists of the American school, rose to prominence through their characterizations of “inferior” racial types such as Africans and Indians, offering a scientific basis for the ideology of racial supremacy. If, in 1850, professional scientists in this rising class were obsessed with inventing and classifying the nature and meanings of boundaries of racial difference, by 1880 they had shifted focus. Cutting-edge research no longer focused on the differences between races, but instead on recognizing and delineating differences withinraces. Presumably this was because, by 1880, racial science had established beyond scientific doubt the racial inferiority of people of color.” (Wray 76)

    “By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, the rhetoric and scientific research of eugenic reformers began to focus more intensely on feeblemindedness as a social problem and a social burden. The feebleminded, once thought to be the responsibility of community almshouses and charities, were increasingly figured as a national problem.” (Wray 83)

    “In southern states, the combined effect of these studies was to direct reform efforts and funds toward rural areas and to focus on the poor whites in those regions as the population most in need of care and control. Professional associations such as the short-lived but influential Committee on Provision for the Feeble-Minded and the American Association for the Study of the Feebleminded were enormously effective in getting out the message that combating the menace of feeblemindedness in the South required a swift expansion of state institutions to provide the expert care and control that local charities and almshouses could not (Trent 1994; Noll 1995). Anything less than the permanent, total institutionalization of the feebleminded was characterized as a half-measure that would result in further increases in the delinquent, dependent, and defective population.” (Wray 89)

    “[T]he growth of segregated and institutionalized populations spurred and enabled further growth in the young professions dedicated to caring for and controlling them; the early part of the twentieth century saw massive growth in the fields of medical psychology and social work (Walkowitz 1999). Reformers followed a logic of containment that resulted in the expansion of their authority and power. However, many within and outside these professions saw permanent institutionalization as both an imperfect solution and an unnecessary financial burden to the state, and movement toward another less costly and more radical solution began.” (Wray 89-90)

    They go on to discuss compulsory sterilization. Also interesting are the sections on the role of field research (experts sent out into the field to document the problem) with some really… *interesting*… kinship charts using the following symbols: “N=normal, F=Feeble-minded, Sx=Sexually immoral, A=Alcoholic, I=Insane, Sy=Syphilitic, C=Criminalistic, D=Deaf; d.inf.=died in infancy, T=Tuberculosis. Hand points to child in Vineland Institution” (Wray 87).

    Wray, Matt. Not Quite White. Durham: Duke UP, 2006.

  12. Stacie Gilmore

    And from Frank W. Blakmar in the American Journal of Sociology, 1897, “a Johns-Hopkins-trained professor of history and sociology at the University of Kansas” who “based his claims on a study of two family groups living in the vicinity of Lawrence, Kansas” (Wray 77):

    Considered in themselves, from the standpoint of individual improvement, they seem scarcely worth saving. But from social considerations it is necessary to save such people, that society may be perpetuated. The principle of social evolution is to make the strong stronger that the purposes of social life may be conserved, but to do this the weak must be cared for or they will eventually destroy or counteract the efforts of the strong. We need social sanitation, which is the ultimate aim of social pathology. (Wray 79)

    Wray, Matt. Not Quite White. Durham: Duke UP, 2006.

  13. Pedestrian

    I’m sorry this is unrelated to your post, but I’ve been unsuccessfully searching your blog and thought I’d ask:

    a few months back, there was a piece on here regarding the social media hype in Iran. There was a number there (something like 27% of Canadians know about Twitter) which was used as a comparison. I tried looking for that old post but couldn’t find it. I would greatly appreciate a lead.

    thank you,

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    1. Maximilian Forte

      Having now read the article, I was interested in seeing Goodman (re)placing Bourdieu within the very same contexts and structures…as the rest of us of course. Unlike Goodman, I never understood Bourdieu’s theories as hinging either entirely or primarily on his fieldwork in Algeria, and that includes his Outline of a Theory of Practice, which she focuses on seemingly a lot more than all of his other texts. Most North American anthropologists who have read Bourdieu, often seem to have read that volume alone. Moreover, they also claim Bourdieu as a member of their discipline, which he was not.

      When it comes to the subject of this essay, scientific reason, Bourdieu did fieldwork every day of his life as an academic. Given the kinds of interests that I have in this area, I always like to joke with colleagues who ask me “When are you going to ‘the field’?” and I answer, “I am in it right now. Keep talking, I’m taking notes.” Therefore I agree that this article, to the extent that it is accurate, does not negate his argument, but I am not sure that it speaks to credibility either. Bourdieu, like many others, drew on many sources for his theories, not just his “fieldwork”. In terms of positioning Bourdieu within the colonial regime, yes, that is very valuable, but it does not speak to his credibility — or at least I remain open to being convinced of this. We are all internal to imperialism, we all play our roles within it, and as critics we act as virtual defectors. Likewise, some of the most scathing and damning critiques of the CIA and American imperialism have been written by those who served long years in the CIA, or in the U.S. military. That tends to boost their credibility. Having said that, I would not class Bourdieu as a leading critic of colonialism and colonial ethnography, and perhaps Goodman and I are in agreement on this.

      Anyway, not to worry, there are no “Bourdieuophiles” here — he simply explained better what I wanted to say, and did so before I, and on the basis of a broader range of experiences and observations. On the other hand, Franz is not my Papa either — I had not read a single word of his when I entered anthropology as a graduate student.

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  17. MTBradley

    Unlike Goodman, I never understood Bourdieu’s theories as hinging either entirely or primarily on his fieldwork in Algeria, and that includes his Outline of a Theory of Practice, which she focuses on seemingly a lot more than all of his other texts.

    Oh, I think practice theory (capitalized?) hinges very much on his Algerian fieldwork and I think her target in the article is not everything he did but rather practice theory in particular (see also the recent Bourdieu in Algeria) The closing sentences of the body say unusually well what she is trying to get at: “Beyond simply challenging the historical and ethnographic material on which Bourdieu’s analysis is based,then, this article calls for renewed attention to the ways in which ethnography is made to mediate between fieldwork and theory in such a way that the latter is generally privileged. Perhaps it is time to reevaluate the relationship between these three foundations of our discipline.”

    In terms of positioning Bourdieu within the colonial regime, yes, that is very valuable, but it does not speak to his credibility — or at least I remain open to being convinced of this. We are all internal to imperialism, we all play our roles within it, and as critics we act as virtual defectors. Likewise, some of the most scathing and damning critiques of the CIA and American imperialism have been written by those who served long years in the CIA, or in the U.S. military. That tends to boost their credibility.

    Bourdieu in the work cited in your original post is certainly very credible in the “key informant” sense. Distinction is his best work because of his own biography—he was in the field throughout his academic life, as you say. But I meant credible in the courtroom sense. A jury may doubt a seemingly knowledgeable witness’s testimony because he or she is a turncoat. I watched Fog of War and was unmoved. McNamara’s sharing of his knowledge and emotions doesn’t resurrect anyone.

    On the other hand, Franz is not my Papa either — I had not read a single word of his when I entered anthropology as a graduate student.

    Oh, don’t be so sure. ¿Y tu abuela dónde está?, as they say in Puerto Rico.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      No, really, I am quite sure Boas had no influence whatsoever on my decision to enter anthropology, regardless of what they say in Puerto Rico.

      “A jury may doubt a seemingly knowledgeable witness’s testimony because he or she is a turncoat.”

      Lawyers seem to rely heavily on the testimony of one criminal against another, fellow criminal. It seems to be a tactic that sways juries. As long as Bourdieu was an academic, his hands were not clean of what he described. There is credibility, and then there is sainthood. Nobody here is arguing that he was a saint.

      I don’t think of practice theory as grounded theory either, it owes a lot to previous theoretical developments, in place well before Bourdieu was even born, let alone going to Algeria.

  18. Maximilian Forte

    I should add that I agree with Goodman’s repetition of calls to “rethink” the relationship between “fieldwork,” “ethnography,” and “theory”…that and much more of course.

  19. MTBradley

    There is credibility, and then there is sainthood.

    There is ‘expertise’ and there is ‘trustworthiness’; these are the two senses of credibility to which I refer.

    No, really, I am quite sure Boas had no influence whatsoever on my decision to enter anthropology, regardless of what they say in Puerto Rico.

    What they say in Puerto Rico is that regardless of your presentation of self you have an African ancestor. My point is not whether or not knowledge of Boas’ work influenced your choice to enter the discipline but rather that anthropology is a house that Boas helped build and ipso facto a member of the current household is Boas’s legatee. I’m not saying you have to like the guy that left you your trust fund but I do think it’s a little rude to claim the inheritance and disclaim the guy that willed it to you.

    I don’t think of practice theory as grounded theory either […]

    Unfortunately a lot of people do. It is popular among many archaeologists for precisely the reason that it gives the appearance of being rooted in empirical behavior.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Interesting comments MTBradley.

      Boas may have been a “founding” figure in American institutional anthropology — of course, he was not, it’s rather the agents and interests that made the space for him to occupy that founded institutional anthropology — but he is not a founder of anthropology as such. He was neither its beginning nor its end.

      I read tons of Marx before I entered anthropology. The anthropologist who most influenced Marx was Lewis Henry Morgan. If there is any indirect influence from an anthropologist — and I have disliked cultural evolutionism since almost the first day I encountered it in the guise of modernization theory — then that recognition belongs to Morgan. The two sets of anthropological work I had read before entering anthropology were those of Michael Taussig and Marshall Sahlins. I don’t actually know if Taussig was trained as an anthropologist, being confused by his position teaching performance studies, but again his work was explicitly in the Marxist tradition. Sahlins began as a cultural evolutionist — there it is again, Boas’ nemesis — and as a neo-Marxist.

      I don’t claim Boas’ inheritance. Nor am I dismissing him, otherwise he would not even be mentioned in my essay. You seem to think I owe him something, and I do: I owe him thanks for setting an example for speaking out against anthropologists working as spies, and I thank him for providing me with material to work against, such as “salvage ethnography.” He is also a useful common reference, so his persona becomes an instrumental vehicle for communicating with other anthropologists. However, none of us owe the discipline to him, unless you are a proud American nationalist who thinks of all anthropology as American anthropology, and all American anthropology as institutional anthropology. I think you might want to see me paint myself into some corner over this Boas legacy stuff, and it’s just not going to happen.

      The whole point of this post is to get beyond the personalities and the mythical hero stories. Boas did not establish anthropology, simply because he had no such power. He did the right things in begging for attention, and he got it. Thanks?

  20. Donald S.


    Are we all slaves now? Perhaps it was meant jokingly as I hope it was, to command loyalty to some deceased fictive ancestor and to speak in terms of a bequeathed trust, a house, and a legacy. Bizarre sense of entitlement there, ascriptive and retroactive. If anthropology has any future at all, it will be entirely thanks to the diminishing number of students who still join our ranks, against better judgment and in the absence of good advice. The discipline’s existence owes them all of the thanks. It’s not the other way around. I can see another reason, however, as to why our numbers fall: if one takes a pompous and arrogant tone toward students about their duties and what they owe, to still their tongues and deaden their minds, with the only reward being a degree in a field that will get them nowhere, then they have every perfect reason to desert.

    Please accept my apologies Max, as you know I prefer email, even more now that you have said certain things about anonymity. But I was too disgusted by what I read here not to intervene. If someone has no argument against those of Bourdieu or anyone else, then don’t comment. This is mush, being repeated by two commenters now, about credibility and trustworthiness and expertise. Show us your better argument, and why you know more and know better, or get lost.

    Maybe it’s a good sign: raw nerves that you’re finding and playing with.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      It’s also interesting to see how heated this is getting, real politics of knowledge at play here, with courtrooms, battles over trust funds, etc. No apologies are necessary, I welcome your intervention. The only thing is that if this is how it is now, absolute hysteria will erupt once I get to the later posts. This is the polite stuff, so far.

  21. Alex Miller

    “I read tons of Marx before I entered anthropology. The anthropologist who most influenced Marx was Lewis Henry Morgan. If there is any indirect influence from an anthropologist — and I have disliked cultural evolutionism since almost the first day I encountered it in the guise of modernization theory”

    Because cultural evolutionism was okay the first time you really encountered it, which was as Marxism. No instead you waited for it to be incarnated as mod. theo. before finding anything to object about it. Typical.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Typical? Just to clarify, and good of you to notice, but bad of you to express yourself with such snark — once I encountered modernization theory, I worked “backwards” from it to Marxism and cultural evolutionism proper, and then forward from it to the current counterinsurgency dogma. I am not a Marxist and have no need to shelter or defend Marxism from anything, not even powerfully snide and snippy comments.

  22. Maximilian Forte

    Donald, I also meant to say that it seems a bit sterile to me to argue in this manner. If someone were to convincingly point out the mortal flaws in Bourdieu’s argument, for example, then that argument is no longer credible. It does not lose credibility because someone, like Jane Goodman, has led others to believe that practice theory only works as long as Bourdieu got his Algerian fieldwork right. No, it works to the extent that many others have been able to work with the same theory elsewhere.

    I don’t care if Bourdieu bit the heads off of kittens, spanked old ladies on the butt with a newspaper, or even completely made up his fieldwork, the only “Algeria” he had ever gone to was a cafe by that name. None of that is remotely relevant here. The only credibility that is relevant, is the credibility of the argument, not the person. I don’t “trust” the argument, nor do I care for authority — I like the argument because it resonates.

  23. Alex Miller

    Sorry I didn’t express myself clearly. When I said “you” I should have said “us”, which would have been less like personal snark. I mean in universities Marxist profs tend to go easy on Marx and say he was a “product of his time”. Then when they get to mod. theory, they let loose on Eurocentrism, evolutionism, teleology, you name it. Nothing personal was intended.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      I see your point now, and I agree fully. It almost sounds as if we were students at the same university — that phrase, about Marx being “a product of his time” is precisely the same one I heard in a lecture, designed to lessen the impact of his sometimes gross Eurocentrism, racism, and linear evolutionism. Too bad I fell for that, for a time anyway.

      Recently, the same argument has been made by Robert Lawless, concerning Malinowski, in a CounterPunch article critical of Montgomery McFate. He was a “product of his time”.

      Yes, so is McFate a product of her time, our time.

  24. Stacie Gilmore

    On “product of their time,” I agree.

    The *theory* classes that I remember (esp. literary theory, cultural theory) tended to lay out theories/ideologies chronologically, in *periods* of development.

    And isn’t it funny how, after we’ve elevated these individuals and their ideas and stressed broader historical ties, they actually do start to *seem* representative of time periods, serving as excuses for their own beliefs and actions.

    …. When, often during the same time periods, others were making radically different claims, even if not within anthropology / science / theory. That’s another reason why, in my opinion, getting anthropology away from these ridiculous cannons of figureheads would be a huge step forward.

    example: While many U.S. social scientists and eugenicists in the late 1800s/early 1900s were building a foundation for compulsory sterilization of certain segments of the population, a lawyer for a woman slated to be sterilized was making an argument to the Supreme Court (Buck v. Bell) not far from Max’s main emphasis on science as knowledge for domination:

    He added that the real danger was not from the feebleminded but from the professional doctors … ‘We will,’ he warned, ‘have established in the state the science of medicine and a corresponding system of judicature. A reign of doctors will be inaugurated and in the name of science new classes will be added, even races may be brought within the scope of such a regulation and the worst form of tyranny practiced.’ (Wray 93)

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Many thanks for these and previous notes you shared, especially since there is a really vast history offering so many examples, that I cannot mention most even in passing. Eugenics, sterilization, etc., are very clearly examples of science applied for the purpose of domination.

  25. Stacie

    Correction: *canons* … although, a case could probably also be made for two *n*s, given what some of the ideas have spawned / justified …

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