Part Two of: “Canadian Anthropology or Cultural Imperialism?”
“today numerous topics directly issuing from the intellectual confrontations relating to the social particularity of American society and of its universities have been imposed, in apparently de-historicized form, upon the whole planet. These commonplaces, in the Aristotelian sense of notions or theses with which one argues but about which one does not argue, or, put another way, these presuppositions of discussion which remain undiscussed, owe much of their power to convince to the fact that, circulating from academic conferences to bestselling books, from semi-scholarly journals to expert’s evaluations, from commission reports to magazine covers, they are present everywhere simultaneously, from Berlin to Tokyo and from Milan to Mexico, and are powerfully supported and relayed by those allegedly neutral channels that are international organizations (such as the OECD or the European Commission) and public policy think tanks”. (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1999, p. 41)
Galtung on Academic Imperialism
Forty-five years ago, Johan Galtung provided some of the building blocks for a theory of academic imperialism that ought to have served as a caution to academics outside of the US imperial centre. In his “structural theory of imperialism” (Galtung, 1971) wrote of the means of production (the economic sector), the means of destruction (military sector), the means of communication/transportation, and the means of creation (the cultural sector) (p. 92). Galtung held that cultural imperialism derives its effects from economic imperialism (p. 91), noting that the varieties of imperialism (political, economic, military, cultural, etc.) can reinforce each other (p. 88). His basic definition of imperialism was explained in these terms:
“Imperialism will be conceived of as a dominance relation between collectivities, particularly between nations. It is a sophisticated type of dominance relation which cuts across nations, basing itself on a bridgehead which the center in the Center nation establishes in the center of the Periphery nation, for the joint benefit of both. It should not be confused with other ways in which one collectivity can dominate another in the sense of exercising power over it”. (Galtung, 1973, p. 81)
Of the relationships between centre and periphery, Galtung identifies two primary ones: a vertical interaction that is primarily about extraction and inequality, and a feudal interaction that helps to maintain that inequality primarily by the imperial nation’s monopolization of all significant external interactions of the peripheral nation. This can be seen in cases of nations that are almost obsessive in their subservience to US foreign policy and to the importation of US products, with the US also serving as their primary export market.
For Galtung (1971, p. 93), cultural imperialism is restricted to the sphere of teaching and learning, what others would later call academic imperialism. What matters, in Galtung’s formulation, is not so much the division of labour between teachers and learners, but that the teachers and learners are in different locations—the teachers are in the centre of the system dominated by the imperial power, and the learners are in the periphery. The centre provides the teachers and defines what is worthy of being taught. The periphery provides the learners, and those who flatter and encourage the centre on what it teaches, and create demand. Galtung argues that this pattern “smacks of imperialism” (1971, p. 93).
Describing a process of extraction, Galtung produces an outline of scientific colonialism that seems to describe the norm of US anthropology at least from World War II onwards:
“In science we find a particular version of vertical division of labor, very similar to economic division of labor: the pattern of scientific teams from the Center who go to Periphery nations to collect data (raw material) in the form of deposits, sediments, flora, fauna, archeological findings, attitudes, behavioral patterns, and so on for data processing, data analysis, and theory formation (processing, in general) in the Center universities (factories), so as to be able to send the finished product, a journal, a book (manufactured goods) back for consumption in the center of the Periphery—after first having created a demand for it through demonstration effect, training in the Center country, and some degree of low level participation in the data collection team. This parallel is not a joke, it is a structure. If in addition the precise nature of the research is to provide the Center with information that can be used economically, politically, or militarily to maintain an imperialist structure, the cultural imperialism becomes even more clear. And if to this we add the brain drain (and body drain) whereby ’raw’ brains (students) and ’raw’ bodies (unskilled workers) are moved from the Periphery to the Center and ’processed’ (trained) with ample benefit to the Center, the picture becomes complete”. (Galtung, 1971, pp. 93-94)
Two years later, Diane Lewis (1973) made similar observations about anthropology, explicitly building on Galtung’s framework. Galtung’s work is also particularly significant in the history of US anthropology, because he was among the first to seriously describe and analyze aspects of the militarization of US anthropology in the Cold War era, specifically around the time of the Vietnam War, and played a key role in exposing Project Camelot. What is also significant is that he is neither a US academic, nor an anthropologist—but rather a Norwegian with an exceptionally wide network of colleagues throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
“Knowledge is known as a good thing,” Galtung wrote in 1967, “but in human affairs it is not immaterial how that knowledge was acquired” (p. 13). In this earlier article on scientific colonialism, Galtung described it as the “process whereby the centre of gravity for the acquisition of knowledge about the nation is located outside the nation itself” (1967, p. 13). This colonialist relation is achieved by the following means—though I am not sure this was ever intended to be an exhaustive list:
“One is to claim the right of unlimited access to data from other countries. Another is to export data about the country to one’s own home country to have it processed there and turned out as ‘manufactured goods,’ as books and articles. This is essentially, as has been pointed out by the Argentinian sociologist Jorge Graciarena, similar to what happens when raw materials are exported at a low price and reimported at a very high cost as manufactured goods. The most important, most creative, most enterpreneurial, most rewarding and most difficult phases of the process take place abroad, in some other nation”. (Galtung, 1967, p. 13)
Galtung warned us about the politics of social science research in an imperial system: “Social science knowledge about a small nation in the hands of a big power is a potentially dangerous weapon. It contributes to the asymmetric patterns already existing in the world because it contributes to manipulation in the interests of big powers” (1967, p. 14). He added: “social science is today a potential political tool of great significance. The entry of social scientists in another country is a potential political action” (Galtung, 1967, p. 14).
Bourdieu & Wacquant: Imperialism Misrecognized as Universalism
Pierre Bourdieu and Loïc Wacquant begin their 1999 article with the basic statement that, “cultural imperialism rests on the power to universalize particularisms linked to a singular historical tradition by causing them to be misrecognized as such” (p. 41). It’s a basic statement in the sense that it is on this that they build their argument against cultural imperialism in academia, and specifically about Americanization via academic imperialism. Their article, not surprisingly, received very hostile responses from a number of US academics, particularly those whose research was carried out in Brazil, and especially from those named by Bourdieu and Wacquant in their article (French, 2000, who called the piece “hysterical”, p. 109; also, Hanchard, 2003; Lemert, 2000), joined by some UK academics in some of their criticisms (Venn, 1999), while others offered more sympathetic exegeses of the work (Friedman, 2000; Robbins, 2003), and some are vaguely in between (Werbner, 2000), even if still essentially offering apologia for empire. The impression is that Anglo-American academics were generally left reeling in shock by the “polemical blast” of their article (Venn, 1999, p. 61). Did Bourdieu not say he viewed sociology as a combat sport? Clearly Bourdieu and Wacquant had violated an academic taboo in referring to US imperialism directly, and its academic imperialism in particular (French, 2000, p. 108)—for more on this taboo, see below. However, note that Galtung made similar arguments decades earlier—so clearly a blanket of silence had been draped over the Western social sciences in the intervening years, and it is largely still in place, thanks in part to the obfuscatory works of US anthropologists on “globalization” (for example, Appadurai, 1990; Tsing, 2000). Also noteworthy: this debate transpired outside of any anthropology journals, and mostly in one journal alone: Theory, Culture & Society which emerged from Teesside Polytechnic in the UK during the Thatcher years, thus peripheral and in a precarious situation.
Imperialism: The Unspeakable Word in US Anthropology
That discussion of imperialism, and particularly US imperialism, is basically absent in US and US-dominated anthropology is a fact. It is not difficult to prove, just as it is not difficult to prove that this silence/silencing has transpired since the 1970s. Up until the 1970s, it was not difficult—rare, but not impossible—to find anthropology journals publishing articles with the word “imperialism” at least in the title. However, since Kathleen Gough was purged—and relocated to Canada—contemporary Western imperialism itself as a subject of study in US anthropology largely disappeared with her exile. The current taboo is manifest for example in the works that seek to define the state of knowledge in “the discipline” (singular anthropology, which itself is already a hegemonic move). Here are some examples:
The forthcoming Wiley-Blackwell International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, edited by Hilary Callan, travels from “Immigration” straight to “Inbreeding” (screen capture).
The 2015 conference of the AAA had a keyword index that skipped from “Immigration” to “Incarceration,” and not even the “Interventions” keyword featured any presentation dealing with the geopolitical form of intervention (link, large screen capture).
The Annual Review of Anthropology—while lacking any article titled “The Anthropology of Imperialism”—presents a somewhat more complicated case. According to the publisher, there are 107 articles that have some connection with “imperialism” (link), and two that feature the word “empire” in the title, neither of which deals with US imperialism however (see Apter, Sinopoli).
For its part, the International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences has two articles dealing with imperialism. The biggest exception in all of the social sciences in the English language is of course the newest: The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism, edited by Immanuel Ness and Zak Cope.
Books published by US and UK anthropologists provide few exceptions. Clearly, David Harvey (English) who was housed in an anthropology department until he retired, and his former student, the late Neil Smith (Scottish) in anthropology at CUNY, both published books on imperialism and US imperialism in particular—these are two of the major exceptions (Harvey, 2003; Smith, 2003). Another UK anthropologist, Jeremy Keenan, published The Dying Sahara: US Imperialism and Terror in Africa (2013). Also, Bases of Empire, edited by Catherine Lutz (2009), is certainly an approach to the study of US imperialism (or “empire”), focused on the military and pursuing a generally non-Marxist-Leninist interpretation of imperialism. David Vine’s Island of Shame (2009), also discusses US imperialism specifically, but again primarily through the lens of military bases. Otherwise, collections such as Imperial Formations (Stoler et al., 2007) focus exclusively on the past, and on every imperial formation apart from the US. Given that the AAA alone boasts of having around 11,000 members—this is not a robust body of scholarship by any means, even if this is just a very basic “literature review” attempt. Courses specifically about US imperialism, in US anthropology, are as far as I can tell non-existent.
Imperialism: The Internationalization of US Paradigms
Bourdieu and Wacquant deal with both the political-economic and the epistemic dimensions of US academic imperialism. The political-economic aspect is of lesser prominence in their article, but important for spotlighting the role of philanthropic foundations, conferences (what Bourdieu called academic stock exchanges and import-export markets), publishers, scholarships, and university training in spreading US paradigms. The epistemic side features more prominently, and focuses on how “globalization” came to prominence in the Western academy—and in US anthropology—as part of the neoliberal march of the 1990s and the rise of US military and financial unipolar supremacy. Bourdieu and Wacquant take exception with the term “globalization,” which “has the effect, if not the function, of submerging the effects of imperialism in cultural ecumenism or economic fatalism and of making transnational relationships of power appear as a neutral necessity” (1999, p. 42).
More than this, Bourdieu and Wacquant tackle the internationalization of US paradigms, which are misrecognized as universal by being divorced from their US socio-historical origins and particularities. The US has thus created an “international lingua franca” that ignores local particularities, and they point to various examples of the “symbolic dominion and influence” exercised by the US (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1999, pp. 43-44, 45). The authors argue that what is most “exceptional” of the US is “its capacity to impose as universal that which is most particular to itself [black-white racial dichotomy] while passing off as exceptional that which makes it most common [upward class mobility]” (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1999, p. 51).
US symbolic dominion today does not come about as a result of a brute imposition, in most cases. Instead, US paradigms become locally dominant outside of the US, thanks to various “carriers” and their relations of dependency with the US, which retains the power to consecrate its local acolytes. Researchers in the dominated countries derive “material and symbolic profits…from a more or less assumed or ashamed adherence to the model derived from the USA” (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1999, p. 46). Here Bourdieu and Wacquant broach the subject of collaborating elites, the “mystified mystifiers”. They argue that “symbolic violence is indeed never wielded but with a form of (extorted) complicity on the part of those who submit to it,” noting that the “globalization” of themes of US social doxa, its “more or less sublimated transcription” in semi-scholarly discourse,
“would not be possible without the collaboration, conscious or unconscious, directly or indirectly interested, of all the passeurs, ‘carriers’ and importers of designer or counterfeit cultural products (publishers, directors of cultural institutions such as museums, operas, galleries, journals, etc.) who, in the country itself or in target countries, propound and propagate, often in good faith, American cultural products, and all the American cultural authorities which, without being explicitly concerted, accompany, orchestrate and sometimes even organize the process of collective conversion to the new symbolic Mecca”. (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1999, p. 46)
Cultural imperialism, Bourdieu and Wacquant wryly observe, is also never more successful, “never imposes itself better,” than “when it is served by progressive intellectuals” (1999, p. 51). By helping to “globalize” US theories, what these local and foreign “progressive intellectuals” achieve is to verify and legitimize the US belief in globalization, and US supremacy.
How could we ever really challenge this US supremacy, if in our very teaching and learning practices we basically abide by this dominance and help to reproduce it? Suddenly, this is not such an “academic” question any longer.
Putting US Anthropology Back into (Social) History
Thomas Patterson’s 2001 volume is useful to understanding the historical conditions that produced US anthropology, and the manner in which the knowledge produced refracts US social divisions, as are others dealing with various European imperial anthropologies (see also Tilley & Gordon, 2007). Matters routinely taken for granted, such as the foundation and purpose for doing ethnography (ethnography is for studying savages), who were the first full-time ethnographic researchers (colonial officers), and what constitutes an “anthropological question” (find out the dominant social discourses first), are fully brought to the fore in such works. While summarizing Patterson’s richly detailed text is beyond the scope of this article, a compendium of summaries/commentaries offers greater detail to readers.
Perhaps the most basic and essential significance of Patterson’s text is that it compels the reader to understand that there is no general, socially free-floating anthropology—anthropology in the US is very much US anthropology, and it betrays all the signs of its social, political, and economic moorings, down to which questions it asked, when, and why. “Race” was never naturally a subject of interest that automatically became a part of anthropologists’ purview—it was made to be that way. The same is true of a very wide range of so-called “anthropological topics”. What follows from this is that there is no inherently anthropological question, and no topic that is inherently anthropological. Therefore when a subject is completely occluded or excluded in US anthropology it is not necessarily due to its inherent lack of “anthropologicality,” but is usually more a function of the politics that structure the discipline.
Some brief examples from Patterson’s text may be useful here. First, when did the nature-culture debate first become pressing in the US, and under which pressures? Were academics the ones to initiate the debate, for internal, academic reasons, out of purely scholarly interest? No, instead much of this had to do with proving the viability of the US as a new nation, and as one that was not a credit risk to international lenders:
“In the wake of the Revolution, it was imperative for the Americans to assert not only their national identity but also their capacity to develop a civil and political society that was morally superior to those of the European countries. At the same time, they had to refute the arguments of eighteenth-century writers—such as the influential French naturalist, Georges Louis Leclerc, the Comte de Buffon (1707–88)—who asserted the inferiority of the New World, its inhabitants and their societies. Buffon and his followers raised a political question of vital importance. Would the American experiment fail because of the obstructions imposed by nature? It was essential for the American envoys—such as Benjamin Franklin (1706–90), James Madison (1751–1836) or Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)—to refute Buffon and his followers….in the 1770s and 1780s if they were to obtain sorely needed financial assistance and credit in Europe. They had to show that nature was neither hostile nor immutable in the Americas and that the United States was indeed a good risk”. (Patterson, 2001, pp. 7, 8; see also p. 15)
If access to foreign capital markets was significant in propelling the debate, and making it urgent enough to command public and official attention, it is not surprising that insurance companies would also play a critical role in moving physical anthropology and particularly anthropometry. Patterson describes the work of academics for the US Sanitary Commission during the Civil War, a predominantly elite, upper-class organization seeking to justify its purpose, and whose “expenses were underwritten in substantial part by insurance companies. Along with other medical and anthropometric studies made in the nineteenth century, they were quickly used by insurance company statisticians to establish the empirical foundations for differential premium and rate structures based on race and to verify their necessity” (Patterson, quoting Haller, 2001, p. 21).
While almost every US president in the new country’s first century of history played some direct or indirect role in shaping US anthropological research, some left a lasting legacy that would later be wrongly attributed to the influence of key academics. While Franz Boas is routinely credited for proposing “salvage ethnography,” the idea first came from Thomas Jefferson (who would become the third US president) in 1785, a century before Boas became an academic. Jefferson, who along with others actually engaged in salvage ethnography, justified it on these very familiar grounds:
“It is to be lamented then … that we have suffered so many Indian tribes already to extinguish, without having previously collected and deposited in the records of literature, the rudiments at least of the languages they spoke. Were vocabularies formed of all the languages spoken in North and South America, preserving their appellations of the most common objects in nature, of those which must be present to every nation barbarous or civilized, with the inflection of their nouns and verbs, their principles of regimen and concord, … it would furnish opportunities for those skilled in the languages of the old world to compare them with these … and to construct the best evidence of the derivation of this part of the human race”. (Jefferson quoted in Patterson, 2001, p. 10)
In 1786, then US president George Washington also asked Ohio’s government agents to collect Indian vocabularies in order to “throw light upon the original history of this country,” to draw connections between North America and Asia, and in showing the “affinity of tongues,” proving that human differences were superficial (Patterson, 2001, p. 11). In 1819, former president John Adams proposed a similar effort to collect data on indigenous languages in the US (Patterson, 2001, p. 11). It is interesting to see how much that is taken for granted as anthropological history, is in fact presidential history.
Patterson aside, others in the US have been critically aware of the imprint of US social history and US hemispheric domination on the composition of the seminal texts in US anthropology. One key example is the work of Lewis Henry Morgan, whose concern for “the Iroquois decline” was to an important extent framed in terms of the lessons that could benefit “the American republic” (Hinsley, 1985, p. 37). Morgan was also worried about how territorial expansion might weaken the coherence of federation, “with the recent Mexican war and current North-South debates clearly in mind”—for Morgan the lesson to be learned from the Iroquois focused on the need for occupation, not just conquest (Hinsley, 1985, p. 37). (However, it seems unclear why Morgan would need the Iroquois to tell him that “truth,” that he should have already known as a settler.) In Morgan’s The League of the Iroquois, Hinsley critically observes that, “his version of their history largely exculpates Whites, and his description of Iroquois merits corresponds closely to the values of his culture” (1985, p. 36).
Early US anthropology, Hinsley concludes, provided “the vital intellectual and psychological support for economic and political hegemony over the hemisphere” (Hinsley, 1985, p. 39). Similarly, Kehoe (1985, p. 41) argued that, “traditional American ethnology was shaped by larger ideological metaphors reflecting and supporting contemporary Anglo-American economic-political structure”. When we, in Canada, call this anthropology “anthropology”—singular and universal—it is also this, particular, ideological support that we are actually importing and reproducing.
In Morgan, we even have precedents for the language of “flows” that came to dominate the US anthropology of globalization, another recent import into anthropology in Canada. Morgan spoke of “the flow of population” with “augmenting force” when speaking of white conquest and colonization. As Hinsley notes, there is “a soothing softness” in Morgan’s euphemistic use of “tide,” “flow,” and “wave” when describing what was actually “murder, exploitation, and destruction of entire peoples” (Hinsley, 1985, p. 36). The language of “flows” in US globalization studies performs an identical role, as Bourdieu and Wacquant recognized, in euphemizing US imperialism and neutralizing its impact.
There is also a substantial amount of historical data to suggest the possibility that without the Rockefeller Foundation, there may well not have been an anthropology in US universities as we know it. There is nothing of the universal here—simply highly situated determinations of capital and its political upholders.
Rockefeller Capital: Making US Anthropology Possible
“Foundation personnel neither carry rifles into combat in support of United States overseas expansion nor do they actively support counter-insurgency training for American forces….The foundations’ contribution to American foreign policy has been mainly in the cultural sphere, and over the years they have perfected methods whereby their educational and cultural programs would complement the cruder and more overt forms of economic and military imperialism that are so easily identifiable”. (Berman, 1983, p. 3)
The support given by various US foundations to a range of educational institutions and programs around the world, “cannot be understood apart from particular historical circumstances” (Berman, 1983, p. 3). Berman emphasizes this point, which could easily apply to US anthropology as a whole, past and present: “To divorce their programs from the sociopolitical contexts that led to their formulation would be analogous to studying a major revolutionary upheaval in isolation from the background preceding the outbreak of hostilities” (1983, p. 3).
It is not just a matter of foundations passively being imprinted by a particular social history. The major US philanthropic foundations actively reproduce the hegemony which they reflect and uphold—and their programs abroad do no less. US philanthropic support for educational institutions and the training of academics grants these foundations “great leverage in the production and dissemination of knowledge,” by deciding which knowledge was “valuable,” “of interest,” and deserving of support—and which ideas would not be funded; foundations thus acted as the “gatekeepers of ideas” (Berman, 1983, p. 13). Foundation-supported intellectuals act as the “salesmen” of a “cultural pax Americana,” as the intermediaries between the ruling class whose ideas they essentially convey, and the rest of the population (Berman, 1983, pp. 13, 15, 19, 30). These intermediaries, selected because they convey the foundations’ pre-approved ideas, are then misrepresented as objective, neutral, above ideology, and as representing the canons of the best scholarship.
It would also be a mistake to downplay the impact on US anthropology of funding from philanthropic foundations that emerged from major corporate empires. That impact did extend to favouring certain research programs over others. Thus Rockefeller support significantly aided the eugenics movement, shifting its concerns to “population control and to birth-control experiments on an international scale” (Patterson, 2001, p. 60). Nor was Rockefeller funding alone: other corporate oligarchic families gave birth to foundations such as the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation, and the Kellogg foundation—but it was the Rockefeller group of philanthropies that had the greatest impact, especially for establishing the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial (LSRM), and the University of Chicago itself (reconstituted by John D. Rockefeller in 1892), in addition to founding several key anthropology departments around the planet. In the US, the Rockefeller philanthropies designated Chicago, Columbia, Yale, Harvard, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Stanford, Berkeley, and Pennsylvania as “centers of excellence,” funding them so they could become “prototypical research institutions”—and to this day, these are some of the key institutions from which PhDs are sought to better assure one of success in gaining academic employment, especially as they hire from each other. Overseas, the Rockefellers funded the development of anthropology at the London School of Economics, providing Bronislaw Malinowski with the capital needed to exercise command over the discipline’s development, and they funded the establishment of anthropology at the University of Sydney (Patterson, 2001, pp. 72, 73). Ironically, even as some US anthropologists criticized early British anthropology in Africa as colonial, they sometimes overlooked or downplayed the fact that a US corporate foundation funded such work.
The central concerns of the Rockefellers were the promotion of social and economic stability (with consequently heavy funding of functionalism) and the development of effective methods of social control at home, and related subjects abroad, being interested in colonial policies, the social management of native populations, and “cultural contact” (Patterson, 2001, p. 73; Goody, 1995). The Rockefellers were also a major force behind the development of “practical anthropology” (now applied anthropology), asking anthropologists working in the US “to apply their knowledge to problems confronting the country: unemployment, the conditions on Indian reservations, or the circumstances of small farmers” (Patterson, 2001, p. 81).
The relationship between the Rockefeller Foundation and US foreign policy is also significant, as Patterson details. From the end of the 1930s onward, Rockefeller directed funding to research involving Latin America, while also coordinating that with the Office of the Coordinator of Interamerican Affairs (OCIAA) established by the federal government in 1940, and headed by Nelson Rockefeller himself (Patterson, 2001, p. 95). Rockefeller also successfully lobbied the US Congress for funds to publish the famous Handbook of South American Indians, edited by Julian Steward (who developed a long and continuing relationship with Rockefeller funding), presumably in the spirit of “hemispheric unity” (Patterson, 2001, p. 95), but under US tutelage, with US anthropologists taking a commanding lead in the formation of research paradigms dealing with Indigenous Peoples in the Americas. By the 1950s and especially the 1960s, all of the major US foundations were funding research that would provide information and insights needed to further US foreign policy (see Patterson, 2001, p. 115).
What we, outside of the US, should learn from this is that such a history is neither “universal” nor “exportable”. I would suggest that we mistake hegemony for universality in uncritically consuming and reproducing US anthropology, its questions, its methods, and its standards. Now that this hegemony is made public and clear, by the AAA itself (see Part 1), in declaring support for a sort of “boycott,” one salutary consequence is that it should give the rest of us pause, and lead us to new turning points.
References for Part 2
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