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comment by OftenBen
OftenBen  ·  2852 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Note I Attached to my Final Exam

We probably do agree mostly.

The course was titled 'Anthropology of Latin America' and I wasn't too enthused about taking it. The class that I wanted to take of equivalent level was full. What I understood from the course pack was that we would be studying revolution and social change from an anthropological perspective. To me, that means picking a specific country, or level of study (Personal Narrative, Small Community, Large Community, State, National), going over the general history of the region, the ethnic makeup of it's inhabitants, some of their cultural practices, and most heavily of all, their understanding of government/ their relationship to/with government. Include examples of how indigenous identity has evolved, how and when it was politicized, and how effective racial/ethnic organization has been in peaceful or violent revolution.

What we ended up doing, is talking about how white people have been fucking over indigenous people for a long time, confusing racial matters by importing a bunch of slaves from everywhere, and how shitty things are, from the top of Mexico, to the bottom of Chile. How the core problem, at the root of everything else wrong with Latin America at the moment is the neoliberal economic and social policies instituted at the demand of the UN and World Bank. How you should feel terrible about eating bananas EVER, especially if you're white and your family has been in this country longer than a few days. All of this done in the most vague, politically correct, intentionally confused language I have ever heard from someone with a PHD. His choice of authors were all equally vague and to me, offensive. I read a lot, quickly, and I have great retention of what I've read. Reading the authors he gave us, most of the time felt like reading a really REALLY preachy SJW tumblr account.

When I'm talking about futures I'm talking about finding out what these people want for themselves for the future, and not in any vague, tumblresque terms about 'end of patriarchyTM.' If a researcher wants to study social change, shouldn't they study what people WANT instead of just what they're fighting against? I agree we should keep our noses to ourselves. That doesn't seem to be happening. What seems to be happening is a bunch of people running into a village of starving peasants, taking pictures and going 'Man you guys have it so rough I want to help,' then going back home and feeling morally superior to their friends because they went and 'helped those starving bastards over there, look how bad they have it on my instagram.'

kleinbl00  ·  2852 days ago  ·  link  ·  

You're a better man than me.

I studied engineering. The closest I got to liberal arts was Intro to Pop Song. It was a lecture with 1500 people in it and for my last final in my last class in college they played me out with Ice T's "Colors."

Which is probably good because I got thrown out of a class every quarter in high school. I got thrown out of my Advanced Architectural Drafting class with ten minutes of the final left. I don't do well with people who pass off ideology as knowledge. Never have, never will.

Put a girl through grad school. Social Work. Don't remember what the official title of the class was; it was pretty much White Guilt 501. The girlfriend related being told that there weren't two genders, there were five. Then when she asked what the other three were, the professor told her she was being oppressive.

It didn't help that the professor was a Rajneeshee. There was something about a person accusing straight white people of oppression when that person had endorsed and participated in poisoning a salad bar to win a local election. I almost followed her to class to beat the shit out of the guy.

I wish I could say it didn't color my perception of every transsexual/transgender discussion from that point forth, but as I said, you're a better man than me.

iammyownrushmore  ·  2851 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Well, I should've taken lil's approach and just read about the damn field first.

It is an odd synthesis that kind of seems counter-intuitive and not really aligned with anything I had in mind when you say the word "anthropology".

    'Man you guys have it so rough I want to help,' then going back home and feeling morally superior to their friends because they went and 'helped those starving bastards over there, look how bad they have it on my instagram.'

Man, I've seen that waaay to many times, in all kinds of settings, from academic, to even religious organizations, and it doesn't gross me out any less.

However, you should still check out that link to that Harvard group, it's pretty interesting.

OftenBen  ·  2851 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I didn't know the professor was a social justice warrior. Before taking this class I wasn't even aware this sub-field existed. If you had told me before the class what Activist Anthropologists were doing I would have said (And still will say) that they are ineffective at best, and complete quacks at worst.

Of the people with degrees that I've spoken to, the Graeber book that I listed in my note is supposed to explain how Activist Anthropology is supposed to function, without any of this nonsense about using bias as a theoretical base.

I looked over the Harvard site and I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be seeing. I can't watch any of the films, and I can only vaguely understand that they are studying sensory formation cross-culturally, which I'm not certain I completely understand.

I'm personally interested in the practical value that Anthropological perspective can provide to improve health outcomes.

iammyownrushmore  ·  2851 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I'm personally interested in the practical value that Anthropological perspective can provide to improve health outcomes.

I think this is kind of like saying "I'm only interested in scientific research that improves health outcomes." and sounds like you walked in with a pretty strong bias against their central tenants. It's a field of it's own right that isn't necessarily limited to the practical outcomes that you desire.

Which is whatever, but you're getting pretty polemic and shitting all over the SJW thing, which is the hot thing to do right now, but social justice is a concept that's far older than Tumblr and has merits of it's own right that have become permutated into something that isn't easily digestible, and then is regurgitated assiduously to the point that it digresses from the original context. Although it seems you may be surrounded by that right now, so I could understand your exacerbation.

As for the Harvard thing, well, if your intent is only as stated, that may not even be interesting to you, but they attempt to use images and film as a means of studying particular aspects of anthropology, hoping for an even more authentic experience that doesn't get caught in the bias of language and traditional data capturing. I gather from what I have seen of their work, that, for instance, if the sensation of isolation or religious ecstasy is something they are trying to show, doing so in a format that involves sensory input in a more natural realm (using visuals instead of the written word), may be a better way to achieve a fitting understanding.

OftenBen  ·  2851 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I didn't have a bias going in. I walked in with an open mind, expecting 400 level anthropological data and analysis.

I believe that those in political minority should not remain so. I believe that all humans have there right to act entirely as they wish as long as it doesn't harm anyone else. I believe that women should be paid just as much as men for equal work. I hate on the WARRIORS. I hate on people trying to make me feel bad because of the color of my skin, or because I was lucky enough to be born somewhere that hasn't been a center of civil unrest for decades. Believe me, I think about that daily. If I were born practically anywhere, or anywhen else, I would not have lived past infancy. I know how lucky I am, and it makes me feel like shit. I don't need someone who is paid to do so reminding me of it.

Yes, I am only actively interested in research that can improve health outcomes. I plan on working in hospitals for the majority of my life, so that is where I focus my efforts. I cannot, I repeat, CAN NOT, take the time to learn everything about everything, as much as I try to anyway. I have to select which sources of information I will ignore, or I will drown. So I'll give the book I was recommended a try, and if it cannot change my mind, I will wash my hands of this nonsense and never let it bother me again.

I have taken something of practical, or at least intellectual value away from every ANP class I've ever been a part of. I got nothing from this, and not for lack of trying.

Regarding Harvard, I can appreciate the artistic merit of what they're doing. I think that multimedia environments are definitely better at conveying the real import of various ethnic/religious experiences than the written account. If I could actually watch the videos, I'm sure I would enjoy them.

iammyownrushmore  ·  2851 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    I know how lucky I am, and it makes me feel like shit. I don't need someone who is paid to do so reminding me of it.

Word. I apologize that my remarks insinuated anything to the contrary, but the ire has been high on the internet lately and it bothers me that others saying similar remarks usually takes a pretty harsh contrarian stance and rejects all the things you outlined, but that's on me and I didn't ask.

Where I live is kinda the mecca for a lot of activist, liberal arts post-grads, and once I was even dis-invited to a potluck because the house had a strict "only two white cis-males under our roof at a time" policy. While I was cooking. I do not count people like that amongst my friends or allies.

And since you're probably pre-med(?) and focused on your career, it makes a lot of since as to why this wasn't very relevant.

Good luck with the rest of your finals, if you have any left!

What field are you aiming towards?

OftenBen  ·  2851 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Not pre-med. I was for a short time, but I got a chance to visit the cadaver lab at my school. No longer interested. I don't have the stomach for the hands on work. Instead my focus is on research systems and methodology, hopefully making the process as easy on patients as possible.

I have one exam left on thursday, then it's time to get started on my winter break reading.