Around the Web

Here at Savage Minds we love to read and we love to share. Once a month I collect the tweets from @savageminds and reblog them here. Check it out, maybe you’ll find a gem you missed! Our Twitter feed is reproduced on our Facebook page, so you can find us there as well. If you’ve found something interesting around the web that you’d like to share with the Savage Minds community you can email me at mdthomps AT odu.edu or, better yet, tweet your find @savageminds. And now… to the links!

Matt Thompson is adjunct assistant professor of anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Old Dominion University and a Masters student in the School of Information Science at the University of Tennessee. He was once cast as a soldier in Andrew Jackson's army in a theatrical production on an Indian reservation.

One thought on “Around the Web

  1. Matt, a link you missed which relates to at least three of the links above in the round-up, which I saw because anthropologist Daniel Lende tweeted it: http://www.antropologi.info/blog/anthropology/2012/racism-in-anthropology

    I thought about the previous post (and its corollary predecessor, http://www.antropologi.info/blog/anthropology/2010/an-african-ethnography-of-american-anthropology), in relation to the (1) Graduate Student Barble link, (2) David Graeber’s New Inquiry post on The Dark Night and comic superheroes, and (3) the John Philippe Rushton post. All three links are examples of how anthropology is constantly (re)produced as ‘white public space’ through the perpetual–even if not consciously intended–hailing of a (certain kind of) normative white (anthropological) subject.

    (1) Graduate Student Barbie is actually *White* Graduate Student Barbie. And as droll and clever as I found the post, I was also troubled by the way in which it both assumes and projects a certain (class-specific) normative white graduate student experience as a *universal* graduate student experience. But I suppose this is consistent with the (problematic) whiteness that has always constituted Barbie, right?**

    And as we know–and also relates directly to the question of ‘anthropology as white public space’, as well as to Charles Menzies’ response to the “Minority Scholars treated as second class academics” post–’ethnic’ Graduate Student Barbies would not really solve this problem of *white hegemony* as they would simply produce the same patterns of tokenism (and colorism), discussed in the Brodkin et al. article, that allow one to be seen as an ‘acceptable’ non-white version (i.e. simulacrum) of Graduate Student Barbie/an ‘acceptable’ non-white anthropologist only to the extent that one is seen as not being ‘too disruptive’ to taken-for-granted white-supremacist ideals of and for corporeality and comportment: or, to quote Charles
    Menzies, “It’s easier to try and pass or to be a well behaved token rep it seems then to be honest.”

    *http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2008/10/27/ann-ducille-on-ethnic-barbies/

    http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2011/12/22/happy-to-be-nappy-barbie/

    (2) The social fact of (the) white hegemony in anthropology, and of Graduate School Barbie, raises the question of how anthropologists define ‘violence’, which relates to David Graeber’s *masterful* analysis of The Dark Night and US comic superheroes. The normative whiteness of Barbie, in her multiple iterations–including Graduate Student Barbie–raises the question of how symbolic and epistemic violence, and especially the symbolic and epistemic violence of whiteness, relate to the physical violence of which Graeber writes in his New Inquiry post. I found Graeber’s analysis of the violence which authorizes and inaugurates the state and state power to be convincing, yet also not pushed far enough, especially in troubling easy Left/Right binaries about who uses the repressive violence of the police/the State, when and why. As we have seen at Berkeley, both in relation to the Occupy protests on campus and in relation to covering up ongoing hostile climate violations, including in its anthropology department, it is not only ‘the Right’ which is happy to align itself with the repressive power of the State/police so as to squelch legitimate non-violent protest and dissent. And this is one of the reasons why anthropologists need to discuss white privilege and white power when analyzing power and the repressive power of the State/the police. Not all bodies will be equally brutalized by the police after all. And this racist logic of differential police treatment is not just used by those on ‘the Right’ to consolidate their power or silence legitimate dissent. So while it may be true that there is often an affinity between ‘the Right’ and criminal enterprises because of a shared belief in in the role of violence in legitimating their authority, there are times when this logic on power is also shared by those on ‘the Left’, in relation to how those who are seen as racial subordinates threatening a status quo of white privilege should be dealt with.

    Moreover, the silencing of legitimate dissent does not only take place via physical violence. And this brings me back to the question of how anthropologists are defining ‘violence’ in the first place, and to the issue of symbolic and epistemic violence (raised by Graduate Student Barbie). Censorship, silencing, and dismissal (especially as ‘whiners’ complaining ‘frivolously’ about racism which is just a figment of their ‘hypersensitive’ imaginations) are ways in which ‘minority scholars’ are often subjected to violence within the ‘white public space’ of anthropology, and this symbolic and epistemic violence while addressed by the Brodkin et al. article and Anthropologi post on it is certainly not addressed/represented by the experiences of Graduate Student Barbie (i.e. the race-specific ways in which non-white scholars are dismissed, ignored, ridiculed, and silenced; because, yes, I know that all graduate students are in censored, silenced, and dismissed in some ways). As such, there are resonances between David Graeber’s comments on the intended audience of the early US comic books and the intended audience of much anthropological scholarship (especially ‘philosophical’ anthropology): in many ways, both comic books and anthropology graduate programs–especially the elite graduate school programs–are about the reproduction and cultivation of a certain kind of normative white male and white male authority.

    (3) All this relates, as I see it, to the Rushton link because we are dealing here with questions of racism and/as symbolic and epistemic violence. Rushton’s ‘racial science’ is what so much of anthropology is writing against, and is certainly the kind of racism that official AAA race statements have stood in opposition to: and yet ‘American’ anthropology remains deeply racist ‘white public space’. Why?

    As with easy Left/Right binaries around who has an ‘affinity’ with the use of State/police ‘violence’, casting Rushton (and his ilk) as the Bad Real-Racists villains against which Good Not-Racist Anthropologist superheroes are positioned is too easy and produces a shallow understanding of the machinations of power (and what Steve Martinot terms ‘the machinery of whiteness). So long as Rushton and his brand of ‘scientific racism’ (and other forms of explicit racist hatred or explicit endorsements of racial hierarchy) are offered up as the (only) ‘real racism’ ‘mainstream’ anthropologists need concern themselves with (v. having uncomfortable discussions about, yes, you guessed it, ‘white privilege’ and unconscious/institutional/structural/aversive racism and implicit bias), anthropology will continue to be de facto racist ‘white public space’ which produces the humorous and yet still racially problematic Graduate Student Barbie.

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