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ANTHROPOLOGY: FOR WHOM AND WHAT?

Author(s): ANSELME REMY
Source: The Black Scholar, Vol. 7, No. 7, Black Social Science (April 1976), pp. 12-16
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/41066011
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have been funded and/or sponsored by the British colonial office. its ability to explain sociocultural phenomena in black societies are being questioned. his political machinations. who demeans himself to pose before a foreign government as an investigator and asks for assistance in his alleged researches in order to carry on. The publication by the Student Mobilization Committee of the minutes of the secret meetings sponsored by the Department of Defense have convinced many Euro- American anthropologists that the discipline is one of the many tools in the arsenal of the United States government..jstor. . The Rhodes-Livingstone Institute in England. 22 Aug 2018 20:04:32 UTC All use subject to https://about.160 on Wed.58. . prostitutes science in an unpardonable way and forfeits the right to be classed as a scientist. anthropologists and colo- nialism. it has been a tradition to receive funds from and/or to have their researches in colonial societies sponsored by the British colonial office. Even though most of its concepts are Euro-centric. I argue that anthropology is a tool which can be used very effectively in the liberation struggles of black people. The so-called classics in anthropology written by Evans-Pritchard. The use of anthropology and anthropologists for colonialist and imperialist ven- tures is well documented. many blacks have become suspicious about the discipline. Its utility. Certain recent experiences in Africa are great encouragement for' those who wish to dissociate themselves with "establishment and colonialist anthropology. Most of the private foundations and institutes supporting anthropological researches get their funds from individuals or corporations which benefit from the colonial or imperialist policy of their govern- ment. the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations are the three major ones. Because of the close association between anthropology. under his cloak. who uses science as a cover for political spying. Middleton. In 1919 Franz Boas. racist and/or colonialist.174. credulous American social scientists were forced to consider the implications of their researches on the peoples they study. etc. Boas was removed from the Council of the American Anthropological Association.1 In reaction against this denunciation.org/terms . it is possible to make anthropology an instrument of liberation. A person . the father of American anthropology. Malinowski. published a letter denouncing the use of anthropologists as spies by the United States government." PAGE 12 THE BLACK SCHOLAR APRIL 1976 This content downloaded from 128. Among British Anthropologists. ANTHROPOLOGY: FOR WHOM AND WHAT? the Vietnam War.

160 on Wed. The uneasiness and dissatisfaction of the young gradua student has been previously expressed by older and more seasoned anthropolog There is a long list of individuals who have expressed the difficulty of reconc anthropology as a humanistic discipline and as a discipline with strong colonialist ti According to the French anthropologist. imperialism."5 For Stanley Diamond it is "a discipline.traditionally a field concerned with explaining and understanding small scale cultures and societies. He is now an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Federal City College.3 He still hopes to see the day when anthropology could become ". anthropology h less than honorable birth: It is the outcome of a historical process which has made the larger part of mankind subservient to the other. the eifects and causes of racism. Claude Lévi-Strauss. Anthropology is the daughter of this era of violence .174. D. .C. Anselme Remy. by ANSELME REMY THE ROOTS AND NATURE OF ANTHROPOLOGY Jack Stauder in his article "The Relevance of Anthropology to Colonialism Imperialism" reports the following statement from a graduate student in anthropo ogy at Harvard University: Social anthropology . These departments in the western industrialized so eties are not willing to divorce themselves from the colonialist and imperialist polic of their government. .7 remains convinced that it can be a useful tool in revolutionary struggle. born in Haiti. The original version of this essay was delivered at a Symposium sponsored by the Anthropology Club at Howard University in November 1975.58. He is the author of several articles on the Caribbean. Washington.jstor. after telling us that anthropology is the "child of imperial- ism". especially in the non-western world . critical of the role played by establi anthropology departments.2 In that statement.org/terms .is a field tha could make relevant contributions to our understanding of major events and problems o the world: wars of liberation."6 The activist Kathleen Gough. economic exploitation colonialism. and during which millions of innocent beings have had their resources plundered and their institutions and beliefs destroyed whilst they themselves were ruthlessly killed. Eric Wolf calls it "the most humanist of the sciences. THE BLACK SCHOLAR APRIL 1976 PAGE 13 This content downloaded from 128. has taught anthropology at Fisk University. He was recently chosen a second time to be on the executive committee of the Association of Black Anthropologists. . 22 Aug 2018 20:04:32 UTC All use subject to https://about. (However) departments ensure that anthropology will remain isolated from and irrelevant to social and political problems. thrown into bondage and contaminated by diseases they were unable to resist. however. He is.."4 In this respect the French liberal anthropologist is not too far apart from two of his American and one British Marxist anthropologists. an enterprise renewing and atoning for the renaissance in order to spread humanism to all humanity. the graduate student recognizes the usefulness of anthropology in solving social problems..

There is a strong opposition to liberation movements among white anthropologists.58. the oppressed class or proletariat. Jr. THE NEW CHALLENGES FOR ANTHROPOLOGISTS Since anthropology has been a creation of imperialism. As a result. The description of Third World societies presented to us often incorporates two kinds of distortion. anthropology has remained faithful to its purpose. William Willis. The end of colonialism and imperialism is now more than a probability.jstor. to live in a west African village or to disapprove of the deeds of an oppressive black government in a new black country are looked on as subjects of books or articles to be discussed with colleagues. It continues to analyze "non-white" and "poor societies" from a western point of view.11 (emphasis added) In our times. anthropology has been a social science that studies dominated colored peoples - and their ancestors . to eat the food of a Mexican peasant.: . does it mean that the end of the discipline is in sight? On the contrary.org/terms . an objective distortion created by colonialism and imperialism and a second subjective distortion emanating from the anthropologists who have not been able to transcend their loyalty to western European capitalism. -Anthropology. To identify with the colonized.160 on Wed.8 From the writings of Malinowski to the most recent dissertation funded by the National Science Foundation or the Ford Foundation.if not all . . the anthropology which is being taught in academic centers is conceptually useless to the revolutionary aspirations of the peoples of the Third World. .174. This was an exceptional feat.white anthropologists from seeing contemporary colored peoples as real human beings enmeshed in their intricate depths. These are acts of bravado or manifestations of liberalism. anthropol- ogists comfortably ignored or underplayed the effects of colonialism on the Third World and the psychological damages done to its people. . a new challenge is waiting for the anthropologists willing to immerse themselves in the struggle of the exploited. anthropology has not deviated from its reactionary ideological tradition. 22 Aug 2018 20:04:32 UTC All use subject to https://about. Until recently it was rare to see an anthropologist taking sides with the colonized.living out the boundaries of modern white societies . In analyzing the situation of the colonized people. These exper- PAGE 14 THE BLACK SCHOLAR APRIL 1976 This content downloaded from 128. Instead anthropol- ogists have constructed imaginary counter cultures to serve white needs and thereby obtained reaffirmations. Recent political successes since the Socialist revolution in Russia in 1917 clearly shows that the western imperialist countries are unable to stop the aspirations of the Third World for freedom and independence.9 Throughout its development anthropology has projected racist perceptions of the people being studied. It was customary for anthropologists to advocate "objectivity" and detachment in their researches. it can be said. The discipline is one of the most segregated. Anthropology and anthropologists have remained detached from the Civil Rights movement of the fifties and sixties. In the words of the black anthropol- ogist. (it) has been an instrument of white rule. .10 This compounding of distortions within the racist organization of the modern world has prevented most . emerged as a discipline in the late nineteenth century for the purpose of providing data which were necessary for consolidation of imperialist penetration into the Third World.

In Latin America. We are concerned with the other side of the question.The comparative study of imperialist responses to liberation struggles. for Africa Ben Magubane. why did the imperialists fail to crush some and did succeed against others? From the point of view of colonized masses of the Third World. The revolutionary movements have led a growing number of progressive anthro- pologists to realize that they no longer have proprietary rights on the people of the Third World. Guinea Bissau. Linked to this is: 2 . The people of China." Drama is substituted for the overriding issue of colonialism and oppression. Old and obsolete concepts such as acculturation. 22 Aug 2018 20:04:32 UTC All use subject to https://about. In a more limited scope we anthropologists can study the local bourgeoisie. Berta Zapata. These experiences in no way exhaust all the possibility of effecting revolution.jstor.: Falls. culture change are being replaced by liberation and socialism since imperialism and capitalism are seen as the main obstacles to the aspirations of the colonized peoples..58. this question can be answered only within a historical materialist framework in which organization. the new black bourgeois and black THE BLACK SCHOLAR APRIL 1976 PAGE 15 This content downloaded from 128. Among the many projects which can retain the attention of the progressive anthropologist are: 1 . In our times. however. especially the blacks and progressive ones have special responsibilities. A small number of Euro-American anthropologists have become aware of the need for anthropology to divorce itself from its imperialistic roots. Mozam- bique have through armed struggle secured their freedom and independence from imperialism. individuals like Stavenjagen. These are. Afro-Americans like Diane K. Bonefìl Batalla.174.160 on Wed. Vietnam. Franklin France to name a few. especially those working in black colleges and univer- sities should be alerted by the policy of these institutions. iences are reported or discussed in terms of "culture shock. Cuba. is becoming an important tool in analyzing the exploitation of the Third World. 3 . In this respect. anthropologists. Onwachi. Okediji. Angola. Mullings.org/terms . L. Anthropologists are in position to link specific historical and socio-cultural conditions with the types of options available to the imperialists at a given moment." "cultural relativism" or "research dilemma. in the United States. which has been ignored or discredited in anthropology. all are assuming their responsibility to the colonized peoples. that is. H.We need comparative study of imperialist penetration and its impact on local culture. We need to stress their dependency on and their contradiction with international capitalism. Korea. Vilakazi. Lewis. The materialism dialectic. Their personnel are a new breed of what Franklin Frazier called "Black Bourgeoisie. the linkage between the so-called "Black Bourgeoisie" and the American ruling class is not made obvious. Consequently the revolutionary potential of the local bourgeoisie and the role it can play will be clearly determined. etc. They are now in the process of building a socialist society in their respective territories. Johnetta Coles. It is conceivable that some bourgeois social scientists may be now investigating for the State Department as to why liberation struggles are successful in this decade. We must avoid trying to reproduce slavishly successful revolutions while ignoring the specific circumstances which favored them.Black anthropologists. cultural specificity as well as the nature of the relations of production would be integrated. Eduardo Seda." In the insightful analysis of Frazier. alternatives. Guinea. Such a study would greatly enhance our ability to effect revolution. Borda. William Willis and an army of others who have been denied recognition for racist reasons. They are in position to use their special experience with and knowledge of western capitalism to provide expertise to those societies trying to free themselves from imperialism and capitalism. strategy.

4. 1974. 10. the anthropology of tomorrow will have to be anti-colonialist. It has been used against the oppressed and colonized peoples o world. Stanley Diamond.org/terms . 1964. Jr. it is reasonable to ask "for whom does anthropology wor However. December 1968. 94. PAGE 16 THE BLACK SCHOLAR APRIL 1976 This content downloaded from 128. page 51. 123. 22 Aug 2018 20:04:32 UTC All use subject to https://about.jstor. p. in order to spre humanism to all humanity. "A Revolutionary Discipline. p.174. 432. "The Scope of Anthropology. number 2. Volume 5. Weaver. It must cut its umbilical cordon with imperialism. "The Scope of Anthropology. For these reasons. Reprinted in To See Ourselves. anti-imperial- ist and socialist. Scott. Vintage Books. 12. 403. William Willis. ed. ed. FOOTNOTES 1. 6. Anthropology. Claude Lévi-Strauss.160 on Wed. it must be committed to the liberation of the Third World. Showing the connection will not prevent the black masses in the United States from falling prey of bourgeois nationalist slogans such as "we are all brothers and sisters. dd.. 11. institutions are playing a significant role in helping the American ruling class control the black masses and the Third World. Prentice-Hall.." Current Anthropology. Illinois 1973." p. p. If anthropology is to survive as a relevant social science in the next two decades. Kathleen Gough. 7. 8. New Jersey. December 1964. "Skeletons in the Anthroooloeical Closet. Tr." We need studies to reveal that due to capitalist penetration and the low development of the productive forces in the Third World class interests are blurred by ethnic loyalties. p. there are some timid attempts to study white societies. 3." Current Anthropology. Dell Hymes. Correspondence: Scientists as Spies. 123. "The Relevance of Anthropology to Colonialism and Imperialism. 126-127.58. Since imperialism and colonialism are the problems of this century. Foresman and Co. 125. number 5. "12 Anthropologists like Don Bennet have shown the w It now becomes the responsibility of the revolutionary and socialist anthropologist make the discipline a tool of liberation. p. 126. Tack Stauder. Franz Boas. "Skeletons in the Anthropological Closet.. it must be kept in mind that the discipline can still affirm itself for w is: an enterprise renewing and atoning for the renaissance. Volume 9. CONCLUSION Anthropology has been an instrument of imperialist intervention and control in Third World. 9. Eric Wolf. Claude-Lévi-Strauss. p. 123. William Willis. Current Anthropology. Since the white anthropologist is now being rejected by many countries. Idem. New Proposals for Anthropologists. number 5. 2. April 1966." Reinventing Anthropology. Idem. The black anthropologist can illustrate how this process works in the black community in the United States. 5. Volume 7. p.