[Marxism] A comment just received on "Press reaction to Chagnon memoir"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Feb 24 11:47:20 MST 2013


I have been in a part of the country where Chagnon is strongly 
vindicated, and Sahlins is held up as a villain that has systematically 
destroyed anthropology. If these peers were any more in the know, they 
would (unjustly) accuse Terrence Turner of the same, since he blanketied 
the netwaves with messages to engage in the AAA meeting that occurred 
with the publication of Darkness to register our opinions, being an 
evangelist for the survival of the Kayapo, and not using them for 
personal aggrandizement. But they don’t know, they just read the Times 
Book Review.

What I know from field observations of this new-old ilk defending 
Chagnon is that they have close personal relationships with him, or want 
to portray themselves as such to steal a little of his limelight; they 
embrace a Darwinian pseudo-science steeped in racist and sexist tripe of 
evolutionary psychology (and this by no means is meant to suggest all 
Darwinian and genetic approaches are bad, there are people slaving in 
the lab doing good science, which is different than armchair Darwinians 
who promote certain ideas because it appeals to their warped notions of 
common sense); and they had poor potential reproductive success until 
they were professors, not being too popular with potential mates and 
using their status later to gain genetic traction by snagging undergrads 
that were a generation or more their juniors, in a field (anthropology) 
with something like 1000 jobs nationwide and production of Ph.D.s that 
exceeds that carrying capacity frequently, and where social, and not 
genetic Darwinism is rampant. They continually rehash a vulgar account 
of Chagnon and his critics with little attachment to the truth that 
simply vindicates a worldview they want to promote, and that they 
created and noisily defend to justify their own existence.

The upshot of this should be a study of “Darkness in Academia” on the 
shit that many anthropologists pull under the guise of such unaddressed 
mission statement bylines as “an important part of the anthropology 
mission is to apply anthropological concepts to the resolution of 
important social, cultural, and environmental problems of our times.” 
The real mission is to secure status, make money, fawn on superiors to 
smooth the way to advancement, and destroy all perceived disagreement no 
matter how innocuous. They are gradually dismantling the anthropological 
project wherever they can, and couch it in such doublespeak as 
“democritization of science,” which means you don’t need to know the 
literature or history of the discipline to bluster on about your 
personal and unfounded opinion.

I wholly support Sahlins’ withdrawal from the National Academy. True 
anthropologists may have to carry on an intellectual and social guerilla 
war outside official organs of academia in order to save it from the 
miscreants (denouncing them to senators who have veto power on public 
funding as constituents rather than members of the loyal opposition, 
etc.), the anti-pologists like Chagnon whose exciting and graphic 
comments about viciousness and snotty noses have now warped the public’s 
understanding of anthropology is and should be.




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