I was impressed with Barack Obama’s statement on race in America. It showed an awareness of empathy, race, and culture that I am more accustomed to hearing about in university seminars in say, anthropology, than political addresses in the middle of a campaign. I hope that Obama is correct in assuming that the American people are ready for such an approach.
Obama himself of course has had unusual exposure to anthropological thinking. His mother Ann Dunham Soetoro was an anthropology student at the University of Hawaii, and eventually earned a Ph.D. after spending four years doing field work in Indonesia for her dissertation “Peasant blacksmithing in Indonesia: Surviving and Thriving Against All Odds” which was 1067 pages long (sounds like overkill to me!). She also had a career as an applied anthropologist, working for USAID, and the Ford Foundation.
Besides living in Indonesia from ages 6-10, Obama himself also reportedly visited his mother many times while she continued to live in Indonesia. While he was not an anthropology major himself, I have some hope that if he becomes president, a more nuanced view of cultural issues will be moving into the White House.