• Category Archives Blogs by Cindy
  • Patience 101: Just Wait Until You Hear This

    CNN has reported that Trina Thompson, age 27, is suing her alma mater, Monroe College (New York), for not being sufficiently helpful in supporting her efforts to find a job since her graduation this past April.  Headlines describing the suit sum it up as follows: “Alumna Sues College Because She Can’t Find a Job.”

    Recently, for personal reasons, I have become very interested in what social sciences might have to say about the personal quality we call patience.  A perfectly good definition of patience might be, “an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay,” but what does that really mean in cultural terms?1

    Ms Thompson completed her degree in April, and felt that four months should have been plenty of time for a gal with an information technology major, as well as a “2.7 grade-point average and a solid attendance record” to find a job.  Apparently, patience was not her minor.

    As I searched (lightly) for some cross-cultural insights to patience, I found that while anthropologists had approached the topic in their usual eclectic manner, another social science , economics, happens to be quite curious about the ins and out of this virtue.  It turns out, not entirely surprisingly, that the costs and benefits of short term versus long term investments, and the psychology & culture of risk management (or lack of management) are of much interest to economists.

    And when you cross anthropology and economics…. well, consider this:  Dr. Victoria Reyes-Garcia, of the Autonomous University of Barcelona and her colleagues hypothesized that one of the features of complex, contemporary Western-style culture is that increased patience is rewarded economically, or as The Economist (2/7/07) reported it, they “guessed that as the [the subjects] became more enmeshed in modern society, the more patient of them would do better than the less.”

    They began by setting up a situation that mandated this reward structure, i.e., Reyes-Garcia offered various Amerindian villagers a small reward of food/money if they took it immediately, a bigger one if they were willing to wait a week or so, and a REALLY big pay-off if the subject was willing to wait several months.  In this initial experiment, the researchers found that there was a correlation between the length of time people were willing to wait for a reward and the amount of education they had had (no comment on methodology).  Those who had attended the missionary-run elementary school were significantly more likely to opt for the delayed gratification option that offered the ultimately greater pay-off.

    Five years later, Dr. Reyes-Garcia and her colleagues returned to interview the participants regarding their current financial situations.  They found that “those who had shown most patience in the original experiment had also seen their incomes increase more than those of their less patient counterparts.”  The more educated, and therefore more patient (Were they patient before they met the missionaries? Did they learn deferred gratification in school? Are people who are really into waiting for heaven more patient, more Western, more educated?  The mind boggles with questions…), had seen their incomes rise on average 1% more than those who had taken the  bird in the hand instead of the two in the bush.  As the authors point out, if that growth could be sustained, over a lifetime, those people  just might become a bit wealthier than their neighbors.

    Education itself, of course, is a form of delayed gratification.  It’s a beautiful day out, but I go to geometry class instead of the beach in the hopes that it will pay off for me in the long term.  To return to Ms Thompson’s situation mentioned above, perhaps she is guilty of learning the lesson of education = patience = pay-off too well.  She is demanding that the system ante up.  As she explained in her justification for suing, “It doesn’t make any sense: They went to school for four years, and then they come out working at McDonald’s and Payless. That’s not what they planned.”

    Maybe she should try going to grad school…

    **********

    1 – www.dictionary.com

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  • If a tree falls in the forest and no one posts it on Youtube, does the tree actually have a healthier sense of self?

    As many of you know from earlier posts,  I am the mother of a 15 year old.  Although I have certainly been aware of the need for constant email, phone, and camera usage everywhere she and her friends congregate, it came to me this spring that although she embraces this practice enthusiastically, it seems to place an unnatural burden on her I am only too glad I did not have in my teenage years.

    Teens today are confronted relentlessly with their own image. Digital photos are taken with cameras and phones and all manner of appliances (I’m 40 – for all I know, toasters take photos now) at all kinds of social events, big and small.  I have photos of myself in highschool, but they are generally from birthdays, performances, holidays, or other special moments.  Of course, I am delighted to have these photos, but think for a second of the many, many, many days, and countless other moments of my life that were not photographed.  That may seem a shame to some, but lately, to me it seems a blessing.

    I have photos of my 8th grade graduation, dressed in my white Laura Ashley dress with blue accents, my shiney braces, and very carefully feathered 80’s hair.  I do not, however, have photos of the day I showed up for softball tryouts in my gym clothes when somehow all of the other girls had gotten the memo to keep their street clothes on.  I do not have photos of the day we took a fieldtip to the Franklin Institute and I had a stuffy nose and a cough and snuffled and dripped all the way to Philadelphia and back.  Similarly, my high school performance in West Side Story was amply documented, but not the countless post-rehearsal binges of cheesey fries at the local diner, or the many afternoons spent lazing around my friends’ backyards with frisbees, and books, and bad hair.

    Now, even the simplest get together at a friend’s house after school gets documented, and then those photos get scrutinized.  And that scrutiny leads to self-judgment, and the self-judgment is rarely kind.  As anyone who shops in a grocery store with tabloids arranged at the check-out counter is well aware, even those widely regarded as the most beautiful people in the world can take a terrible, unflattering photo.  Nobody can easily withstand that kind of constant visual scrutiny, least of all the self-esteem of an American teenage girl.

    Certainly, I spent hours in the bathroom getting my hair ready for school (i.e.,  gigantic bangs), applying the perfect eye makeup (i.e., bright purple), and adjusting and readjusting my clothes to optimal fabulousness (i.e., belting voluminous shirts over fluffy short skirts), but I also had downtime.  It’s not that I wasn’t part of a culture that valued appearances and designer labels, and fabulous hair, but it also gave me well-earned time off.  When I went to my best friend’s house for a sleepover, I didn’t worry about how I looked, or think about having my photo taken.  I certainly didn’t worry about that photo being shown to my peers, let alone the world via internet.

    Now I watch my daughter scrutinize the photos taken while meeting friends for pizza, agonize over an inadvertant shot taken at a weird angle, or burst into tears over a pic from a pool party where she is a distant shape bending over in the background.  “Are you sure that’s even you?” I try to ask helpfully, only to be shot an unforgiving look.  “Why don’t you just delete it?” is guaranteed to get a glare.  Seriously, though, I try to be understanding, supply a different perspective, and sometimes I simply ban the phone, camera, and toaster (better safe than sorry) from usage.

    I am not the first to comment on the relentlessly visual nature of today’s youth and pop culture, but it is worth remembering that multiple anthropologists have documented the introduction of photographic images into indigenous cultures.  While the notion of camera as “soul catcher” has become part of the popular conception of non-industrialized peoples, what I find even more fascinating is that when shown pictures of themselves many members of non-photo saturated cultures don’t recognize themselves.  This is not because they have never seen a mirror; in fact sometimes they don’t recognize friends and relatives in portrait-style still-photos either.  The fact is that what makes a person recognizable to those not fully indoctrinated in visual culture is a whole set of sights, smells, sounds, movements, and personal energy.  What does this tell us about identity, humanity, and perhaps an awareness of ourselves and the people around us, that we might be in danger of losing?

    I am also concerned about the gradual erosion of “backstage” spaces, and with them the downtime they represent.  If cameras go everywhere, are we ever off stage?  Today’s memorial of Michael Jackson reminds us what toll constant surveillance takes on child stars.  We generally assume that it is the price to be paid for the money and power and fun of fame.  Are we willingly going to subject ourselves to such surveillance without even the promise of a big payday?  On the Polynesian atoll of Nanumea, the cookhouses served as a kind of “free space” for gossiping, joking, and generally escaping the expectations of formality and hierarchy that dominated other aspects of daily life.  If those cookhouses are replaced with indoor kitchens equipped with photographic toasters, who knows what will happen.

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  • Married with Chintzes

    On Tuesday, May 26th, the California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8, a voter initiative that declared that marriage could only exist between a man and a woman.  Subsequent media reports were quick to point out that unions between same-sex couples would still be recognized, and that essentially this ruling “merely” stripped gay spouses of the word marriage.

    However, since from June 2008 until November 2008 same-sex marriages were legal in the state of California, the approximately 18,000 gay and lesbian couples who got married during that window of time are still married.  From now on, however, all new same-sex marriages will be legally classified as civil unions.

    So here we are with an oddly tiered classification system of unions, some are in, others out…a numerical majority having limited the civil rights of a minority through alteration of the State constitution.  Surely if ever a situation called for escapism, this is one…

    *Sigh*  It’s true, you can rent L-Word DVD’s, rewatch the five seasons of Queer as Folk, maybe even catch a rerun of Will & Grace on Lifetime… but for my money, if you would truly like to linger in a world where same-sex marriages are normalized as happy, healthy (and property-based) direct your dial to HGTV.

    In my humble opinion, Home and Garden Television has done more to quietly advocate for the main-streaming of same-sex couples than any other channel or media campaign in recent history.  On any given night of the week, one can turn to HGTV and see happy couples of every color and creed, tall and short, old and young, skinny and fat, gay and straight, oo’ing and ah’ing over kitchen remodels (“Look, honey – it’s granite!”), extra-large closets (“I can fit all my shoes!”), and finished basements (“It’s perfect for the kids!”).

    Mary and Sue are looking to relocate from the city to find a yard for their dogs…  Bob and Larry need an extra bedroom for Larry’s new in-home business…  Seung-Li and Juan are expecting their second child and want to find a place closer to her mother…

    In the world of HGTV, we display our shared humanity in the universal smile that can only mean “the reveal” has been a success, and we are all equalized by our love for a move-in-ready split-level, with room for a workshop in the garage.

    ********

    For one of my personal favorites, check out the husband of one of my highschool friends appearing regularly on HGTV’s super cool Bought & Sold

    http://www.hgtv.com/real-estate/meet-the-cast-of-bought-and-sold–season-2/pictures/index.html

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  • The A-hole: A True Human Universal?

    As a member of the Society for Hawaiian Archaeology, I recently became aware of a new development in a controversy currently underway on the island of Kaua’i regarding the disturbance of some Native Hawaiian burials for the construction of a private residence.  The practice of archaeology has been particularly contentious in the islands since the convergence of three historical events: 1) massive development and construction, particularly associated with the tourist industry; 2) the passage of federal and state antiquities protection laws mandating the involvement of archaeologists in cultural resource management; 3) the revitalization of Native Hawaiian culture, and its members’ mobilization in protection of their homeland and heritage.  Arguably these three, often divergent, interest groups came of age in the 1960’s and have been locked in a dance of conflicting and converging interests ever since. (*1)

    One of the developments of this structure of the conjuncture (a la Marshall Sahlins) was the establishment of Island Burial Councils that are empowered by State law to determine the final disposition of any human remains that are discovered.  In the case mentioned above, a group of Native Hawaiians, known as Kanaka Maoli Scholars, have protested the handling of the review and recommendations of the Kaua’i – Ni’ihau Burial Council with regards to a property located at Naue (http://mailevine.wordpress.com/2008/09/15/open-letter-by-kanaka-maoli-scholars-against-desecration/).  Kanaka Maoli Scholars argue that the State Historic Preservation Division approved a Burial Treatment Plan against the clear objections of the Burial Council, thus allowing building permits to be issued illegally, and concrete foundations to be poured on known gravesites.  Meanwhile, the homeowner has filed a civil suit against members of the Native Hawaiian community alleging trespassing and harassment, among other things.

    Whatever breaches of process may or may not have occurred in the course of managing this particular site (and since I currently live on the Mainland, I have no inside information from either side of this mess), I can tell you that most of the archaeologists that I know who work in Hawai’i consider it a tremendous privilege to be included in any aspect of stewardship of this amazing cultural legacy, and many experience daily life like an E.R. doctor: in a never-ending state of triage racing to save patients from the disease “development-fever.”  All the while under-staffed, with too few resources, and constantly challenged by the politicization of the process.  There is no universal archaeological site healthcare in the United States, and all too often the decisions regarding which patients to save and rehabilitate, and which to simply “patch-up” and send on their way, are made by the interests of capital.  Bound by our own Hippocratic oath, most archaeologists would truly love to save and cherish every patient, seeing each and every one of them thrive. (*2)

    Well, gentle reader, as many of you know, much of modernist anthropology has been preoccupied with the search for human universals.  In my opinion these efforts usually end in one of two ways, either the “universal” reached turns out to be amazingly narrow in scope, or mind-bogglingly broad in scope.  There does seem to be one that keeps cropping up, however, and that is illustrated by the latest opinion expressed in the Naue controversy.  As part of their campaign to draw public attention to what they feel is the unfettered desecration of their ancestors’ burials, Kanaka Maoli Scholars sent copies of their recent protest letter (see link above) to a variety of constituents, including high ranking executives at the company owned by the homeowner.  One of these employees, in an inadvertent case of “I’m rubber, you’re glue, when you act like an asshole, it looks bad for you,” has provided more evidence for one of the most convincing universals ever promulgated… the “assholes, every community has at least one, and s/he will usually self-identify within the first 24 hours of contact” universal.

    This guy responded to the letter of concern sent to him by the Kanaka Maoli Scholars with a single line.  He asks, “So how do you know the people buried out there weren’t assholes??”  Wow – a whole new principle to guide historic preservation (and with any luck, human resource decisions at his firm).  Maybe the asshole is a kind of human universal – after all, we all have them, but it takes a special Homo sapiens to talk out of his.

    ********

    (1) To read a series of powerful essays relevant to Native Hawaiian sovereignty, colonialism, and academia, read Haunani-Kay Trask’s, From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai’i (1999).

    (*2) There is no question, as with medical doctors, there are some archaeologists who are in the business for what profit there is to be had, and others who are simply not as competent as one might wish.

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  • Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus – but don’t hold your breath for a meritocracy, honey.

    I had an experience recently that started me nostalgically reflecting on my undergraduate days and the path that has since led me to become my current jaded, cynical self.  I’ve wanted to be an archaeology professor since I was 12.  A life of teaching in the academy, mentoring students, undertaking research, reading and learning, designing curricula; even serving on committees seemed exciting and fulfilling.  Don’t get me wrong, I know I romanticized the life: I always pictured myself living in a modest, yet adorable, Victorian house, but never lingered on the idea of a salary so low I could not make mortgage payments.  I imagined my worldly and engaged children, reveling in our summers spent together at fieldschools, yet I did not anticipate surly teenagers who don’t like dirt and whose care takes me from writing up research.  The list of these delightful juxtapositions goes on, of course (tres amusant, n’est-ce pas?), and I’m sure you could make your own: helping students find their academic voice sounds important, grading 500,000 crappy papers feels thankless; forging academic policy sounds invigorating, spending hours in committees whose decisions are then over-ruled by administrators, now that’s soul crushing…

    Nonetheless, I loved the academy, and fundamentally this was because it was the closest thing to a true meritocracy I had ever experienced.  My love was pure.  My faith was bottomless.  And I honestly believed that if I worked hard, did the most work and the best work, was creative, easy-going, funny, dedicated, etc., etc., I would be rewarded commensurately… In retrospect, it’s touching, really, how fervently I believed this with my whole being.

    I still remember the day I had the rug pulled out from under me, and, yes, I fully know that you may laugh when you read about it.  It’s simple really.  When I was in my sophomore year of college, my undergraduate advisor began to plan to go to into the field to do some preliminary research.  It was a small school, with a small cohort of archaeology students.  Please excuse my tooting my own horn – but I was the best by several measures.  I had been doing archaeology since I was a young teen; I had the highest GPA; I had taken the senior year archaeological theory class in the spring semester of my freshman year and gotten an A.  I had even trained for three months in the field in the very river valley the advisor was fixing to research (unlike any of my peers).

    So, when it happened that one day sitting in my professor’s office he mentioned that he was finalizing his plans for the trip and some other student was being invited to join him – I was shocked, truly shocked.  He saw the look on my face and I remember him being surprised at my surprise, and then bemused.  He carefully explained to me that the student he was planning on taking with him was male.  They would save money being able to share a room, the student would be able to carry lots of equipment, and (once more for emphasis) I didn’t really think he could take a 20 year old woman alone to the field with him, did I?

    I was the best…wasn’t I?   It has absolutely nothing to do with merit, he assured me.  Nothing to do with merit?!!!! Was I hearing this correctly????

    That’s right, it had never, ever, EVER occurred to me that my sex (or my gender) might be a factor in his decision.  The realization of what I was hearing slowly sank in – I was being passed over for the chance to do original field research because I was a girl.  None of the other things I had done (or not done, frankly) mattered in the final assessment.

    Okay, okay,  I understand that in the grand scheme of life this was a minor incident (and in the end the trip was cancelled and nobody went),  but it was a watershed for me.  My faith in the meritocracy of academic life had been rattled. Over the years my faith and I would sustain MUCH harsher blows: insults to my integrity; academic betrayal; as well as, personal harassment, intimidation, and assault.  Each event made me recall  this first incident.  My advisor had been the greatest archaeologist and most impressive intellectual I had ever known.  He was my mentor and I trusted him completely.  In retrospect, of course, I’m far more sympathetic to his situation than I was back then.

    Why is this on my mind?  Well, recently I was passed over for participation in a project in favor of an older male (here it was symbolic capital being sought) and I felt that old familiar feeling again – a mixture of anger, frustration, heartache, and resignation (read = bitter).  Maybe I wasn’t so unambiguously the best in this particular situation, but I was an excellent choice for many reasons, and once again it was a decision made by a person I trusted completely.

    I have been discriminated against for reasons other than my gender (although that one is surprisingly consistent), and in settings other than the academy, of course.  And this is definitely no story of horrific treatment compared to apartheid, slavery, ethnic cleansing, hate crimes, etc., etc., but as I have learned over the years, these incidents need to be spoken of and spoken to.  So many of us spend our lives accepting them as part of the cost of doing business with a uterus.  We excuse, ignore, rationalize, and blame ourselves.  For years I tried to make sense of my incident in a way that preserved my idealization of the academy as a meritocracy – I must have misunderstood what my professor said; I must not have been the best; there must have been more to the story.

    I don’t really have a witty conclusion for this.  It is what it is.  When I taught a seminar on topics in gender and science, I had fellow female faculty members come and talk to the class about their lives and careers, and my story was hardly unique.  (Let’s just say, physics grad school can be a real bitch for the ladies, folks!)  We all agreed it feels good to share, however, and if you, the reader, have never had a moment like this in your life – it bears consideration.

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  • The Top Three Things I Have Not Been Blogging About

    3. The New Lead Singer of the Band Journey

    I intended to call this one “World Systems Cinderella,” and in it I would have recounted the story of how Arnel Pineda, onetime street performer in the Philippines, was chosen to be the new lead singer for the rock band Journey.  He was discovered, they say, on Youtube, performing with his ’80s cover band and rocking out like nobody’s business.  Does this story represent a triumphant democratization of fame?  The truly talented will rise to the top and be plucked from obscurity and swept to their global destiny?  I really don’t know!  Some friends and I traveled to see the band on their recent tour, and it really was a great show.  It was different from any amphitheater rock show I have ever been to: for example, middle-aged Filipino women were disproportionately represented in the audience – hooting and hollering for Arnel, carrying posters, dancing with glee, and singing along with every word.  It was a super-fun evening and Arnel was brilliant.  His voice was truly soaring, very Steve Perry, but with its own crystal-clear tone.  During the ballads, his face contorted in soulful ecstasy; during the anthems, he was exuberant and powerfully leaped around the stage.  He was engaging and charming – a golden, glowing presence in front of the other members of the band – who appeared to be a posse of waxy, static, (LATE) middle-aged white dudes twice his size.  They looked pleased and proud, and dare I say, a little bemused.  (Or was I projecting?)  Arnel’s fans were fervent.  An audience member was heard agreeing with her friend that Arnel was so cute, she “just wanted to tuck him into [her] eco-bag” and take him home with her (this is San Francisco, after all, we fantasize about bringing home our eye-candy in appropriate packaging).  In an instance of cultural confusion, the phrase, “We love lumpia!”** flashed across the big screen during the break (audience members can text their comments to see them on the giant display).  Asked a Euro-American friend, “Who’s lumpia?” Giggle, giggle.  Oh, globalization!  Oh, technology!  On your benign days you do create some humorous juxtapositions…

    **Lumpia are a delicious Filipino food that resemble an eggroll.

    2. Same – Sex Marriage Rights and California’s Proposition 8

    This summer I actually wrote a blog entry about marriage.  Thanks to the Supreme Court of California, I had just had the pleasure of performing a legal marriage for two wonderful women friends.  It inspired me to want to go public with my own blueprint for a better system, one in which there is no such thing as civil marriage.  We just let it be a completely religious/spiritual union, and instead allow all adult Americans to chose one person to be a legal partner.  These legal partners would have financial, insurance, medical rights together, but could be any relationship – your grandmother, your brother, your adult child, your college roommate, or your sweetie.  You’d file papers and have a variety of legal rights vis-a-vis each other, rights that have traditionally been reserved for husband and wife.  We should all get to have a life partner, regardless of whether we feel like having sex with him/her.  Now don’t jump down my throat – I haven’t ironed out all of the details, and in the end, that’s why I never posted the blog I was working on.  I just think that with paternity (and maternity, if necessary) being determined through scientific means, legally responsible parenting would be pretty much the same without civil marriage, as would divorce settlements – palimony, etc. have made the marriage papers irrelevant.  Declare your commitment to God, or whomever you please, leave the state out of it. Until that day, marriage is a critical right, however.  Tomorrow, Californians will go to the polls and among the many propositions they will vote on is Proposition 8, designed to overturn the same-sex marriage rights upheld as constitutional by the state supreme court.  I will vote no and then come home and bite my fingernails down to the nub as I watch the election returns.  Please, oh please, let all of those hours and sections of Anthro 1 taught all over the state pay off!!  If Proposition 8 is defeated, I will give contemporary anthropology some of the credit, and if it passes and same-sex marriage rights are revoked, I will vow to redouble my efforts to teach for the appreciation of human difference.  There have been some powerful ads on both sides of the Prop. 8 debate, and I would tell you about them – but remember, the gimmick for this list is that it is the things that I have not been blogging about…

    1. Any and All Things Sarah Palin

    Talk about a made for blogging babe.  On the one hand, commentary on her political presence could have been a full-time job, and then some. On the other hand, Tina Fey so nailed her that most of the rest of us felt safe in taking the last few months off.  Honest to god, it was like Tina stepped up to the plate and called out to the rest of us, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this one,” and hit it out of the park.  I have chosen to address only one of the many things I have not been blogging about when it comes to Ms Palin – the inane idea that women don’t like her because she does not toe the feminist line – that is, *cough*, that somehow she is a maverick feminist, *double cough*.  Such a maverick, a reverse double maverick a-la McCain on SNL, that she is just plain not a feminist, you might say.  OR you might even say that nobody cares whether she calls herself a feminist or not, or whether other feminists call her a feminist or not…because I simply do not share MANY of her opinions and values. Good lord, people, male/female, black/white, short/tall, don’t like her because she is a completely unqualified vice presidential candidate.  She has dubious ideas about dinosaurs, sex-education, funding for sexual assault victims, and foreign policy, to say the least.  Apparently there were some folks in the Republican party that thought that the fact that we both have wombs and know how to use them would create an instant bond.  I do like her hair.  I think she has worn some very nice suits.  Her glasses are cute, and they really suit her face.  I’d vote for her to get her own reality show – Alaska is a very popular venue for such things, there is plenty of family drama to capture, and interesting careers.  Maybe one of the younger Palins can sing?

    And just like that I would have so much more to not blog about.

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  • Wake Up and Smell the (Fair-trade) Coffee

    While I find your particular conflation of “liberal,” “Marxist,” and “academic anthropologist” delightfully mid-century, (although probably going to garner you a D on the final exam), Mark, I have let it slide long enough. I’ve got news for you, in the United States, you ARE a left-leaning anthropologist, and there’s little you can do about it. Why? Because the way that the political lines are drawn in this country and the terms “left” and “right” are defined, you fall squarely to the left and so does nearly every anthropologist in the country. (Oh, drat! Shouldn’t there be some discipline that studies the way that people get categorized into groups against their will? Someone should totally get on that! Any takers? Mark?)

    In this country, if you accept the idea that traditionally described racial categories are a social construction and not a biological reality, you’re a liberal. If your eyes roll when you hear that medical insurance covers Viagra because it treats a medical condition, while birth control pills should be purchased with the patient’s own dime because they represent a life-style choice, you’re a lefty. And apparently, if you believe that there are historical structures related to the nature of our economic system that work not only to create socioeconomic classes but preserve them intact for generations, you’re a Marxist.

    Are we the most left-leaning discipline in the academy? Does it matter?! We are one of the only (if not the only) disciplines that rests on assumptions about humankind that are classified as liberal in this country (you know, like evolution and human rights). If you accept the central tenet of American anthropology, cultural relativism, not only are you a liberal in this country, you are likely a bleeding heart liberal. The very nature of the enterprise of contemporary anthropology — to understand human diversity, to place value on difference, to eschew meta-narratives, to challenge the status quo and the naturalization of cultural traditions, etc. — are hallmarks of what people in this country call liberal.

    I’ve been an anthropologist for a little over 20 years now, and learned my trade in your bastions of “liberalism,” and have never met anyone who fits your stereotype of the academic anthropologist — especially the part where you seem to keep confusing communism and Marxism. Don’t even get me started with the way you throw post-modernism around. (Maybe someone should have paid a little more attention in the classroom if he was planning on using these words later on.) And if we have reached the point where “caring about the oppressed” makes either a discipline or a person fundamentally flawed, well then, we liberals have alot more educating to do, don’t we?

    So, Mark, I think it IS true that you, along with virtually all of your anthropological kin are left-leaning when you stand on the American political landscape. You are correct, however, about one major factor that makes it difficult to classify you as a liberal by American standards (and no, I am not talking about the Pentagon funding): you are incredibly comfortable with the inflammatory, over-generalizing, “truthiness” that characterizes the rhetoric of the most vocal members of the American right.

    The devil is in the details, they say, and lord knows, neither one of you would be caught talking to that commie bastard. Accuracy – be damned.

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