Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Post - Partisan Academia?

This is truly the article I thought I would never see. The NY Times examines anti-conservative bias among psychologists. I can think of a number of professors I've had over the years who could stand to read this piece; portions of the anthropological community bank hard to the left. Many is the time I've sat in a classroom biting my tongue so hard it might bleed, trying not to answer back to commentary that makes me, and my values, the butt of a joke. The soft sciences all seem to lean left, with a strong emphasis on "social justice" and cultural relativity.

I'll buy cultural relativity writ small; if we're to study societies then we should study them without prejudice. But to be honest, I'm not sure what part "social justice" should play in anthropology;if an ethnographer is documenting a people, is it right to also advocate for them? Is there a conflict of interest? If you're an archaeologist, to whom do you owe your loyalties, the bones in the ground, the people living in the area, or the people (sometimes states away) laying claim to them as ancestors? (In reality, I think the loyalties may too often go to whomever paid the grant money. But the right answer ought to be "to the truth," regardless of what sacred cows get gored.)What about the folks doing research into human genetics- is it okay to investigate the differences between genders and ethnicities? What if we bump into things nobody wants to hear? What about investigations into human origins and the first migrations out of Africa- is there any danger of political bias there as well? (Non-africans derive some small percentage of their genome from Neanderthals; imagine how something like that could be twisted for racist use.)

Whenever we examine paradigms, we look at the historical context of the argument. Unless we're talking about "Now." The now never gets contextualized by current trends, everyone assumes that we're all past the colonialist, racist, misogynist, anti-whatever crap of the past. And we definitely are not; the present era has its own shibboleths and bugaboos and sacred cows beyond which we dare not tread. Humanity still has prejudices and preconceptions, just different ones. Myself, I'm looking forward to a Post- political correctness period in American culture. That is, whenever we get one.


Soozcat said...

You might have to wait a while. It'll be quite some time before people start listening to the kid yelling, "But he has nothing on!"

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