Home 603Seminar in Ethnology


Week 1 Marcus

Week 2 Marcus

Week 3 Moore

Week 4 Moore

Week 5 Schneider

Week 6 Schneider Paper

Week 7 Spivak

Week 8 Spivak

Week 9 Parker

Week 10 Parker

Week 12 Lem

Week 13 Lem

Week 14 Gupta

Week 15 Gupta

Final Paper Elders

Resource Links

Victoria Kline
April 13, 2005
Seminar in Ethnology
Dr. Pérez

Culture, Economy, Power Week 12

Chapter 1: Introduction by Winnie Lem and Belinda Leach

This book is a compilation of papers that authors wrote in response to revivify Marxist theory in anthropology and the desire not just to report on inequalities in economic status and the resulting problems, but also to do something to promote change within society towards more equal access to resources and opportunities. A good deal of this introduction is devoted to brief overviews of each chapter. This is a book filled with essays that focus on political economy, and in this case, the authors want to know about the ways in which knowledge is constructed and how the hegemony among institutions of knowledge is not only controlled by those in charge, but also how knowledge is give legitimacy and status over other knowledges. Who and what topics or angles get funded for research is a big area of contention.

Discussion Question: It seems almost formula like what individual funding organizations will be looking for to support. I just thought that topics came and went like fads. Your interests will be funded at some point in time, that topic will exhaust or cease to be of public or private interest, and then the funding will decline. To obtain funding, you must find out what the funding organizations want, and write your requests with their interests in mind. How is this different than what we are reading about, the universities control the flow and acceptance of knowledge and decide which topics for grants or for thesis dissertations will be accepted or blocked?

Part 1: Nations and Knowledge

Chapter 2: Bicentrism, Culture, and the Political Economy of Sociocultural Anthropology in English Canada by Thomas Dunk

Dunk talks about how sociocultural anthropology in English speaking Canada does not really have its own agenda as those who are teaching the subject have been trained elsewhere, mainly the United States, and Europe. Another thing, says Dunk, is that Canada cannot have a national identity, as there are at least two national identities from the founding nations of France and England. Of course this leaves out the other one that he adds, a third indigenous population in Canada that refer to themselves as First Nations. There are actually hundreds of culturally and linguistically distinct groups within Canada’s First Nations, but they were able to unite together to get themselves recognized as a unit that had an identity and needs and aspirations other than those of the founding nations. The distinctiveness in Canadian anthropology then is its diversity and multicultural makeup. 

Chapter 3: The Political Economy of Political Economy in Spanish Anthropology by Susana Narozky

Narozky rambles on about how Spanish anthropology is not treated with the respect it deserves as it is outside of the mainstream of American and British (English speaking) affiliations, and publications. She brings up an instance where something Jane Schneider wrote that had been written about and published by a Spanish author years before her product was issued. Narozky uses histories in her interpretations of the way in which Spanish anthropology has grown and spends some time with this discussion. The Franco dictatorship had a stifling effect on the discipline for some years.

Chapter 4: Anthropological Debates and the Crisis of Mexican Nationalism by Guillermo de la Peña

Indigenismo is linked to the idea of national unity in culture. The study of the Indian and their problems was part of the anthropology of Mexico from 1920 to 1968. The results of the studies were to make the Indians Mexican, to homogenize the nation, to become one, to have solidarity in identity. Now, however, Mexican anthropologists do not believe this to be a desirable end to the indigenous cultures of their country. De la Peña traces the history of anthropology in Mexico and how conspired in the state’s demand for a national identity that could be promoted for a more modern Mexico that included the idea of mestizaje: meaning that the races would eventually blend and become one unified and stronger single Mexican identity. Later, the idea of mestizaje was dropped as anthropologists claimed that heterogeneity the more desirable social network, but with more recognition of indigenous people and their rights especially with the rise in numbers if indigenous anthropologists able to speak for their own people.

Discussion Question: What is caciquismo? How were the old cacique families involved in the promotion of the PRI party?

Chapter 5: Political Economy in the United States by William Roseberry

Roseberry divides three generations of academic anthropology by the graduate students and the professors involved in training them to show the trajectory of anthropology from the late 1940s to early 1950s, the late 1960s to early 1970s, and the late1980s to the early 1990s. There were influences of Julian Steward and Leslie White on the second generation students of Eric Wolf, June Nash, Marvin Harris, and many others. These in turn became the professors of the third generation students.

Roseberry concentrates on the second generation because that was when he was influenced as a student. He relates the three generations to work in anthropological political economy, how the second generation had the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War to protest. He talks about how the activities of graduate students influenced what they participated in on and off campus mainly with an eye towards their political involvement. In the past influence or affiliation with Marxism or Communism was a dangerous career move.

The limited number of jobs in academic anthropology does the field an injustice as training within the university is targeted towards academic employment and those in academia distain those who fall outside academia. This shortfall needs to be discussed. This one starts out strong but falls flat at the end, he needed another day to develop a good wrap-up to his essay. Good potential. This chapter was so organized as to make me very happy (as a reader). Roseberry had a good angle I think in isolating the small groups of graduate students and professors that influenced them during certain decades.

Chapter 6: “A Small Discipline”: The Embattled Place of Anthropology in a Massified British Higher Education Sector by John Gledhill

In Great Britain, anthropology has a small place within academia as compared to other disciplines. The trend in British universities is towards greater numbers of students, schooling with far fewer opportunities of grant monies. Other majors have the lion’s share of grants and research funding. Funding and grant monies as well as research topics are kept in check by university officials and instructors who know the funding sources and heed changes in those fluctuations. That would mean that there is a direct impact of the university on what students are allowed to study and what they are allowed to talk about, and what they are allowed to think really. That does not seem like a liberal education, but more of a conforming to undulations in national intellectual fads. This contributes heavily to the correct socialization of the social science majors.

Part 2: States and Subjects

Chapter 7: Sentiment and Structure: Nation and State by Dipankar Gupta

Gupta begins with a discussion of the nation-state, and how there are positive and negative aspects to being a part of a nation-state. The military of nation-states have proven they can act with violence and without remorse towards subjects that do not fit into the mainstream. However, Gupta says that the positive aspects of membership in a nation-state far outweigh the negative. The nation-state contributes to the ability to communicate, “between hitherto closed cultural spaces, thus extending social boundaries” and “thus has a liberation effect” (91) on its subjects.

OK, so the discussion turns to nation-states, their formation, how they were structured during their rise to prominence. An example is made of the United States and how, in formulating policies, and at the writing of the Constitution, blacks were not considered as part of the citizenry. In contrast to a diversely ethnic India, where all groups participated in the quest for Independence from Colonial England, all ethnic and class groups were included.

Discussion Question: I don’t see the relationship between America and her Independence and India and her Independence. In the first place, when America was colonized, the subjects were British. Blacks were brought over as slaves and did not have the same stake in the new country. India is talking about the same people that have been living together for millennia. How is this the same? I think it is a bad analogy.

Chapter 8: Communists Communists Everywhere!: Forgetting the Past and Living with History in Ecuador by Steve Striffler

An interesting case history about a place in Equador where the people tried to give themselves some autonomy when the company (United Fruit) had to lay off many people pulling the security out from under many families. And where there were no alternatives to work and no where else to go. The people took back a plantation. But the plantation had to be taken back forcefully, through the military. The use of force was explained as necessary because of the presence of Communist elements. People started being abused over this, and the word Communist came into the exchange.

Under military force, people became afraid for their own families and turned against each other to save themselves. They were afraid for their lives, they were afraid to lose security, they were afraid to then talk about what they really remembered. The collective memory of the people then became the fabricated story of the presence of communists and the need to expunge from the community. The false memory served to protect people from the embarrassment of not having enough power to protect their families and themselves from local authorities and state military.

Discussion Question: Does fear of abuse justify turning against friends and neighbors? How does one feel good about oneself after one has abused the trust of friend and neighbor because of fear?  

Chapter 9: “We Were the Strongest Ones Here”: Transformed Livelihoods in Contemporary Spain by Claudia Vicencio

This story starts out with a viewing of an old propaganda film that the author uses to illustrate the power of the state in creating citizens. The story then turns to the case history of a married couple that was in the business of making flat baskets for straining olive oil from the presses. The business involved buying raw materials, hiring laborers to cut and haul the stalks, having women home workers weave the baskets, and finding buyers for the product. The business owning couple faired well economically, while those that worked for them lived on starvation wages. With the introduction of plastic straining sieves, the capacho basket industry collapsed. The reinvention of the labors of the couple has reduced them to the same economic class level as the rest of those living in the small town where they live. It is interesting how they react, how they hold themselves higher than everyone else, how they believe they are entitled to more, and how they resent having to pay benefits now to former workers in their employ. They turned to shoe manufacture immediately after the fall of the basket industry. Then to running a taxi service along with used car sales.

Discussion Question: The married couple business owners in this case history do not seem to have a clue that they are not any better than anyone else. They were not sympathetic employers when they did have the power. I come away unsympathetic to their complaints and annoyed by their boasting. I can certainly relate to the scenario. Does this case history show the reality of business ownership and employee employer relations on a human nature level: is this what it takes to be a successful wealthy person?    

Chapter 10: The Italian Post-Communist Left and Unemployment: Finding a New Position on Labor by Michael Bain

Long term unemployment, and the inability for some gendered or age groups to obtain employment renders groups relegated to dependency on a male family head or to payment of welfare through the state. Unemployment is extremely high in Italy, especially in the south. Young people and women are the least likely to be employed.

Middle aged men have and keep most jobs. They are the ones with job stability. This situation forces family dependency on the one male wage earner. Young adults live at home much later. Aside from this, unemployment benefits, while available, are skewed: larger company employees receive full benefits amounting to 90% of wages, while small company unemployment accumulates to 25% of working wages. Also, the benefits are subject to amendment according to the job title. According to author Blim, the state has resources to help with situation; the problem is the disproportionate dispersal of benefits.

Discussion Question: I though that Communism meant more equal distribution of resources. The unequal dissemination of opportunity slanted towards the male head of household seems to be a problem that this country grappled with not too long ago. That would mean that the state defines the male head of household as more important, more powerful, in a position of power designated by birth rather than skill. How unfair is this? This could be turned into a better question.

Chapter 11: The Language of Contention in Liberal Ecuador by A. Kim Clark

A compare and contrast type essay about the discourses involving political economy in Equador between 1895 and 1920 – the liberal period. Clark explains there were two competing dominant cultures: one liberal, one conservative; one coastal, one in the highlands; but both interested in maintenance and expansion of their own economic bases, and both requiring the labor extracted from the large indigenous population. The essay covers the discourses between the two groups over the establishment of a railway between the coast and the highlands, and how it turned to language of movement and connection as modernizing tools. The indigenous peoples learned to use the language of movement and connection, and also the legal language of the state to promote some of their own interests. However, the dominant groups still have incipient control over laborers and labor pay from indigenous workers.

Discussion Question: Here is an instance of the indigenous labor pool’s ability to protest the lack of access, poor treatment, unfair treatment, etc. However they resist, they still end up working for poor wages, and now they need to travel to get to the places they obtain their poor wages. Is the unjust treatment of workers to the state’s advantage? That seems to be what this essay is saying. Maybe not the unjust treatment, but the willingness of the masses of the indigenous population to desire to work for wages as their life goal, for the good of all. I think we have a good portion of that going on in the US. Slavery (enslavement, restriction on movement) is not dead.

This is one of my favorite essays. I just am grateful for the logic in the argument, not that the subject is anything to be happy about. “Look here” it says: compare, contrast, and now see the result.

Discussion Question: What is the situation of the indigenous population in Equador now, and are they still resisting in state sanctified ways? Did their ability to contest or protest treatment in the liberal period carry through to more recent times?


Lem, Winnie and Belinda Leach eds.
2002  Culture, Economy, Power: Anthropology as Critique, Anthropology of Praxis. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Copyright © 2010 all rights reserved Victoria Kline victoriakline.com
last updated on June 13, 2011