Lost Paradises and the Ethics of Research and Publication

By Francisco M. Salzano; A. Magdalena Hurtado | Go to book overview
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4
POLITICS AND SCIENCE
Paul R. Gross

On Exorcisms and Postmodernism

Innocents imagine that modern universities, the names of many of whose departments include “science” (as in social science), do not perform exorcisms. That is a mistake. Today, universities are among the busiest sites for the practice of intellectual exorcism. Ask any current student to define “investigate”: you will get the definition for “indict. The latest outbreak of academic exorcism comes to us from anthropology. At issue are the Yanomamö, a Stone Age, indigenous people of the Amazon rain forest. The current repellent effort rests on poststructuralist-postmodern scripture: the doctrine that what we call science is just window dressing for Western hubris and colonialism.

About thirty years ago the distinction between technical disagreements and moral-political warfare began to dissolve. A whole generation of students and teachers became convinced that everything, including scientific inquiry, is inextricably political because knowledge itself was inextricably a social— therefore a political—phenomenon. Politics, meanwhile, becomes a matter far too important for niceties. The Berkeley anthropologist Nancy ScheperHughes exemplified these enthusiasms when she demanded from her colleagues, in 1995, a new, “militant anthropology, the education of a

new cadre of “barefoot anthropologists” that I envision must become alarmists and shock troopers—the producers of politically

-59-

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