African Images: Racism and the End of Anthropology

African Images: Racism and the End of Anthropology

African Images: Racism and the End of Anthropology

African Images: Racism and the End of Anthropology

Synopsis

This controversial book is an impassioned African response to the racial stereotyping of African people and people of African descent by prominent white scholars. It highlights how the media contributes to the growth of racist ideas, particularly in reporting current events in Africa, and demonstrates how some of America's most revered intellectuals cloak racist ideologies in ostensibly egalitarian discourses. The author seeks to rewrite the image of 'race' in order to show the damage racism can cause serious scholarship.

Excerpt

In this book, I attempt a brief anthropological, or, if you like, ethnographic, study of a prominent group of Western (Euro- American) scientists and intellectuals. While it would be most desirable for such a project to be based upon first-hand fieldwork among these selected academics in the classical anthropological tradition (see "Theoretical Coda," below), my particular interests and somewhat radical approach to the social sciences, as well as the exigencies of an academic career, have precluded my obtaining the time, opportunity, or funding for such an exercise in empirical investigation.

However, with indignation as part of my motive, I fully concur with Laura Nader's trenchant comment, first published in 1969, upon scientific adequacy in anthropology (1974:289):

If we look at the literature based upon field work in the United States, we find a relatively abundant literature on the poor, the ethnic groups, the disadvantaged; there is comparatively little field research on the middle class and very little first hand work on the upper classes. Anthropologists might indeed ask themselves whether the entirety of field work does not depend upon a certain power relationship in favor of the anthropologist, and whether indeed such dominant-subordinate relationships may not be affecting the kinds of theories they are weaving. What if, in reinventing anthropology, anthropologists were to study the colonizers rather than the colonized, the culture of power rather than the culture of the powerless, the culture of affluence rather than the culture of poverty.

And, I may add, the culture of the rulers, rather than that of the ruled.

Many anthropologists have been asking themselves these questions (e.g. Diamond 1974; Fabian 1983; Jackson 1989), but few . . .

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