Respect for Outsiders? Respect for the Law? the Moral Evaluation of High-Scale Issues by Us Immigration Officers [*]

By Heyman, Josiah McC. | Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, December 2000 | Go to article overview

Respect for Outsiders? Respect for the Law? the Moral Evaluation of High-Scale Issues by Us Immigration Officers [*]


Heyman, Josiah McC., Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute


High-scale morality is the study of moral ideas and sentiments deployed in relations that encompass multiple, geographically or socially distant populaces. The envisioning of distant people, their attributed moral personhood, the evaluation of their perceived behaviour, and the rectification of wrongs through the use of powerful organizations are key topics in high-scale morality. High-scale morality differs from existing anthropological approaches that emphasize local ethnography or contrastive moral ideas; it addresses the moralization of issues like world hunger, the drug trade, or international migration. The officers of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service understand and evaluate legal and illegal immigrants, as well as directly enacting moral rectification for the US polity. As they resolve moral dilemmas on their job, they utilize pervasive models for moral thought and action in capitalist, individualist, stratified, and bureaucratized societies. The article finishes by considering directions in which anthropology can contribute to understanding the moral dimension of global issues.

When anthropologists address moralities, their main concern is contrasting cultural differences between cases; I hold that an equally promising focus is moralities deployed in relations that encompass multiple populaces. Moral ideas shape people's understanding of social information and motivate, often strongly, their personal and collective responses to other people. Throughout history, social groupings have held morally loaded opinions of each other, a tendency reinforced in the capitalist world system, where segmentation, mobility, and reformulation make for new clusters of people in novel encounters, often poorly understood but highly moralized. Flows and institutions link personal fates across the globe. A characteristic example is the sentimental outpourings of charity in cases of famine and disaster after information is obtained through the mass media (Benthall 1993). Perhaps moral compasses are, with greater information and the spread of global ideologies, becoming more expansive. But even when long-r ange connections are ignored or misunderstood, morally motivated action on that which is perceived at a distance has important consequences because of the technical capacity of contemporary organizations, whether in dropping bombs or shipping seeds. For short, I term these topics 'high-scale morality'. They are high-scale not only in that they sometimes involve 'big' issues but that diverse peoples' moralities are inextricably implicated in each other's affairs, offering in that complexity and relationship an outstanding opportunity for anthropological learning.

Morality perhaps defies cross-cultural definition, but some elements appear to be widespread. It involves evaluative statements about people and conditions in the world. It also involves the imaginative distribution of empathy It is 'imaginative' in two senses: imagined participation in the situation of others, empathy in the strict sense, and imagined construal of who those others are. Involvement in others' affairs channels outwards the impulse to evaluate: this group's conduct is wrong, this other group's conduct excusable. Finally, bound with evaluation, morality motivates prescriptive impulses. If something is wrong, one ought somehow to rectify the immorality.

Rectification in particular demands attention, because it connects moral ideas to moralizing action. Parkin (1985: 3-4) observes that social scientists often derive moral ideas from the social structure, but moral ideas likewise induce action to 'do the right thing' and hence undergird ongoing social relations. Some moral action simply affirms existing social arrangements, but, in rectification, action is intended to change the social situation, of oneself or of others, to conform with moral ideals. In high-scale morality, the active impulse intersects with the unequal distribution of power. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Respect for Outsiders? Respect for the Law? the Moral Evaluation of High-Scale Issues by Us Immigration Officers [*]
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.