Anthropology: Abandon All Truth Ye Who Enter
by Winfield Myers • Jul 20, 2016 at 4:59 pm
Anthropologists who study the Middle East were once inspired by "a scientific spirit to discover the cultures of the region and their dynamics" argues Philip Carl Salzman in the latest Campus Watch Research. Yet contemporary anthropology has been infected by "postcolonial discourse," which has injected "a dangerous, self-contradictory nihilism that rejects the possibility of objective Truth toward which we may move." Salzman's critique of a discipline he has long called home appears at the Daily Caller:
In the decades after WWII, anthropologists carried out ethnographic field research in the Middle East inspired by a scientific spirit to discover the cultures of the region and their dynamics. Among those who produced sound, grounded research were Fredrik Barth on the Basseri nomads, William Irons on the Yomut Turkmen, Lois Beck on the Qashqa'i confederation, William Lancaster on the Rwala Bedouin, and A. S. Bujra on Yemen. I had the privilege of carrying out field research among the Baluchi tribes of Iran.
However, anthropologists, including those studying the Middle East, gradually moved away from a scientific perspective toward a more subjective and politicized view. They were influenced in part by Edward Said, who in Orientalism (1978) argued that Western accounts of the Middle East were fabrications invented to justify imperialist invasion, colonial imposition, and oppression of local peoples. This "postcolonial" view blames Western imperialism for myriad problems worldwide, a view which neglects the cultures and agency of people around the globe.
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