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A Taste for "the Other": Intellectual Complicity in Racializing Practices Author(s): Virginia R. Dominguez Source:
A Taste for "the Other": Intellectual Complicity in Racializing Practices Author(s): Virginia R. Dominguez Source:

A Taste for "the Other": Intellectual Complicity in Racializing Practices Author(s): Virginia R. Dominguez Source: Current Anthropology, Vol. 35, No. 4 (Aug. - Oct., 1994), pp. 333-348 Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research Stable URL: Accessed: 07-04-2018 22:09 UTC

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CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY Volume 35, Number 4, August-October I994

?) I994 by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research OOII-3204/94/3504-OOOI$2.00

A Taste for "the Other"

Intellectual Complicity in Racializing Practices1

by Virginia R. Dominguez

Recent institutional efforts to counter historical patterns of exclu-

sion based on racial classification are examined and critiqued. Of

special concern are the recruitment of university faculty, the

It is in to be "Other" in most U.S. educational institu- tions, and it means something quite specific. Europeans need not apply, not because there is a sudden rash of "reverse racism" but because there is a new form of the

old racism that has the appearance of privileging. Both

the popularity of "the Other" and the practices that sus-

tain it are cut from the same cloth as the historical pat- terns of exclusion and devaluation that they aim to sup-

plant. But it is not easy either to see these continuities or to attack them without having the criticism backfire with worse consequences. Therefore we are left in a quandary that I aim to address here. The silence of so

many native-born, immigrant, or foreign anthropologists

on what I am calling the hyperprivileging of "minority

intellectuals" and the illusions that surround it is under-

standable, but it is nonetheless, I am arguing, deeply


A good part of the problem is perceptual. Racism is

always experientially and systematically consequential

but not always nakedly obvious. When institutional

practices define themselves in opposition to an ac-

highlighting (indeed, hyperprivileging) of certain marked forms of

difference in public forums, and the framing of curricular debates

about "multiculturalism" in prepackaged suspect ways. It is ar-

gued that these efforts continue to be so based on racializing prac-

tices that they paradoxically perpetuate more than challenge in-

vidious patterns of race and racism. Unintentional complicity is

called into question and anthropological silence decried.

VIRGINIA R. DOMINGUEZ is Professor of Anthropology at the

University of Iowa (Iowa City, Iowa 52242-I322, U.S.A.). Born in

i952, she was educated at Yale University (B.A., I973; M.A.,

I975; Ph.D., I979). She has been a Junior Fellow of the Society

of Fellows of Harvard University (I976-79) and has taught at

Duke University (I979-9I), the Hebrew University (i984-85),

and the University of California at Santa Cruz (I99I-93). Her re- search interests are public discourse(s) and the histories and poli-

tics of collective classifications. She has conducted fieldwork in New York City, Surinam, New Orleans, Jerusalem, and Hono- lulu and has published People as Subject, People as Object: Self- hood and Peoplehood in Contemporary Israel (Madison: Univer-

sity of Wisconsin Press, i989), White by Definition: Social

Classification in Creole Louisiana (New Brunswick: Rutgers Uni-

versity Press, i986), and (with Jorge I. Dominguez) The Carib-

bean and Its Implications for the United States (New York: For-

eign Policy Association, i98i). The present paper was submitted

in final form 2o x 93.

knowledged racism, there is a tendency for people com-

mitted to undermining racism to drop their guard. It is

always easier to see fault in positions one does not hold

than in those dear to one's heart. It is likewise easier

to note how others "otherize" people, to critique the

perpetrators, and to do so convincingly than to see how

we do the "otherizing" ourselves. More than saving face

is involved. We may just not see what we are doing be-

cause we are employing lifelong habits of seeing, catego- rizing, and processing the world around us. Often, too, we are blinded by our genuine belief in the worth-

whileness of a project or cause.

Anthropologists, for example, who have gone public

with defenses of anthropology in the past i 5 years have

typically felt attacked by nonanthropologists, often lit-

erature-based Cultural Studies scholars for whom a cri-

tique of anthropological practice was a critique of oth- ers' "otherizing." The far more common practice of critiquing intellectual paradigms inside or outside of

one's discipline from which one seeks to be distin-

guished is an equally good example. Wetherell and Pot-

ter (i992) eloquently argue that in their commitment

to fighting racism many students of racism erroneously perceive themselves to be outside the discourse of rac-

ism, and I seek to echo that call for greater awareness

of practical complicity and greater attention to self-

implicating practices.

Otherness is not natural; it is made-much like "ma-

jority" and "minority," "nation" and collective Selfhood

(see Dominguez i989). But Otherness is consequential

because of how deeply it is learned and then presupposed and recreated through seemingly innocuous practices.

For every posited Otherness there is a reinforced sense

of shared Selfhood. Both are experienced as natural and

therefore, to use Bourdieu's term, as doxa. Red warning

i. This paper was originally prepared for an invited session at the

9Ist annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association,

San Francisco, Calif., December 2-6. The session, organized by Katherine Verdery (Johns Hopkins University) and Ashraf Ghani

(World Bank), was entitled "Histories of Commodification: Papers

flags tend not to go up automatically about the conse-

quences of those practices that sustain the distinction

between Other (in the collective sense) and Self (in the

in Honor of Sidney W. Mintz."

rnl1prflup V~~~~~~~~~~~~.PnP

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334 CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY Volume 35, Number 4, August-October 1994

Said's Orientalism (I978) obviously comes to mind, but I am here more interested in examining particular institutional practices that cut across many disciplinary epistemologies and boundaries. Foregrounded are the of- ten unwitting practices by which the U.S. scholarly community imagines itself and institutionalizes itself in consequentially constitutive ways often at odds with its own widespread inclusive politics of equality and di- versity. Although the United States is the main area

within which I now operate and from which I proffer evidence, examples of similar practices in Canada and

England in recent years suggest that the U.S. phenome-

non that is in question probably has its parallels in se-

lected countries as well. Societal reproduction and its

institutionalized discursive practices are this essay's

bottom line.

plified and transformed into Difference, overvaluing par- ticular bodily differences by imbuing them with lasting meaning of social, political, cultural, economic, even psychological significance. Racialization is produced and reproduced through ideological, institutional, inter-

active, and linguistic practices that support a particular

construction of Difference. Some racializing practices are more obvious to us than others, and, when coupled

with blatant and categorical systemic stratification, they are also unproblematically repulsive. I am thinking here of definitional legislation of the sort I explored in

part i of White by Definition (i986) and of the specifi- cally sub-Saharan African slave trade and plantation sys- tem in the Americas (e.g., Curtin I969, I975; Braith-

waite I97I; Mintz I959, I985; Patterson I967, i982).

Other racializing practices, however, are more embed-

ded though not necessarily submerged in other aspects

of public discourse and institutional life, and we often

end up participating in their unfolding (e.g., Gilroy I987, Giroux I988). Anthropological participation in primitiv- izing, Orientalizing, and peripheralizing practices comes to mind as one example with which we have been ner-

vously grappling3 since the seventies.

Another one is very close to home. We (American aca-

demics) talk about Others in reference to particular pop-

ulations, typically applaud the current U.S. institutional

obsession with "diversity," and are often called on to serve as cultural experts. We also hyperprivilege (or at

least allow our institutions to hyperprivi'lege) those tar-

geted as "minority intellectuals." I am referring here to

the hype about hiring "minority intellectuals"-the spe-

cial interest, regulations, efforts, and even bidding wars

that create an air of awkwardness about a great many of these efforts. These are, I am arguing, racializing prac-

tices that should concern us. When diversity is invoked

Invoking "Diversity"

A major disjunction exists, at least in the United States,

between intentionality and embodied practices in insti- tutional sites in which "diversity talk" is currently at a

premium. For the past few years, a veritable explosion of what I am calling "diversity talk" has spread through- out U.S. educational institutions, funding agencies, pub- lishing houses, and foundations. The term "diversity"

is widely invoked in hiring, curricular offerings, funding

channels, and media access as coded language for "mi-

nority." U.S. national public rhetoric implies an interest

in all forms of diversity when, in fact, the referent is

always specific excluded, marginalized, or underempow-

ered groups typically within the United States. Jews, for example, are not included, and in California, perhaps

most visibly at the University of California at Berkeley,

there is an awkwardness about dealing with those of

Chinese or Japanese origin, who are "too numerous for diversity." U.S. public rhetoric also suggests an open- ness to different values, goals, perceptions, and experi- ences, though we in the United States do not seem to know yet how open we really are or can be (cf. Scott

I992, Dominguez I993). African-Americans, yes, but

how about Afrocentricity? Jewish Americans, yes, but do we really intend to allow for assertive Jewishness?

The problem is not always obvious. The fact is that a particular construction of Difference and a particular

construction of Otherness have become objectified and

internalized, indeed often commodified, in deeply ra-

cialized2 ways. The key here is deep. Racialization takes

place when differences between human beings are sim-

in such a way that it neither questions nor challenges

the naturalized system of social classification on which the society's system of inequality is based-when in fact it draws on and reproduces the constitutive terms of that

ideology of race-we ought to be more skeptical about

its liberatory possibilities and less complicit in the insti-

tutional practices that promote it. Too much emphasis

is being placed, in my opinion, on the advantages of an emphasis on "diversity" over an emphasis on Eurocen- tricity, assimilationism, and standardization. An example from curricular debates is the description of Berkeley's new American Cultures requirement. Starting in I992, every freshman entering Berkeley must

take a course examining "how American history, soci-

ety, and identity have been shaped by the nation's di-

verse cultural make-up"' (Chronicle of Higher Educa-

tion, March II, I992, p. Ai). Berkeley claims that its

2. The term has begun to acquire currency, especially among those

examining historically documentable processes of "race forma-

tion" or "racial category formation." Omi and Winant's (i986) Ra-

cial Formation in the United States is being widely read at least

in California's intellectual circles as an example of sociopolitical

constructions that extend to Americans of Asian origin. My own

requirement is unique-not, administrators say, an eth-

3. Influential books with which anthropologists have engaged in-

clude Torgovnick (i990), Said (I978), Fabian (i983), Clifford and

I986 book White by Definition provides historical and contempo-

rary discussion of "black/white" constructions. And Lavie's new- est work on "Third World Israeli" writers (e.g., i992) employs it

in the Israeli setting.

Marcus (i986), Wolf (i982), Clifford (i989), and Trinh (i989).

George Stocking's series with the University of Wisconsin Press on the history of anthropology provides both documentation and

complexity from within the field.

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DOMINGUEZ A Taste for "the Other" | 335

nic studies requirement or a mandatory course on rac-

ism or Third World cultures, a disclaimer meant to dis- pel precisely the kind of argument I am making. But

the two provisions that they believe make Berkeley's requirement "stand out" (p. Ai6) are the following:

"First, American Cultures courses must deal with at

least three of the following five groups: African Ameri-

cans, American Indians, Asian Americans, Chicano and

Latino Americans, and European Americans. Second, the courses can't look at ethnic groups in isolation from

each other. They must be comparative, placing groups in the context of American society." The requirement is to deal with certain people presented as groups within

U.S. society; it identifies the "groups" that faculty

members must deal with, though it gives the semblance of choice by letting them pick which three or four

"groups" they will include; and the names given these

"groups" generally imply identification by region or con- tinent of origin but replicate the divisions implied by

straight racial talk in the United States-"whites" and

their racialized Others ("black," "red," "yellow,"

"brown"). Reports on how this requirement is working confirm

the inherent racialization in both its form and its con- sumption. Despite its framing in terms of "cultural di-

versity," both faculty members and students typically

use the language of race just as much as the language of culture in talking about the courses and their contents. For example, in the Chronicle's article, actually entitled

"Faculty Members at Berkeley Offer Courses to Satisfy

'Diversity' Requirement," "race" and "culture" appear

almost interchangeably in quotations from faculty

members as well as students. And this is true of both

supporters and critics of the American Cultures re-


Despite the disclaimers, then, it is evident that Berke- ley's American Cultures courses are indeed courses about race in U.S. society, conceptualized racially

though marketed as culture talk.4 There is no general-

ized otherness here; there is always a specific Otherness, and there is a packaging that makes it palatable, even

part of a progressive agenda.

sion of universalism and the underhanded invocation of

"quality" (witness, for example, the televised and

printed exchanges between Dinesh D'Souza and Stanley

Fish over the past three years). But in the process of wanting also to "take action," an intense search goes on for intellectuals whose quality cannot be called into question and whose bodies, or at least social identities,

are processed (and displayed) as non-European, presum-

ably non-Eurocentric, and ideally also nonandrocentric.

The result is a paradoxical reinforcement of racializing

practices that Otherize in very selective ways for the intended purpose of fighting historically inherited sys-

temic patterns of inequality. Consider the following vi-


December i99i, Ottawa: Keya Ganguly, Tom Hill, Jane Ash Poitras, and I constitute the final panel at a

conference entitled "Art as Theory: Theory and Art." The panel is entitled "Institutionalized Theory in a

Post-Colonial World." The four of us are the only speak-

ers at this conference who are not Euro-North Ameri-

cans, and just as noticeably there are no Euro-North

Americans on our panel. Keya Ganguly and I make

nearly identical observations about this fact simulta-

neously. Perhaps naively, we are both unpleasantly sur- prised that at a conference organized by Cultural Studies colleagues from Ottawa and Montreal and featuring self- labeled progressive artists and scholars the four of us

would be so singled out and so lumped together. Keya is a South Asian-born U.S. resident, I am a Cuban-born

U.S. citizen, Tom is a Canadian Indian scholar and direc-

tor of the Woodlands Cultural Center, and Jane is an

openly spiritual Canadian Indian artist. Much of the au-

dience, we are told both before and after, has particularly looked forward to our panel. We are paradoxically privi-

leged speakers-first stigmatized as coming from the underprivileged world, then hyperprivileged as voices of

the underprivileged championing their cause while the liberal-left applaud-applaud while keeping us at arm's

length. June I992, Chicago: At a group dinner following a two-day symposium, I find myself sitting across the ta-

ble from a colleague who has asked not to be named. I

learn that he has just accepted an offer at a prestigious

university to develop and head a new African/African-

American Studies department, which means leaving his

home university. He is, in fact, a recent Ph.D. but a

highly recruited one in the past few years. He asks me


The intended inclusiveness increasingly takes the form

of a very suspect hyperprivileging in the hiring and pack- how I find UC-Santa Cruz and begins to talk about the

experiences at yet a third university that drove him away. I ask if his current university and the one whose

offer he has just accepted are really any different. He

answers that at least now he can take advantage of the

window of opportunity he fears will soon close for black

intellectuals in the United States. I am surprised at his pessimism and bring up as evidence the data all over the pages of the Chronicle of Higher Education-fellow-

ships and positions specifically targeting "minorities"

century U.S. canon that is decidedly Eurocentric and an-

aging of professional scholars. Proponents of a 20th-

drocentric in orientation typically reject what I am calling hyperprivileging by invoking universalist claims and processing it as an issue of "quality." Opponents of

the canonical status quo typically counter with reasoned

theoretical and political statements that attack the illu-

4. Elsewhere (igg2b) I develop the recent history of race talk, cul-

ture talk, and ethnic talk in the United States, articulating and documenting my claim here conceming the relegitimation of race in American public thinking.

in higher education. He nods but adds that he means the star system whereby scholars like himself are being

catapulted into the spotlight and intensely recruited by

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336 1 CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY Volume 35, Number 4, August-October 1994

universities trying to outbid each other. He says that he is not comfortable with the current frenzy but that he also worries that it will not last because in fact, in his view, universities do not really want very many visiblc

black scholars.

Spring i992, Scripps Humanities Institute: I am in. vited to be a featured speaker at a conference "focusing on various dimensions of postcolonial culture." The let- ter mentions "the postcolonial world," the arts, New

York, New Delhi, and postmodernism. I call the director

to get a better sense of what they are looking for. Eight people, he says, have been invited to give greater focus

to the conference. Not only do I know five of the other

seven invitees; I also notice that six of us are foreign- born and at least partly foreign-educated and six of us

(not quite the same six) are in the spotlight these days

as minority intellectuals-Valentin Mudimbe (Duke), Anthony Appiah (Harvard), Lata Mani (UC-Davis),

Houston Baker (University of Pennsylvania), Rey Chow

(UC-Irvine), and I.

In all of these vignettes, one thing is certain: Differ- ence/Otherness has become hyperprivileged, though the

rhetoric and the institutional motivation are based on

an analysis of societal and specifically institutional un- derrepresentation and underempowerment. Excellent intentions reproduce more than counter the very system

of differentiation and categorical inequality that the

rhetoric and their accompanying institutional acts seek

to supplant. The positive light in which this situated pattern of hyperprivileging is cast disguises its own ra- cializing practice just enough to keep it from being seri-

ously challenged.

Re-viewing "Race"

tion), I clearly remember his exchange with one particu- lar student at the end of a lecture in which he had in effect deconstructed the concept of race. "But Mr. Mintz," the student said, more troubled than sassy, "I can always tell a Jew when I see one." "I am sure," Mintz replied, making no overt reference to his own Jewishness. "but can you tell a Jew when you don't see

one? "

I have retold this story many times. I have found it wonderfully revealing, but I have also noted, with con- tinued surprise, that not everybody "gets it." For years

I have assumed that the naturalization of race in U.S. society is so deep-rooted that many Americans entirely miss his point, but increasingly I have wondered if his

point is not lost on a generation of Americans born and raised after World War II who were taught to deracialize

Jews while insistently racializing others. And I grow more and more insistent that the truly productive focus in conversations about race is (should be?) the historical

analysis of racializing (and where appropriate also dera-

cializing) practices.

The object of pointing out shifting categorial lines or

alternative classification systems has never been to

show that categories always have fuzzy boundaries or that individuals often have to grapple with systemic

controls or bureaucratic decisions beyond their individ-

ual control. It has been to document and to highlight

the social, political, and economic constructions of com-

munity, alliance, hierarchy, and relative value that are

enabled and reflected in specific racializing practices.

Who is a Jew is less socially consequential than what

Jews are, just as who is black is less socially consequen-

tial than what blacks are. But neither set of questions is as consequential as which question is indeed being

asked, under what circumstances, by whom, and to wh


As any history of racializing practices attests, the issue has never been simply difference or others but rather particular exclusions and particularly self-interested

constructions of sameness and difference. I am reminded brate, foreground, bracket, and recruit particular schol-

of Sidney Mintz's efforts to teach about "race" in his legendary year-long introductory anthropology course at

Yale, which for years drew hundreds of students and for this essay claimed that they sympathized with its cri-

which he won a coveted teaching prize. Almost a quarter

of a century later, I still remember both his message and the difficulties many students had in consuming it. I

recall, on the one hand, his strongly internalized social

Should we not, then, ask ourselves whose self-interest is really being served by the racializing practice that makes it possible for educational institutions to cele-

ars as "minority intellectuals"?

Many of those who encountered an earlier version of

tique of racialism but were made uncomfortable by- even rejected-what they took to be its implicit critique

of American institutions' "affirmative action" practices.

The question they seemed to pose so vividly was logical but also quite revealing. To understand my observations about categorical hyperprivileging is necessarily to ask how far we ought to go with this analysis and what the

constructionist sense of race (long before the phrase be- came fashionable), his emphasis on not dissociating the

history of race from the history of plantation slavery,

and his refusal to dismiss race as an annoying mystifi- cation of class coupled with a parallel refusal to dismiss

class as an equally annoying mystification of race. On

the other hand, while I remember only selected items

adoption of its critical stance would imply for related

racializing practices.

One analytic direction, focusing on two decades of

policy talk constituting affirmative action as a definable

from that year-long course (his singing Haitian Creole

songs in front of more than 6oo students, his lecture on

Durkheim's irreverent notion of religion, his attempt tc

get us to think about Vietnam as a peasant society and

not just a war we disapproved of, and his apparently

perfect command of the fossil evidence for human evolu-

set of activities, could end up debating the relation of contemporary racialized hyperprivileging to affirmative action as it has developed over the years in the United

States. A debate over the merits of affirmative action as

a historically corrective strategy would no doubt appear inevitable. A more interesting discussion, however,

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DOMINGUEZ A Taste for "the Other" | 337

might focus on what contemporary racializing patterns of hyperprivileging reveal about the relative successes

or failures of two decades of an at least objectified, if

not always visibly institutionalized, affirmative action


ing "blackness" leads Americans to process scholars from Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, and the non- Spanish-speaking Caribbean as "black," scholars from Latin America as "Hispanic," scholars from East Asian

countries as Asian (i.e., "Oriental"), and scholars from

For example, it is not at all clear to me that hyperprivi-

South Asia increasingly as "people of color." Indeed, it is often a painful, complicated, and prolonged "discovery"

that numerous immigrant scholars make; witness re-

cent public acknowledgments of this process by Indian-

born Arjun Appadurai (I993) and Cuban-born Ruth Be- har (I993 a), whose Jewishness complicates the process


Other classifiers-self-ascribed or operative else-

where, such as caste, religion, class, nationhood, or na-

tionality-are subordinated to a relentless U.S. ideology

of race. The result is a discursive/institutional practice that homogenizes Others (within the racialized catego-

ries of relevance to the United States) in the interest

of "diversifying" U.S. society. The elision of class, for

example, puts scholars who are usually socially privi-

leging in this racialized arena is a sign of the success of affirmative action, though the availability of more than

a handful of individual scholars to fill particular slots might appear to be a sign of the growth of the pool of "minority scholars." A compelling counterargument might well historicize this particular pattern of hyper- privileging, showing this embodied form of cultural cap- ital5 to be a recent phenomenon and suggesting that the

failure of affirmative action to produce sufficient change

in institutions of higher learning and influence has cre- ated the tighter market that enhances it.

A different direction might background the issue of

affirmative action strategies and foreground value-

creating and value-enhancing processes that arguably

shed light on the hyperprivileging of "minority intellec-

tuals." This argument would extend the observation

about hyperprivileging to an analysis of how Difference

and Otherness have been commodified in the process-

that a particular construction of Difference and a partic- peoples' needs (or interests) that are being served but,

leged in the untenable position of "speaking for" doubly

and triply underprivileged populations, often from mul-

tiple countries and even regions of the world. It is not

their/our home countries' or regions' or self-defining

ular construction of Otherness have acquired market

value and been bought and sold in the academy, espe-

cially since the mid-ig8os, in deeply problematic ways. As we learn from the history of drug foods-sugar, tea, coffee, and cocoa-or plantation slavery or commodified sex, particular socioeconomic circumstances create the buyers whose mass consumption typically ensures con- tinued production of the goods thereby badly needed by the market (see Mintz I985, Aries and Bejin I985, Wil- liams I989, Bell I987). If the process of commodification is successful, mass markets produce and reproduce his- torically specific buyers as well as historically specific

products, and historically specific institutional systems become invested in turning the commodity into a vehi- cle for further gain. An analysis of the commodification of racialized Otherness might, therefore, focus on the

socioeconomic circumstances enabling, indeed generat-

ing, this "taste for the Other." It would, however, impli-

cate both buyers and sellers as well as late capitalism in a post-civil rights movement, post-Vietnam War, and postcolonial era characterized by an apparent Pax Amer-


rather, those of the United States in the late 20th cen-

tury. Whereas elsewhere (igg92a, b) I have called atten-

tion to the culturalization of difference, here it is the

racialization of Difference/Otherness that must be high-


The Paradoxes of Demand

Limited supply increases the price of a good for which there is greater demand, and we have all heard about the limited supply of African-American, Chicano, Native

American, and Puerto Rican Ph.D.'s in the country, es-

pecially in the sciences. Most of us explain it by invok-

ing the long history of institutionalized racism in the United States and the economic, educational, social, and legal consequences of that systematic exclusion-that

is, we offer a theory of the limited supply of "minority

intellectuals." But what about the demand? Despite the liberal/progressive agenda that has pushed for such hir- ing for years, it is my contention that the current de-

mand for "minority intellectuals" is contingent on the racializing practices that continue to produce the sup-

ply-both the good itself (specifically the radical Other created by racializing practices) and the small numbers of the good available. Just as with the "development" of the demand for sugar between I650 and I900 in the Brit-

ish Isles, the "development" of the demand for "minor-

ity intellectuals" in the United States and the United Kingdom is neither natural nor emancipatory. "Minori-

ties" are not born; they are made. And they are always

made to support the notion, and the privileges, of "the

It would be simplistic to invoke postcoloniality as the

all-powerful explanation for the ongoing phenomenon.

It is indeed true that many of the most visible hyperpriv-

ileged scholars are themselves/ourselves non-European,

immigrant scholars. But it is the deep-rooted hold that

"race" has as an organizing schema in U.S. society that

provides the motor force. It is not their/our immigration

into the United States from a (frequently) recently inde-

pendent non-European country that is the determining criterion for their/our special visibility but, rather,

their/our being nrocessed as racia1 Others. Fssentiai7z-


5. Bourdieu's (i984) phrase seems especially apt here.

The question is always why. "Negro" slaves made the

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338 1 CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY Volume 35, Number 4, August-October 1994

merchants. "Chinese coolie" workers built much of the infrastructure of the western part of the United States. Otherizing, demonizing, and primitivizing the native, non-European peoples of North America made it possi-

ble for our igth-century Euro-American ancestors to

take their land by force or wile, even if it meant killing them. To speak of presumably high-status social posi- tions, such as that of intellectuals, in connection with these low-status positions no doubt seems problematic at first sight. But my point is that the similarity in the

production of human beings as types to be bought and

sold as types justifies the connection. In all of these

cases, we must ask if the consumption of these types is

ever really justifiable and what it is that is being bought, by whom, and for whose benefit.6 Let us not be misled by arguments that invoke the

specialness of particular "minority intellectuals"-

their/our scholarly quality-as a response to this essay's observations and critiques. Exceptionalizing particular scholars and not the many other extremely capable scholars who are not processed as "minority intellectu- als" reproduces the racializing system of Differentiation on which Otherness is based. It is not the quality of scholarship that is at issue but the packaging of scholars and their words as racialized minorities and the question

of which societies' or populations' needs are really being


We simply must address how we as anthropologists, as academics, as university faculty are complicit. This is not an issue just for those of us who are or have been minoritized; many of us who have been put in these

positions already worry about the compromises we make and the awkwardnesses we feel. It is equally an issue for those who do not feel implicated-but always


academic-capital-accumulating canon and differentiat- ing it from less valued work or whether we discern pat- terns in what Robert Alvarez has termed the "sifting

and shifting" of minority academics through "target-of- opportunity" recruitment and hiring, we can observe ra-

cializing practices that, for the most part, keep the ma- jority of racial Others in their place, in some periphery

outside the core of intellectual authority. The forms of racial hyperprivileging that Dominguez

discusses are indeed problematic and deserving of an-

thropological critique and analysis. However, in the

shadow of all the diversity hype and the commodifica-

tion of polyphony ("Other voices") are the ongoing mar-

ginalization and circurmscription of minority intel-

lectual authority. The commodification of minority intellectuals occurs in the context of a segmented mar- ket from which a very small number of "stars" are pro-

duced and packaged according to shifting consumer

tastes. Black feminist cultural critic bell hooks refers

to this process as "commodity faddism." These "stars"

emerge from a wiser-yet still underrepresented and un-

empowered-pool of more ordinary intellectual workers

who bear the brunt of less disguised forms of racializa-

tion. These more ordinary subalterns less frequently ex-

perience the "privilege"-or even "the appearance of

privileging"-of Otherness apart from the benefits they

may enjoy from belonging to a community of kindred

spirits occupying a niche within historically white, an-

drocentric universities or national professional organiza-

tions. Often such communities of support and affirma-

tion are imagined and invented in clear opposition to

the intense alienation and depreciation built into many

academic environments, where "diversity" and "multi- culturalism" are little more than rhetorical word play

and window-dressing advertising the latest academic

fashion. The ritualistic display of multiracial and multi-

cultural difference in high-profile hiring, conferences,

and publications diverts attention from the more com- mon everyday experiences of racial Others on the front lines of academic work and struggle. The widely felt

vulnerability of minority intellectuals (particularly women) to invisibility, misrepresentation, and attack (remember University of Pennsylvania Law School pro-

fessor Lani Guinier?) was underscored at an important

and extremely well attended conference that the Massa- chusetts Institute of Technology hosted early this year

entitled "Black Women in the Academy: Defending Our

Name, I894-I994." A number of anthropologists partic-

ipated in that historic meeting.



Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee,

Knoxville, Tenn. 37996-0720, U.S.A. 4 Iv 94

I strongly agree that anthropologists have a responsibil-

ity to interrogate the paradoxical racial politics and economy of anthropology and of academia in general. Dominguez is among a small number of anthropologists

who have implicated our discipline and profession in the

perhaps unwitting reproduction of invidious and insidi-

ous racial (and gender) differences. Whether we scru- tinize the value-laden boundaries demarcating the

It is important for us to confront and find ways to

break out of the racializing double bind in which we

find ourselves. The question, however, is how to accom- plish this without being complicit with the ultracon-

servative backlash against the best principles and in-

tentions of affirmative action. I feel strongly that anthropologists, of all intellectuals, should commit

6. The harsh questions I pose are I believe necessary ones for all

of us who are made uncomfortable by them. With Gilroy (i992), I

believe we must be intellectually and politically self-critical or we

will lose the constructively critical edge that we have always

brought to "Westem society."

themselves to inventing new models of deracializing

practice that responsibly confront racism and its multi-

plicity of consequences for both high- and low-profile


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Department of Anthropology, University of

Wisconsin, Madison, Wis. 53706, U.S.A. 6 IV 94

The reframinng and muddling of various nonwhite cate-

gories has plagued the United States from its origin.

Dominguez's courageous and subtle essay brings to light the long history of racializing practices which now in- forms the construction of "minority intellectuals." Dominguez convincingly argues that racism may lie coiled up in progressive agendas for affirmation action in academic institutions. Her analysis highlights the dis- juncture between articulated intention and implicit, embodied practice. She brilliantly points to the ra- cialized prepackaging of categories such as "diversity"

and "minority scholar" as commodities to be greedily


In the current academic climate of suspicion and bit-

terness over hiring, it seems particularly important for

those who would appear to be benefiting from what

Dominguez terms the "hyperprivileging" of minority

scholars to speak out. Feminist minority scholars such

as Patricia Williams (i99I ) and Ruth Behar (I993a) have

used personal narrative to explore the ways in which what may appear to be privilege actually carries en-

grained typifications and humiliations. Elsewhere I have

argued that the typification of minority identity as uni-

dimensiofial serves to repress the multiple, shifting vec-

tors around which identity is constructed (Narayan

I993a): it is crucial that scholars-minority or other-

wise-acknowledge the particular and personal loca- tions which feed into their professional stances (Nara-

yan I993b). When a minority scholar takes issue with

a typification head-on, complicating racial or cultural

identity with reference to class, gender, sexual orienta-

tion, and other factors, it is a start towards undoing the

accompanying symbolic violence.

Yet, once this first step towards bringing a pattern

into analytic focus has been taken, one wonders what is

concretely to be done so as to retain the values of affir-

mative action even as racialized typifications are pushed

aside. Valuing Dominguez's ability to raise provocative

and painful questions, I am eager to know what her

thoughts are on how we might proceed towards practical



Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, Calif. 94720, U.S.A. 7 vII 94

Dominguez raises the complex issue of the institutional

"hyperprivileging" of minority intellectuals as a ra- cializing practice. She notes that in the name of "diver-

sity," academic hyperprivileging of minority scholars helps maintain the structure of legitimation without calling into question its naturalization of social inequal- ities. Such "racializing" practices remind me of the

South African situation whereby a few middle-class and

privileged blacks were allowed to live in mixed neigh-

DOMINGUEZ A Taste for "the Other" | 339

borhoods, acting as a buffer against the majority of

blacks confined to special homelands. Thus, although I

generally welcome the theoretical space opened up by Dominguez's article, I have several problems with the totalizing nature of her formulation. It disturbs me that

her argument tars all those who may be labeled "minor-

ity intellectuals" with the same broad brush of "intel-

lectual complicity." By ignoring the multivocality of

minority representation and the contestatory nature and

instability of representations, it reduces the practice of every minority intellectual to functional support for a

monolithic complicity in racial domination.

How and why do certain minority scholars regularly find themselves part of the process whereby persons nat- uralized as "minorities" become hyperprivileged to speak on behalf of the minority masses? One becomes a "specific Other" not only because of one's self-

presentation and visibility as a member of a stereotyped

minority but because one chooses to benefit from such showcasing by appearing in different forums that seek a

politically correct representation of "ethnic" speakers,

by becoming part of the "star" system to be fought over by universities (thus fattening one's paycheck), and by

criticizing the very process that has made one intellectu- ally prominent (a form of cultural capital that can be mined in different ways). Dominguez comes close to

talking about a form of hyperppivileged victimization.

She suggests that no matter what we do we will always

be complicit in the racialization process and that our power can only be derived from attacking ourselves-all

in the name of solidarity with unnamed and underprivi-

leged minorities. I suggest another recourse. Implicit in Dominguez's criticism is the question of how to resist the co-optation

of oppositional discourses aimed at the destabilization

and subversion of hegemonic practices of racialization.

She fails to consider how some so-called minority intel-

lectuals, by allowing themselves to be hyperprivileged,

may be engaging in the subversion of majority intellec-

tuals' proprietary claims. One such tactic is claiming

one's ''race'' not as a biological essentialism but as a

way of registering protest and resistance to assimilation and domestication. Another would be refusing to submit

to any identity based on genealogy, national origin, race,

culture, or social citizenship while continuing to seek

forums for opposition to various forms of inequality ev-

erywhere. It is in these and other ways-among them reappropriations, transformations, hybridizations, and

realignments-that subaltern discourses deal with hege- monic forces of racialization (Tharu i989:I27).

Dominguez argues that we should not hyperprivilege

any intellectual on the basis of the "minority" label.

Given the state of race and class relations in this coun- try, the voices of nonmajority scholars whose communi- ties have been historically excluded from the discourses and practices of the American academy will scarcely be heard. I would rather hear too many times about the

question of racial formation from someone like Cornel West than from many nonminority scholars. After all,

many majority academics are hyperprivileged simply be-

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340 1 CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY Volume 35, Number 4, August-October I994

cause of pedigree, participation in exclusive university and old boys' networks, and long experience as stereo- typed male representatives of intellectual power. I admire Dominguez's work but regret her rhetorical

strategy here. It is not true that there is silence about attempts to hyperprivilege minority intellectuals. In an- thropology, for instance, Trouillot (I99i), Narayan

civil-rights movement, are acutely aware of the complex

and shifting relations between race, ethnicity, and cul-

ture (see, e.g., Omi and Winant I986).

A recent article in the New York Times on key speak-

ers in the country listed only two who can be considered "minority": Maya Angelou and Cornel West. Given the social and political underrepresentation of all minorities

in the nation, we are very far from hyperprivileging mi-

(I993a), and I (n.d.) have in different ways criticized the

notion that immigrant or native anthropologists enjoy a

special relationship with cultural others or have "privi- leged" access to ethnographic truth. In our different ways we suggest that the consciousness developed under

the conditions of a diaspora and the absence of national

and cultural closure fosters skepticism with regard to the privileging of truths on the basis of particular forms

of identification.

Dominguez offers the interesting notion that raciali- zation is always about specific Others and cites as an example "an awkwardness" at the University of Califor- nia at Berkeley about dealing with those of Chinese or Japanese origin, who are 'too numerous for diversity."' I take it that the "awkwardness" she refers to has to do with competing demands to admit more students from the African-American, Native American, and Hispanic communities. I happen to think that these are legitimate concerns and that Berkeley has gone very far in trying to diversify its student population. That some professors

of color (who are often extraordinarily overworked at

large public universities) can be called "hyperprivileged" does not mean that populations that have historically

been discriminated against should remain underprivi-

leged with regard to educational opportunities. Racism

exists at Berkeley as in the wider society, but students of Asian ancestry feel more accepted here than on any other campus in the country.

nority intellectuals in the sense of acknowledging the

work of all the scholars and intellectuals who may be so categorized. By exaggerating the scope of such hyper-

privileging we risk a backlash against innumerable un-

derprivileged minority scholars and students in acade-

mia. Minority and foreign students continue to be rather

underprivileged in anthropology and in all fields.'


Department of Anthropology, University of

Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass. 01003, U.S.A. 5 Iv 94

Dominguez should be applauded for daring to say,

"Look, the emperor has no clothes on!" For her the em- peror is parodic of academic hegemony and its estab-

lished agents, and the "new clothes" represent the vari-

ous ways in which many academic agents hyperprivilege minority scholars in their effort to achieve strategic and stylish diversity. In an era in which the extinction of

our usefulness as anthropological experts is still a possi-

bility, we simply cannot afford to pretend that transpar-

ently naked emperors are fully dressed. Instead of balk- ing at the claim to cultural expertise of scholars of

multiculturalism who are not anthropologists, Domin-

guez's description of academe's hyperprivileging

prompts us to address our own inadvertent tendencies

to reproduce what Turner (I993) calls "difference mul

culturalism" (as opposed to a more progressive "critic

multiculturalism"). It alerts international observers and

warns us American anthropologists about our complic-

ity and complacency as practitioners of "difference

multiculturalism" who too often succumb to the "ro- mancing of otherness" (Gitlin i992, quoted in Turner


In speaking of "hyperprivileging" Dominguez is refer-

ring to the commodification of difference-the hiring,

packaging, and promoting of non-European, non-

Eurocentric, and nonandrocentric bodies "whose quality cannot be called into question." She explains that the academic demand being met by this commodification

ensures the controlled scarcity of places in academe for

other minority scholars implicitly deemed less quali-

fied. Significantly, she reminds us that the demand is

not only for "quality" scholars themselves but for the

filling of the most visible "minority" slots in the acad-

emy. As she describes it, our tendency toward hyperpriv-

ileging seems to disregard the contributions of most mi-

nority scholars while celebrating those of just a few,

making their incorporation into academe extremely vis-

i. I thank Lawrence Cohen for his remarks on this comment.

It is to be regretted that Dominguez bases her sweep-

ing statements about the American Cultures program at Berkeley on a single report, without having reviewed course materials, sat in on classes, or interviewed the students and faculty involved. I spent two years on the university subcommittee reviewing hundreds of course

proposals for the American Cultures program. Although

not all satisfied the requirements of the program, none

took the view that "race" and "culture" were inter-

changeable. In fact, the goal of the courses was to dem- onstrate through extensive comparative reading and re- search the political, economic, and cultural processes whereby different populations in the United States have

come to define themselves and each other. Although not

all professors view culture the way anthropologists do,

scholars in the different disciplines do consider "race"

a social formation and recognize the complex relation- ships between "race" and "culture" as historically con-

tingent and politically determined. Furthermore, the

view that the meanings of race are culturally produced and contestatory does not necessarily conflict with the notion that race, ethnicity, and culture are historically linked. Berkeley has the leading ethnic-studies depart-

ment in the country; many of our professors, having di- rectly participated in the free-speech movement and the

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DOMINGUEZ A Taste for "the Other" I 34I

ible. Once selected, hyperprivileged minority intellectu- als are suddenly treated like bonafide members of the

club. This practice hides the wide-ranging and destabi- lizing critique of academic racism that most minority scholars would otherwise make while publicizing the political correctness of universities with mandatory "di-

versity" courses-some of which merely additively in-

corporate the historical and cultural experiences of spec- ified racial or ethnic groups. Is hyperprivileging anything

more than an educated, embodied, institutional version

of ethnographers' conceptual filling of the "savage slot"

(Trouillot I993)?

Of course, says Dominguez, back-pedaling just a bit, none of these academic agents are reproducing such ra- cializing practices on purpose, but they do it all the time

because of "unwitting practices" rooted in our habitual

modes of thought. She may not agree with me, then,

that the high visibility of a few hyperprivileged minority

scholars and the concomitant low visibility of most un- derprivileged minority scholars render academe's es-

tablishment guardians safely invisible. Universities

self-interest is really being served by the racializing prac-

tice that makes it possible for educational institutions to celebrate, foreground, bracket, and recruit particular

scholars as 'minority intellectuals'?"

In addition to overseeing the production of knowl- edge, universities are also businesses with a decided

preference for certain received "types." They keep cer- tain "qualified" scholars employed while denying ten- ure to others deemed "unqualified," who often develop other very important qualifications that elite universi- ties refuse to recognize. Thus minority scholars are risk- ing their own security by inviting the "unqualified" la- bel when they publicly address such questions as directly as I am trying to do. Pleading ignorance or sur- prise is much safer, and we see this alternative strategy

being adopted by Dominguez herself when, for example,

she reports her conversation with the anonymous black

scholar. That scholar's belief that American universities

really don't want many visible blacks is one with which

most scholars of color have no difficulty relating. (For

example, scholars of color who participated in a presti-

often receive public and corporate approval for the tacti-

gious university conference a while ago told me that one

cal diversion of public attention that is accomplished

when establishment guardians (based in departments of anthropology, for example) participate in the selec- tion of "minority intellectuals" whose scholarship is to

be consumed mainly by academics without bringing

much social justice into the real world. We need eth-

nographers who will expose how and explain why such

agents seek to take all the credit for admitting scholar-

minorities into the academy. How does it help preserve

their own scholarly white privilege? Is that privilege

further safeguarded by controlling hyperprivileged

scholar-minorities for their ideological commitments to mainstream academic politics (see Page and Thomas


Dominguez identifies the liberal left as the primary

white European discussant specifically addressed the

white scholars in a mixed audience, expressing shock

that American academe had slipped so far as to let the

minorities have a voice.) On the basis of our racialized

experiences, even if we are not personally hyperprivi- leged we can anticipate the evidence that the anony-

mous black scholar might point to in support of his ob- servation. We would expect Dominguez, a Third World woman, and a similarly oppressed hyperprivileged mi- nority scholar, to have understood him, but she tells us that she was "surprised at his pessimism." Furthermore, she fails to ask why he drew that conclusion given his own immense and rapid personal success. In liberal-left fashion, Dominguez optimistically pre-

sumes that the reproduction of racializing academic

practices in contradiction to academe's publicly em-

braced rhetoric of equality and diversity is an "accident"

that happens only because "people drop their guard"

agent of the hyperprivileging of minority scholars. She

also more correctly recognizes that the whole univer-

sity, in its effort to minimize racial unrest, is often ob-

sessed with espousing diversity and multiculturalism

while failing to cultivate academic practices totally sup- portive of and committed to social justice. As Turner (I993:4I2) explains, "Anthropology and its various con- cepts of culture are not principally oriented towards pro- grams of social change, political mobilization, or cul- tural transformation." Paradigmatic stabilization seems

preferable, possibly because it feels safer. The unnamed

evaluators, selecters, and promoters of hyperprivileged

minorities in anthropology are thus empowered to reaf-

firm this sense of safety by controlling the impact of minority scholarship on paradigmatic disciplinary dis-

course. Dominguez's argument would be more incisive if she recognized that even the racialization of hyper- privileged non-U.S. minority intellectuals like herself is

implicitly intended, "unaware," to protect white public

space in the American academy and "inadvertently" to

sustain white privilege in the process. Where she could ratify this point, however, she equivocates, asking rhe- torically, "Should we not, then, ask ourselves whose

when their academic practices have been publicly iden-

tified as "in opposition to acknowledged racism." In

contrast, many scholars of color expect dominant insti-

tutions to operate "at odds" with their "inclusive poli- tics of equality and diversity" as a historic matter of

course. Optimism or pessimism has nothing whatsoever to do with our insistence on identifying majority exclu-

sion and controlled access for a few for what it is. We

know from experience that dominant institutions rarely do what they say when it comes to academic race mat- ters or, if they really want to be seen as doing what they say, then simply don't say very much.

Dominguez believes that hyperprivileging reproduces

a racializing effect mainly because it is embodied in a

set of innocuous practices not easily abandoned because they are so deeply learned. But this very reasonable point

overlooks the responsibility of established academic

agents to change themselves and their organizations. It presumes that the problem is their unintentional indi-

vidual complicity. I suggest that, despite the growing

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342 1 CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY Volume 35, Number 4, August-October 1994

number of genuiinely antiracist academics, institutional and individual complicity are not so unintentional. In-

stitutions and most individuals alike try to live up to their ideals in the space left over after doing whatever it seems to take to pay their bills. If we really think about the business side of academe, then we can see that the problem is learning to incorporate embodied

nonwhite diversity without alienating the mostly white

paying customers and managing to educate those same

(often recalcitrant) customers about racial issues in po-

litically astute ways. In the attempt to maintain order in a student body diversified by the civil-rights marches and Black Power demonstrations of the I96os and I970s, encouraging the development of "a curriculum for every group" became the smorgasbord strategy that Dominguez describes. It makes it appear that different people of color have no common experience of oppression by the dominant

group. It may also scatter and circumscribe oppositional attention, thus enabling the academy quietly to recenter

and stabilize the dominant discourse from the podium and in the classroom. Parading hyperprivileged minority intellectuals diverts attention from deeper problems and makes it possible to report that there are simply not

enough resources to support each group's curriculum or to promote the expert efforts of the most insistent anti- racist minority faculty members to open up more non-

white public space in the academy.


Departamento de Antropologia, Universidade de Brasilia, Brasilia, Brazil. 29 III 94

Luchino Visconti's film I1 Gattopardo (The Leopard) de-

livered in stereo the adage of the modern West when it

projected onto the silver screen the dictum that some- thing has to change so that everything can stay the same.

This dictum was being pronounced at the moment when

hegemony in the European political order was changing

hands from the aristocracy to the bourgeoisie, and it be- trays an attempt by the former to lure the latter into its own expiring mold by yielding to it just so much and no more. In her unmasking of the ideology of the politically correct that has swept through the United States, Do- minguez delivers a similar message. What was once de- nounced as tokenism has gained new impetus and a new cloak called diversity, and this is tokenism with a ven-

geance. To what extent anthropology, with its insistence

on the virtues of diversity, is responsible for this new wave of cultural "democratism" is hard to tell in a coun- try that is continuously being bombarded by multiple


Affirmative action, the subtext that accompanies the

rhetoric of minority rights, seems to be not only good

to co-opt but also good to export. After decades of sup-

porting graduate programs in Brazil, the Ford Foundation

has surprised us with a questionnaire requesting infor-

mation about the percentage of blacks among our fac- ulty, student body, and staff and intimating that its

affirmative-action orientation might be equally valid in our social latitude. This effort to export yet another First

World commodity to the underdeveloped world makes no attempt to translate the idiom, let alone the sociocul-

tural context, of North American tokenism ideology to the realities of Brazil. The assumption behind this dry

and haughty questionnaire is that blacks are blacks

wherever they are and whites do the same white things

everywhere, regardless of the nistorical, economic, polit- ical, ethical, moral, or other specific conditions that may

prevail. There is nothing here by way of innovation on the by now aging theme of imperialism dressed up as democracy: What is good for the United States is good

for the world. If the homogenizing fever of U.S racial democracy can spread all the way to us who are some- what protected by geographic, historic, and national ex- panses, we can imagine what it is like to be in its vortex. This is precisely what scholars such as Dominguez are

intent on disclosing to us.

Dominguez's political verve competently exposes the

perverse effect of this majority stratagem on minority personae. Relying on ego boosting, it exploits the public- ity potential of the selected few scholars/intellectuals

My reading of Dominguez leads me to conclude that

the institutional preference for "difference multicultur- alism" relies both on the hyperprivileging of minority

scholars and on the simple proliferation of "diversity"

courses. I add that these stop-gap measures are fostered

by academic agents seeking to maintain order on cam-

pus by regulating the rate of institutional change and by

discrediting the change advocated by "critical multi-

culturalism" in favor of an additive but paradigm-

stabilizing politics of hyperprivileged minority inclu- sion. Academe may thus mask its core racism and

appear racially progressive when its stylishly hyperprivi- leged minority scholars are paraded, and we must thank Dominguez for this particular image of the naked em-

peror. What it means is that most universities make lit-

tle or no real effort to eliminate the social injustice that is the fundamental motivation for racial unrest.

Fostering antiracist courses (instead of courses that merely incorporate information about racialized others)

and supporting the more politically active antiracist mi- nority faculty members (rarely among the hyperprivi- leged) would go a long way toward empowering us to

offer our students the anthropological tools they would need to identify white privilege, to explore its constitu- tion and see how it is reproduced in the white public

space of American institutions, and to work hard at sys-

tematically dismantling it. Hyperprivileging does en- trench racial hegemony in academe, as Dominguez sug-

gests, but it also exists so that a curriculum designed to

teach students to eradicate racism by dismantling white

privilege will never be implemented.

who are elevated to the category of "ethnic chic" in aca-

demia and its environs. It is, in fact, a process that dis-

plays disarming similarities to one in the field of macro-

politics: crossing the dividing line from the opposition

to the establishment is expected to cripple critical

awareness. The establishment counts on the inevitable

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DOMINGUEZ A Taste for "the Other" | 343

tendency, once one is in, to lose sight of previous battles In party politics as in academic circles, the lure of powei is the most efficient instrument for defusing discontent

Considerations of quality notwithstanding, what hap- pens is the appropriation of a convenient other for use

as a signal that a democratic endeavor is under way. By

allowing minority talents to express themselves-whai

Spivak (I990:60, surprisingly absent in Dominguez'c

text) calls benevolent imperialism-the established ma-

jority kills more than two birds with one stone. It (i offers a show of racial/ethnic democracy as it (2) reaps the benefits of great minds while (3) deflecting the rislk

of radical change. In addressing the issue of its internal

cultural diversity, the guardians of North American in- tellectuality choose to folklorize that issue in an at-

tempt to neutralize it. Anthropology, as Behar (I993b.

3I4) points out, "has yet to carry out the radical kind o.

self-examination that would bring its multicultural

quest home." Diversity is thus kept on a leash.

becoming burnt-out by all this and deflected from their proper professional pursuits. Non-minority academics were left to get on with their own career-building, status enhancement, even the disinterested pursuit of


I have to say, however, that I know a number of

Maaori (members of the minority group with which I

am in daily contact and for-which I work) who would

recognise everything that Dominguez says but find it not of great personal concern. They have good degrees;

they were appointed in fair competition; they would re-

ject the very notion of hyperprivilege. My old-fashioned

training makes me want some numbers here. I realise

that Dominguez is drawing our attention to context

rather than cases and therefore numbers are irrelevant.

But the minority academics who survive all of this are

not all victims; some are victors (though reluctant to be heroes).

The situation is made worse by the expectation of

Fine and alert minds, however, have a way of breaking

some members of minority groups that their intellectu-

loose from harnesses and often reject the script prepared

for them. True to the unfailing workings of dialectics,

these minds reveal that inherent in the system which

set up the success trap for them is the potential for its

own negation. So long as there are Dominguezes,

Spivaks, and Behars on the horizon, this trap will not gc


Retuming to Visconti, one should remember that, foi

better or worse, it was the bourgeoisie that ended ui

with hegemony in its hands.

als will carry political banners and service "their own,"

as well as doing what any other "ordinary" member of

the profession does, or risk being labelled an Uncle Tom

(or the gender equivalent).

This is obviously, as Dominguez points out, more

than just a set of personal problems. She asks us all to

consider yet again our failure to transcend the individual level of personal change and root out the basic cultural

assumptions that constitute our "lifelong habits of seeing, categorizing, and processing the world around

us." We have tinkered with the institutional apparatus

but not changed the underlying eidos of the academy,

which, fundamentally, by its universalism, defeats dif-

ference while defending it.


Centre for Maaori Studies and Research, University of

Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. 25 II 94

The process which Dominguez calls the hyperprivileg-

ing of minority intellectuals is certainly problematic.

How naive we all were back when we thought that the UNESCO Statement on Race would bring about an in-

temational accord to outlaw the very concept of race and everyone would live happily ever after! Later, as

civil rights issues became the hot number, we supported

As anthropologists we should ask why it is that so deep-seated a contradiction persists in what we still be-

lieve is a rational world (another deeply problematic

proposition). Culture as paradox is not foreign to our

intellectual tradition; Bateson, for one, saw it as funda- mental. I for one would suggest that the value of such

paradoxes and the function of their persistence is that they provide for and power change by throwing up alter-

natives to otherwise universalistic tendencies in every

the elimination of institutional racism (and sexism tool

culture. We can be aware, accept the responsibility to

by persuading our masters to declare our institutions culture-safe zones and equal-opportunity employers and to adopt charters, codes, and policies of affirmative


In none of these did we lose ground, but in the new

reality which emerged there was not only backlash and

invent and explore (what else is intellectual "freedom"

and human creativity for?), continue to press the moral

arguments, and (if we can, and if we think we should)

alleviate the strain of the yoke that minority members bear. Few of us are experts in personal therapy, and help- ing people adapt to intolerable situations is hardly ther-

retrenchment but distancing from the problem ("Who,

apy anyway. We are responsible for the situation, not

me?") and denial ("What, here?"). Rightly Dominguez

points to unwanted (if not exactly unexpected) effects.

We legitimized some truly incompetent people. We al-

lowed ethnic and gender studies to become ghettos and (dare I say it?) denigrated. Minority intellectuals were in

danger of becoming representatives of protected endan- gered species, treated with attention, acclaim, conde-

scension, and similar liberal entrapments and perhaps

solely or wholly but inescapably.

Finally, anthropology still has to learn to live with the increasingly literate, aware, and articulate populations it studies. Simply importing increasing numbers of "them" into the profession of "us" will not save either our souls or our profession from its hubris. We have a tradition of assisting others to present their perspec- tives. Detachment from that denies one of our reasons

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344 CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY Volume 35, Number 4, August-October 1994

for being and leaves undischarged the prime moral obli-

gation of the field researcher-to become the servant of

those who have given one the privilege of studying their

lifeways. Too many of us lose, ignore, or never acquire

that perspective and live with the resulting mess. If one can't clean house from basement to attic, maybe the best thing is just to burn it down. Unfortu-

nately, we all live in the house, and it isn't a detached

villa on Cloud 9. Pointing the finger at some aspect of an institution, some failure to actualise a professional code, or any other of the components of the dilemma of

which Dominguez writes is a step, but a small one. Our

real responsibility is to that which we profess to under-

stand and study. What is needed is not just tinkering with administrative practice but culture change. If we

are not the experts in changing culture, then who is?

ludes also to a shift in the North American language of social classification toward a culturalization of differ- ence. In recent years, the spread of a culturalist rhetoric has been noted elsewhere; for instance, in Europe, at a time of economic recession in which national frontiers are being revitalized, so-called extra-communitarian im- migrants' cultural difference is being construed as the rationale for their exclusion. The meaning of this new culturalist rhetoric of exclusion is controversial in part because of a tendency to uncover old vices in new guises. I am not familiar with the North American situa-

tion, but it seems to me equally problematic to see the

new "culture talk" and the discriminating practices in-

formed by it in the United States as just one more ex-

pression of the old racialism as Dominguez suggests.

There is first of all the question of the reason for this rhetorical shift. The civil-rights movement in the

United States, no less than the horrors of World War II

in Europe, has discredited any form of "race talk." This may be one reason for modification of the language of

categorical disqualification in a socioeconomic context which, moreover, has become more inequitable. It is

not, however, sufficient reason for cultural difference

to have become an ideological alternative, nor is it an

explanation for the way in which cultural diversity as a

criterion for inclusion as well as exclusion is conceptu- alized and the ideological assumptions on which it

draws for its argumentative force.


Facultad de Letras, Universidad Autonoma de

Barcelona, Bellaterra, Barcelona 08-193, Spain. 6 iv 94

The civil-rights movement of the sixties, at a time of

economic expansion, was followed by increased profes- sionalization of minority intellectuals. This was cut

short, however, in the seventies with the onset of the economic crisis and the restrictive neoliberal social and

economic policies of the Reagan government. The socio- economic blockage makes the intrinsic shortcomings of affirmative-action policies, which have consistently ad- dressed the symptoms rather than the root causes of the exclusion of so-called minorities, all the more apparent. Dominguez's critique of an inclusive politics of equality predicated on the exaltation of diversity-based on her

personal experience as a distinguished "minority intel- lectual"-needs to be set in this context. The privileged

treatment accorded selected minority intellectuals by the academy and the way in which minority issues have been incorporated into reformed university curricula in the United States have reinforced rather than dissolved

categorical difference. As a consequence, it is virtually

impossible for minority intellectuals to avoid being treated as symbolic "others" and establish ordinary indi- vidual identities. This paper is bound to provoke contro-

versy, for it exposes an experience which is usually hid-

den behind the veil of privilege, challenges the

progressive hopes invested in affirmative-action prac-

tices, and calls academics to task for their complicity. Controversy, however, is very much needed if we are to

rethink the implications of the ubiquitous contempo-

rary celebration of diversity.

The phenomenon this paper addresses is important

and needs to be voiced, but I have some reservations

about part of Dominguez's interpretation. She concludes

that the "marked' experience of privileged minority in-

tellectuals is ultimately one more manifestation of the

"deep-rooted hold that 'race' has as an organizing schema in U.S. society." There is no doubt about the power of racialism as a legitimation of social disqualifi-

cation in U.S. history and society. Still, Dominguez al-

Dominguez rejects the invocation of postcoloniality as the explanation for the persistent categorization of minority intellectuals and adduces several instances of

"racial" marking of groups of recent immigrant origin.

Afro-American blacks' insistence that their historical experience of exclusion is distinct from that of immi-

grant intellectuals raises, however, the question

whether the privileged but nonetheless categorical treat-

ment of representatives of the latter does not have its own ideological logic and whether phenotype, where and when it is used, rather than subsuming other classi-

fiers, does not stand for a specific categorization con-

strued in political, that is, nationalist-cultural, rather

than socio-structural terms. It may be necessary to ex-

amine more closely possible differences in the ways in

which domestic underclasses and recent immigrant

groups are classified. The naturalization of systems of

socioeconomic inequality and exclusion to neutralize social tensions is an old strategy inherent in modern Western class society. The ideological assumptions put to use for this purpose have, however, been diverse, ra- cialism being only one variation on this theme. "Culture talk" may sound less offensive than "race talk," but the recent resurgence of reified, bounded notions of culture and cultural diversity, not least within anthropology it- self, should make us wary of old analytical categories.

To conclude, a more general problem: Dominguez re-

sents the academy's commodification of minority intel- lectuals and the uncomfortable experience of thereby be- ing made into a largely symbolic representative of the underprivileged majority. Yet, the commodification of

difference is preceded by the production of differences.

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What, then, is really at issue? Is it merely that categori- cal social classifications impede the development of in- dividual merit and personal identity? Or is it the very logic of a society in which, on the one hand, individual achievement is celebrated as the basis for socioeco- nomic success but, on the other, the intrinsic limits to collective improvement of so-called minorities are ra- tionalized by essentializing socioeconomic inequality and exclusions, thereby disguising their economic- political roots? Dominguez highlights one instance of the limitations of liberal diversity politics. Anthropol- ogy, whose classical object of analysis has been the di-

versity of "others," not only needs to be aware of the

institutional complicities Dominguez denounces but, more important, must address the many subtle ways in which new diversities are construed in an increasingly globalized, individualistic, and fragmented world.


Department of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md. 21I21I8, U.S.A. I5 IV 94

Dominguez exposes a wound that most progressive aca-

demics would prefer to cover with a Band-Aid, and some

will likely criticize her just for having done that. I share her concerns and welcome her argument, but I would question the conclusion that leaves us with no alterna-

tive other than the academic questioning of the catego-

ries deployed.

The practices condemned by Dominguez do reproduce

the racialized organization that they claim to challenge, but is that all they do? As historical moments in the

long and contradictory interplay of class, race, and cul-

ture in the United States, are they not both limiting

and enabling? Dominguez rightly calls for a historical

analysis. Such analysis would reveal the long process through which cultural diversity came to be assimilated with liberal sympathy for otherwise essentialized racial

minorities. It would uncover the reasons why and the

ways in which "culture" became a convenient cover for

race in a legally desegregated but still fundamentally

racist society.

The peculiarly North American culture concept de- veloped in part as an advance over evolutionary theory, in part as a tool of white liberals against racism, but we should not forget that this conceptualization was also conveniently congruent with economic liberalism. As part of that liberal package, the culture concept pro- foundly undermined the biological underpinnings of rac-

ism and contributed to the advance toward desegrega-

tion. The package as such could not, however, fully address the complex relations of race and class in the United States, nor could its "take" on culture move an-

thropology out of "the savage slot" (Trouillot i 99i).

Quite the contrary. Academic refinements aside, coffee-

table anthropology sold nonwhite (and therefore ra-

cialized) "cultures" to the general public as essentialist

representations in which a naturalized ethos replaced

DOMINGUEZ A Taste for "the Other" | 345

biological teleology in the explanation of behavior. As

race moved away from biology, culture moved closer to race. Thus by the time race reached the "free" market

it had already been prepackaged as culture. But the new breaks in the market for nonwhites were not due to academic discourses or even to market pres- sures as such. They came primarily from the political wave launched by the civil-rights movement. What we are witnessing today are the contradictions of these mul-

tiple trajectories where nationwide racism and the econ-

omy matter as much as the beliefs held by a few academ-

ics. Multicultural programs and the hyperprivileging of

minority faculty are bearers of these contradictions.

Multicultural programs are often indeed racializing prac-

tices, but they are also practices that embody recent and current fights against the racism prevalent in U.S. soci- ety and genuine intellectual challenges to the domina-

tion of a supposedly Western canon. Similarly, the hyperprivileging of faculty minorities

may be a racializing practice often initiated to defuse

student insurgency or to assuage liberal guilt, but it is also part of a more general process of commodification, and its academic outcome need not be the simple repro-

duction of the practices that made it possible. First, the

star system does not operate only within academe, and

here as elsewhere it commodifies not only race-

including whiteness-but also gender, fades, public im-

age, and other components of a marketable icon. The segmented markets for which these commodities are produced replicate those of the society at large. As far

as race is concerned, such markets are not as "free" as

liberal thinking first suggested, but they are somewhat freer than segregation. Anthropologists may try to debunk the race-culture complex-a difficult prospect now that the public at large knows as much as we do whatever culture is (Perry i992). But even if we succeed, "race" under any name

will still reach academe as a virtual commodity op-

erating in a formally desegregated market. It is the very combination of profound racism and formal desegrega- tion in the society at large that makes this commodity

possible. The practices deplored by Dominguez will ap-

pear in new guises unless we do something more outside


Within academe itself, we can and should make intel-

ligent use of the contradictions inherent in these very practices to influence their reproduction. We should contribute to making multicultural programs deliver something more than what many students and adminis- trators may have first intended. We should push the few

minority superstars to use their positions to modify the segmented market that produced them. When will the number and quality of minority Ph.D.'s they mentor de-

crease the market value of race in their respective fields?

In sum, besides the verbal deconstruction of the catego-

ries involved, we should consider the numerous micro-

practices of resistance, including the relative dera- cialization of our own specialty. In recent years, the

proportion of blacks with higher degrees has declined in

anthropology as in most research fields. Academics are

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346 CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY Volume 35, Number 4, August-October 1994

not responsible for this decline, but we certainly have

not done much about it.



Iowa City, Iowa, U.S.A. 22 v 94

A response need not be a defense. I am gratified that a

number of these commentaries are supportive of the ef- fort to show that "the emperor's clothes," as Page puts it, are not what they appear to be. My goal has been

to open a space within which we can talk about the

limitations, indeed the failures, of some of our well- intentioned strategies for fighting institutional racism.

"A Taste for 'the Other"' is deliberately concise. It seeks to name a phenomenon and to problematize it. It does

not seek to compare institutions, to analyze good inten-

tions at length, or to be exhaustive. It was not something

I wrote comfortably, nor is it, I am sure, something to be

consumed comfortably. It urges critical self-reflection,

especially on the part of anthropologists, many of whose

intellectual battles with explicit racism span at least a


Ritchie hints at the possibility that in New Zealand those "benefiting" from similar forms of hyperprivileg- ing do not seem to fret much about it. If he is correct, I

would love to know why. It could be that significantly

different conditions exist in a largely two-population so-

ciety in which the colonialized population seeks control more than inclusion, although there are uncanny simi-

larities with the U.S. culturalist liberalism evident in

Wetherell and Potter's Mapping the Language of Racism

plea and their sense of urgency-not because somehow intellectuals and their institutions of pedagogical repro- duction started it all but because we should not easily participate in the continued reproduction of the imag- ined social constructs through which economic and po-

litical inequalities operate.

Ong's defense of a curricular program at Berkeley that she and others have worked hard to design is under- standable and valid within its constraints. It is true that

I myself did not do a survey of participants in Berkeley's American Cultures program to determine the actual

content of the courses included or the goals of participat- ing students and faculty members. I offered the Berkeley

case not as an ethnography of an institutional site but, rather, as a highly reported example of a very visible program whose structure unwittingly reproduces the

imagined social constructs it seeks to address.

Minoritizing practices do not, of course, somehow or

other autonomously originate in the academy. Trouillot

and Stolcke make that point forcefully even while sup-

porting my efforts to focus on academic institutions in this essay. But does this mean that the academy can

never originate genuinely alternative imagined social constructs? Perhaps not. Pierre Bourdieu's mounting scholarship on the practical but systemic reproduction of categorial distinctions and their hierarchical em-

placement (I977, 1984, i988) certainly encompasses aca-

demic practices and leaves little room for optimism. My

essay seeks, with Bourdieu, to make reproductive prac- tices visible so that they can enter "the universe of the

disputed." My goal, and at times I have often thought

his, has been to further the chance that visibility might

evoke enough of a response to affect the smooth mecha- nisms of reproduction and that under those conditions

a vibrant public debate might generate far less complici-

tous alternatives than the not very transformative strat-

(i992). It could also be that other strategies work better

egies currently at play.

in New Zealand than the ones I identify as problematic in the United States, though we should be careful not to assume that silence signals approval, improvement,

or acquiescence. If, following de Certeau's (I984) lead, we distinguish between strategies and tactics, we call into question the automatic assumption that reformist strategies implemented by formal institutions of power

and influence, such as universities, government agen-

cies, and foundations, really seek to change the distri- bution of power in the social field within which they


Page is right; I do bend over backwards to ensure that no one misreads results as intentions. Too many people,

including Ong, work too hard with excellent intentions.

But the fact that particular individuals within such structures may want to change deep-rooted processes of power allocation and distribution does not mean that

the arena within which they are allowed to institute

change is large enough or transformative enough to pro-

duce systemic change. Harrison and Narayan want to

urge us (even more, I believe, than they want to urge me)

to imagine and offer alternatives, to experiment with currently un-thought forms of affiliation. I echo their

Alternatives I imagine contemplating do not even

necessarily directly restructure institutions of higher ed-

ucation, at least not in the short run. They could, and

perhaps always should, entail active and massive redis-

tribution of resources towards other, and possibly more key, institutions and arenas. Is it not a sham to create and hyperprivilege a number of individuals as represen- tatives of minoritized, excluded, and/or underempow-

ered "groups" and do little else to change the minoritiz- ing, excluding, and/or underempowering practices of the social, political, and economic conditions that produce

and reproduce them? A number of the commentaries

bring out a point that needs highlighting: the "star" sys- tem is hyperprivileging at the extreme, restricting the number of "minority intellectuals" to benefit materially

from the practice to a small percentage of "available mi-

nority intellectuals" but creating the impression of ma- jor institutional change by making a splash.

Let me reiterate what I stated in the essay itself about

complicity. I am in no way singling out minoritized in-

tellectuals in the United States or elsewhere. Ong un-

fortunately misses that point. What I am not doing is

exemnting minoritized intellectuals, and Pare anproDri-

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ately "catches" me as well in what she perceives to be a form of complicity. I do name a number of specific scholars who have been, and are being, put in these posi-

tions. I named only those whose participation in public

forums was public enough to be in the public domain. To address Ritchie and Page simultaneously, there are

many more minoritized intellectuals who could be named, and there are, of course, thousands of nonmi-

noritized intellectuals, in the anthropological arena

alone, who could be named as participants. This is not

a minor phenomenon. And my insistence that participa-

tion, complicity, goes on in many more ways than "pro-

gressive" intellectuals might wish can be uncomfortable

enough to produce the charge that I am totalizing and

exaggerating both the phenomenon and its presumed


Ramos, Narayan, Trouillot, Harrison, Page, and Ong have all made important interventions of their own that parallel the thrust of my argument. Trouillot, Narayan, and Ong have courageously called into question assump- tions that "native" anthropologists have "privileged" ac-

cess to some kind of ethnographic truth. Ramos reminds

us that Spivak called a related phenomenon "benevolent

imperialism." Harrison adds hooks's reference to the

packaging of a small number of "stars" as "commodity

faddism." And Page quotes Gitlin's phrase "the ro-

mancing of otherness" but could just as easily have re- ferred to her own developing notion of "white public

space" as the severely constraining context in which a

very suspect "hyperprivileging" occurs. I mentioned and

drew on other scholars as well. Together these represent

a set of critical interventions, but I do not believe that

they signal a general understanding of the phenomena

I/we address. Why would those of us-a small number

at that-who have recently published similarly critical

pieces feel compelled to write them, and why would

they be considered delicate, hot, or controversial, if

there weren't, in fact, a preference for silence about these colluding practices within the anthropological


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