Kasandra Purkey: Wk 2 Systems of Difference

The ways in which difference is created are many and varied. Most of it is built upon our ancestors and depictions of history. To start with colonialism and imperialism established themselves by making sure to define themselves by what they are not. By calling your culture civilized because you have houses instead of huts, you are making it very clear what is not civilized society.  This is also established by ideas of western religion. Because most Western societies follow a judeo-christian belief, there for to establish itself as a civilized culture their religion must also be superior over those that do not follow judeo-christian beliefs. But this is not the only way that religion defines culture. Western religion has a belief in the “Great Chain of Being” which has God at the top and a more civilized nation would be closer to God. Thanks to colonial and imperial habits for missionary work and seeing uncivilized communities would further enforce this belief.

For these systems to be effective there also had to be something very visibly different to make it obvious that the person belonged to an uncivilized society. The most obvious difference is skin color. This is something that is still in effect today. From the reading, “Blackness, Citizenship, and the Transnational Vertigo of Violence in the Americas” by Christen A. Smith is the quote, “Race-as a social, historical, and political formation-continues to define not only expressions of citizenship and the kind of citizenship we practice but also the extent to which we are recognized as citizen-subjects at all”. We learned in the lectures that race does not define culture. That culture defines race. This was further illustrated by the game Sorting people into race. Just because someone looks like our cultures definition of a different culture does not mean that is what they identity as. Race is a cultural construct. In America the census has played an important role in labeling groups as they see fit, using labels that might not represent the people.

Anthropology might be seen as a way of accidentally doing this. In the United States anthropologists had what Orin Starn calls a “parasitic disciplinary dependence” in his article”Here comes the Anthros (Again):The Strange Marriage of Anthropology and Native America”. In the beginning Native American Anthropology was a forced upon relationship. Now in the anthropology world the once subjects of the field are now trying to break into the field and are being met with their own difficulties. For example in the reading, “Diversity Dilemmas and Opportunities: Training the Next Generation of Anthropologists” we see many of these problems. The one I found the most interesting is that if you are not a white anthropologist the idea is that you would study your own culture. That a Chinese anthropologist can only study Chinese culture while a white American has the entire world of cultures to pick from. To me this is a shocking revaluation, because rarely do we read or see anthropological studies about white Americans. While anthropology should be helping to break down these systems of difference they have to overcome these issues within themselves first.

In Levi-Strauss reading he comparing England to Japan in terms of their industrialization, but if countries are not on a linear progress then why bother with this comparison because there is no perfect country to show perfect industrialization.

Also for the same section, I would like to know what his definition of industrialization is? Because if Japan ships tens of thousands of metal work to one country be less superior to a country that traded more items with every corner of the world?

One thought on “Kasandra Purkey: Wk 2 Systems of Difference

  1. I thought you post was insightful and was enjoyable to read. It was insightful in that it provided a good framework for how divisions have been made between humans throughout history, with a focus on race. Race is one of the main ways by which people are categorized, classified, and ultimately stratified into differ socio-cultural and economic groups. I think you did a good job of providing information and of referencing sources from class materials. You also did well with overall presentation, organization, and formulation. It is important to realize the categorizations that people construct and subsume others within, in order to make their unfair treatment seem rational. It is clear that this is a misguided way of going about things.

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