From a Sanctuary of Truth to a Sanctuary of Method

The film Inception that took one on a wild ride through the architecture of the mind grossed over $820 million worldwide and continues to earn money on the secondary circuit of TV and Cable. The movie was nominated for eight Oscars and won four – for Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects, that is, for its tremendously brilliant pyrotechnics rather than its script, direction or acting. The visual dazzle and thematic ambition marked an almost equally successful follow-up of nomadic exploration, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. That film really took us on a very different nomadic journey into the desert of space and a pristine environment. This is relevant because a university is created as a sanctuary, as an anti-nomadic movement, as a place where individuals from all over can come together in one place and study.

One mission of that university is to teach us how to distinguish a real oasis from a mirage, objectivity from subjectivity. But that initially took second position to the development of character. To leap forward, how did the Sanctuary of Truth dedicated to instilling values and character and creating a culture that would not succumb to the attractions of the Golden Calf, and its modern successor, the Sanctuary of Method committed to rules and professionalism, become transformed into a core institution that defines objectivity in terms of subjectivity? Does the explanation reside in the incompatibility of the two very different types of sanctuary that necessitated the emergence of a third idea of the university and then a fourth?

The university as a Sanctuary of Method was dedicated to unpacking authentic memories rather than the heroic ones that characterized the Sanctuary of Truth.  The university as a Sanctuary of Method was created as a vehicle for escaping the myth of an absolute and binding moral code into a realm of rules to ensure discovery on the intellectual frontiers of knowledge. Truth was no longer an inherited given. Just as the university in Canada entered fully into that maturity of a Sanctuary of Method a century later from its roots in Berlin in 1810, the existence of a spacetime continuum was proclaimed as a four-dimensional frame of reference rather than a three-dimensional one of space only. In Einstein’s turn of the century (1905) theory of relativity, distances and times varied depending on the initial reference frame.

Both time and space were relativized with respect to one another. Further, instead of fostering character and virtues, the university turned into a place to explore one’s identity for there was no boundary to any pursuit, including the pursuit of the inner self. In other words, the university as a Sanctuary of Method undermined the core ideas and ideals of a Sanctuary of Truth, but in the process made discoveries that undermined its own essential idea of providing at least an absolute methodological frame.

Is there a cognitive dissonance when the university is in fact a place of intellectual and epistemological thrills in the search for certainty only to discover the uncertainty principle and that certainty itself is a chimera? Is this a world akin to Nolan’s labyrinths where the only end is the revelation of an illusion and Truth remains forever out of reach? For if we believe in the foundation of the Sanctuary of Method, then we have escaped the world of divine revelation and faith into a belief system in which all explanations are constructed solely in reference to physical processes. However, if the physical processes themselves have no constancy, not even the constancy of a reference in space, the framework for the university as a steady state providing a solid reference for society dissolves.

Hence the entry of corruption and the paranoia about conspiracies that creep into this Sanctuary. However, we need not go abroad to reveal the tensions. A close study of Canadian intellectual giants like Harold Innis more often than not revealed this contradiction. Innis, though he became an agnostic, never lost the strict set of values and missionary zeal instilled in him by his Baptist upbringing. However, when studying for his PhD at the University of Chicago, he fell under the sway of George Herbert Mead and absorbed the idea that communications did not just entail the transfer of information but were both broader (including railways, the subject of his thesis) and deeper since the form of communications was critical in shaping the frame by which you understood the world.

Einstein’s theories were offered a complementary economic and political frame. Innis would spend his career warring against “static economics.” At the same time, he put forth the thesis that technology itself framed the Canadian mind as the railway became a mode of spreading European civilization westward. Further, the content on which that technology focused, the “staples,” fur, fish, lumber, wheat, mining metals, potash, and extracting fossil fuels, shaped the political and economic history and culture of Canada.

If communications are, as Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan argued, that through which a culture is brought into existence, sustained over time and concretized through institutions, then Canada in its development had a unique culture, one antithetical to that of its southern imperial neighbour. Until the emergence of the Sanctuary of Method, history, that had been a tale of heroic adventurers as told by “scholars” in the Sanctuary of Truth, became an interplay of geography, technology and economics in consolidating a culture. Innis was a pioneer of Canadian intellectual nationalism. But then how do you reconcile this fixity with the propulsion towards alteration driven by technology and new forms of communication, ideas now accepted as standard in explicating change? For Harold Innis himself was central to consolidating the Sanctuary of Method as the ideal model for a university as a substitute for the Sanctuary of Truth, but emerged later in his career as an advocate of the university as a Social Service Station.

How were those cultural roots set down? Through the cultural routes used by Canadian nomads as they traversed the continent. However, the intersection of cultures, of European users of beaver pelts for hats, of Canadian traders and of First Nations trappers, itself wreaked havoc on the traditions and patterns of native peoples and eventually undermined the very institutions and values so basic to their cultures. What Innis did not see is that the same process was at work in undermining the character of the university which had become his intellectual domicile. His own pioneering studies of the cultural industry and the mode by which knowledge is developed and spread and which gave some groups the authority and the power they had, was itself being undermined in the changes wrought over the two decades of the forties and the fifties.

The crisis came in the sixties and out of that maelstrom emerged a new type of university for Canada, a Social Service Station, one pioneered in America about a century earlier. The university itself was not a sanctuary ensuring stability but was itself subject to the forces of change, by the technology by which knowledge was revealed and communicated. Harold Innis had been correct. There was an interplay between power and knowledge, between economic and cultural values and, more fundamentally, between primarily time-oriented cultures and ones that leaned more heavily on space in the spacetime continuum.

Let me illustrate with a story. In first year premedical studies, I took Ed Carpenter’s anthropology class. Carpenter was a close collaborator of Marshal McLuhan. In that course, he introduced me to the ideas of Clyde Kluckhohn and his studies of the different conceptions of time in each of the five cultures that constituted the mosaic of a part of Texas. I was inspired when I attended his lecture in Convocation Hall and his analysis of the different cultures of adjacent communities of Southwest Zuni, Navajo, Mormons, Mexican-Americans and Texas homesteaders, each with its own conception of time.

Based on my experience as a carnie in the summer, I submitted an essay comparing the understanding of time and space by the nomads who lived and thrived in a carnival. When they told stories, they interlaced tales of the riots in Windsor with those of a fight with gangs when playing Scarborough. In their oral tradition of narrative, disparate events were melded into a single story with no differentiation along a time line to distinguish various incidents. The unity was not provided by reference to time and place, but by the subjective experiences common to different incidents. Any effort to correct those tales by pointing out geographical and calendar reference points that differed, fell on deaf ears.

Carpenter gave me my first A++ for that essay. It had deeper roots than I understood at the time. I had been brought up in a strong time-binding culture, a culture of clay tablets and the dedication to preservation instantiated by that culture. That was why Moses’ shattering of the two tablets when he confronted his fellow tribesmen worshipping the Golden Calf was so traumatic. Even as I threw off the heritage of a Jewish orthodox upbringing, the quest for a durable foundation remained inherited from a nomadic culture in search of and involved in creating a sanctuary dedicated to Torah, dedicated to study. However, my nomadic carnies lived in what was primarily a space-oriented culture, a culture in which events are fleeting and ephemeral, a space more in tune with media which constantly stresses “breaking news” while telling the same old stories but with new twists.

It did not matter whether the communications media were radio, mass circulations newspapers, television or the internet, as they morphed into one another, they made irrelevant the possibility of a sanctuary as a source of stability altogether.  For Innis, entrenched mass communication monopolies undermined the “elements of permanence essential to cultural activity” that today might account for the widespread rise of populism and troglodyte philistines into positions of power. At the saMe time, Innis was a progenitor of that development as he proposed a shift in the university mission from a Sanctuary of Method to a Social Service Station dedicated to research on public problems.

The university as a Sanctuary of Method could not survive such an onslaught and it was itself formally transformed in Toronto in the seventies into a Social Service Station in which the problems and norms of society shaped the university rather than the norms and rules of a university shaping society. In the ancient world, in Greece and in Jerusalem, writing had displaced the oral traditions and reified them in a script. Rome had married that mode of inscription with power to forge an empire. The innovation of the printing press in Europe created another volcanic eruption that buried the mediaeval university in quaint practices, obsolete modes and social irrelevance except as a playground for the aristocratic class. Was this an adumbration of the destiny of the modern university? Is that what is happening to the university as a Social Service Station as it mutates once again from a Social Service Station to an intellectual supermarket for consumers rather than producers of knowledge?

It is the imaginative world that Nolan spent his whole career constructing. Instead of a set and established field, we find the material to be in flux and ever-changing. Instead of one standard set of tools guided by common principles, we find a realm of clashing ideologies so that the university undermines its own self-defined role as a guiding star for society.

In Nolan’s Inception, the characters do not escape time, but are entrapped in it, in a world of technical virtuosity. Without eternal verities, they are thrust into a search for the delusion of eternity, that time is not passing and content themselves with a multiplicity of simultaneous offerings rather than living within a singular and wholesome whole. It should not be a surprise that the university as a Sanctuary of Method will in turn be experienced as ether. The institution had been thrust into a conviction that its direction must be defined externally, thereby undermining the very notion of the autonomy of the university.

Thus, universities in escaping the repressive environment of religiously imposed rules for the world, one governed, not by an omnipotent spirit or a totemic animal, but a world in which thought and intention, became omnipotent and altered the world. But the universities existed in that world and they themselves were changed. The Sanctuary of Method was transformed into a Social Service Station.


To be continued: The Social Service Station


VI BDS and the University

Cultural Anthropology, BDS and the University


Howard Adelman

Jonathan David Haidt is a Professor of Ethical Leadership and a social psychologist at New York University’s Stern School of Business; he specializes in the psychology of morality. In a dialogue about his concern with how communities bind together and, in that binding, also close their minds, he “began to see the social sciences as tribal moral communities, becoming ever more committed to social justice, and ever less hospitable to dissenting views.” He claimed that universities have developed into a monoculture. “Anthropology and sociology are the worst — those fields seem to be really hostile and rejecting toward people who aren’t devoted to social justice.”
Anthropology is a very activist field. They fight for the rights of oppressed people, as they see it. My field, social psychology, has some activism in it, but it’s not the dominant strain. Most of us, we really are thinking all day long about what control condition wasn’t run. My field really is oriented towards research. Now a lot of us are doing research on racism and prejudice. It’s the biggest single area of the field. But I’ve never felt that social psychology is first and foremost about changing the world, rather than understanding it. So my field is certainly still fixable. I think that if we can just get some more viewpoint diversity in it, it will solve the bias problem.

As Jonathan replied, “They’re so devoted to social justice, and they have accepted the rule that you can never, ever blame victims, so if a group of victims makes demands [however ill-conceived], you cannot argue back. You must accept the demands.” “Anthro is completely lost. I mean, it’s really militant activists. They’ve taken the first step towards censoring Israel. They’re not going to have anything to do with Israeli scholars any more. So it’s now – it’s the seventh victim group.” In addition to African-Americans, women, the LGBT community, as well as Latinos, Native Americans and people with disabilities, the seventh group does not consist of the Israelis ostracized, but Muslims. These seven groups, whatever empathy they deserve – and most deserve a great deal – become immune to criticism and occupy a protected status. Further, under the concept of “intersectionality,” each group is strengthened in the blindmindedness in dealing with it by seeing the oppression of each as a manifestation of a singular larger evil force.

When values other than truth become primary in universities, when truth gets thrown under the bus in favour of perceived social justice, the university has lost its way. “What has happened is the normalization of bad ideas, thanks mostly to identity politics.” I personally first experienced this years ago in a union meeting of our faculty at York University. I was shocked to hear faculty shout abuse and shut up an esteemed colleague who was raising questions about a proposal to give the union authority to call a strike. He was not even disagreeing, just asking a question. And he was shouted down. I felt very ashamed to have been part of organizing a union where members not only behaved in that way, but were allowed to behave that way.

When I appeared on a panel on the Middle East in Osgoode Hall’s Moot Court at the university about fifteen years ago, the situation had become much worse, the language more degrading and the sense of a mob culture much more apparent. Categories of oppression multiply and certain language was placed off limits at the same time as a new callous and rude language became more prevalent. I have been told that over the past thirteen years since my retirement from York University, the situation of creeping censorship combined with enhanced callous language has become even worse. As Haidt said, “Far from embracing free debate of challenging ideas and the free speech necessary to pursue them, university life today is characterized by policies governing every aspect of college life, in the classroom and out, and offices to enforce them.” So one kind of speech, discourse and behaviour that fosters a free exchange of ideas is ruthlessly suppressed while another alternative form of discourse or repression and angry rhetoric displaces it in the name of “social justice’ rather than truth. Bullying of gays, of blacks, of women has correctly been countered only to see bullying for “free space” rather than free speech moved to centre stage.

But there has been a growing backlash. It is coming from students who graduate with a great deal of debt from studies in the humanities and social sciences but lack marketable skills, even of political thinking as they have increasingly been submerged in ideological thinking. The backlash is coming from business leaders who find that many of the students who graduate lack the most basic skills required to work in the corporate world. The backlash is coming from parents who end up supporting their children well into their twenties and then find that the jobs they get are as bell hops and desk clerks, receptionists and waitresses or waiters, chefs and salespersons. They ask why they sent their children to university in the first place and why, after they get a degree, they have to go back to study at a community college in a skills-based program. And the backlash is also coming from government torn between one huge part of a province’s obligations to health versus the increasing costs of higher education. As the electors age, concessions shift to that segment of the population that is getting larger, those who are older.

But worst of all, the students are uneducated. This past weekend I spent three days with three different university graduates who did their undergraduate studies in different parts of the world, one at York University. All three were exceedingly nice and decent. They were pleasant, trustworthy and eager to please. They were hardworking and willing to carry out anything asked of them. But they lacked initiative. They were also cut off in a peculiar way, more attached to communication with their cell phones – with texting and messaging – than with interacting with each other and with me on a deeper level, even as they told stories of their travels and adventures in the world and their love of different kinds of food. Patrick Deneen in his essay, “How a Generation Lost its Common Culture” in Minding the Campus: Reforming Our Universities, called his students who matched the three young people I spent a long weekend with as “know nothings.”

These graduates of universities had only the vaguest sense of politics. They knew little about not simply the Hebrew and Greek classics, but of the development of the enlightenment. They had only the vaguest notion of sociology, though that was the major of one of these young people. But none of the three had gone to an A-grade university. Deneen’s students, by contrast, were from Princeton, Georgetown and Notre Dame. Yet, though they were superb test-takers – which perhaps only one of the three I spent time with probably was – and earned A’s, they were neither passionate nor invested in a specific issue or subject. They were like the three I spent the weekend with – somewhat detached and deeply involved in their own personal search for adventure and a desire to taste and experience the world, but with no depth of historical knowledge evident of that world.

Do not get me wrong. They were a delight to talk to. They were respectful and cordial both to one another and to me. They loved hearing narratives based on experience, but were not interested in narratives rooted in literature or history. One no longer really read. Another had been reading the same book for six months, but was too busy with work and having experiences to spend much time with it. And it was a title and author I did not recognize. A third when asked whether he saw movies and which ones, replied that he saw an excellent children’s cartoon that I think was made by Pixar.

They were extremely tolerant of differences – racial or sexual – and genuinely respected differences, but without a passion for exploring those differences. Tolerance for them meant not judging the other. Not one was religious. They grew up on three different continents, yet seemed to have far more in common with each other than with any of the students with whom I went to school. At the same time, they were terrifically decent. They exhibited a sense of caring for each other and helping one another in work and chores. They were very fair in sharing food and responsibilities. They were liberal and two who met a year ago through me had kept in touch on Facebook. In my contact with them, what each valued most in the world was their personal liberty to explore that world on their own terms.

Though each respected the family that raised them – and each seemed to have devoted parents – not one seemed particularly loyal and attached to their parents or their siblings. Every one of them respected people who requested them to do something, but disliked being told to do something; respect for others did not include respect for authority. Most of all, not one of them seemed to have a religious bone in their bodies in the sense that they thought some place or some person worthy of regarding as sanctified. One loved Dubai of all places; another loved a day flight to Miami; a third found what was most exciting was what was under the sea that she explored through deep diving.

I write this, not because I carefully selected the three as a sample – the choice of these three was somewhat arbitrary. I write about them because, other than the fact that probably not one of them could come close to competing with Patrick Deneen’s A-students from top universities, they otherwise seemed remarkably like his description of his own students. They loved peer gatherings, but not standing and fixed communities. They detested hierarchy and not one of them had any respect for tradition. Mass killings, genocide, wars in Syria all seemed far away, yet each was drawn to treating strangers well. In other words, they were the ideal liberal students that Jonathan Haidt described in his book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. But they were not ideological liberals who seemed to be very bothered by Donald Trump or very interested in the American race for the presidency.

Most of all, they were filled with trivia, and what they do not know, they look up on their cell phones by the minute. Want to know what the population of Barrie is? Want to know the density of the traffic flow returning to Toronto? Want to know about the life of a tent caterpillar whose nests we were eagerly destroying? All could be learned with great acuity and fluidity by pressing a few buttons and reading what they found.

In one of my very early books, The Holiversity, I described how the university we were attending was evolving from a discipline-based Sanctuary of Method into a Social Service Station focused on solving problems out there in the real world. I anticipated that in 50-60 years that type of university would also morph into something very different again, the Consumer University, the university not so much a market place where great ideas clashed, but the university as a collection of market stalls like those in small town fairs or those at a local market where people bring items to sell. The university was evolving faster than I ever thought possible into a cafeteria university where students come to taste the various wares on offer, and, like those attending Deneen’s great universities, each had studied a different social science only to become ignorant that their civilization had become committed to “civilizational suicide” in Deneen’s words.

Clyde Kluckhohn described five options in structuring time. All three of these young people lived in the fleeting present while updating their skills and trying to improve their positions. Why? To get as much as possible out of life while aging without a past and where the future is a foreign country that lies around the next corner to experience. They were very different than the dominant culture that had constituted America and its devotion to a greater future.

“In such a world, possessing a culture, a history, an inheritance, a commitment to a place and particular people, specific forms of gratitude and indebtedness (rather than a generalized and deracinated commitment to “social justice”), a strong set of ethical and moral norms that assert definite limits to what one ought and ought not to do (aside from being “judgmental”) are hindrances and handicaps.” And if there is anything they value more it is the negative value of not being limited or handicapped. They are committed to detachment and mutual indifference except to their own tastes and sense of wonder at what the world has on offer.

They are not members of a res publica, but non-members engaged in a race individula. And if a student wants to escape this solipsistic world, where does he or she or it go? Into engaged ideology rather than engaged intellect, whether that ideology be the anti-Zionist pursuit of an ephemeral sense of social justice or a more conservative ideology with far fewer members defensive of family, community, respectful of status and protective of those closest to them in need. Most of all, the latter are very defensive of an older social fabric rather than the happenstance mini-shorts of the present. As Haidt describes it, one ideology – the dominant liberal one – is at war with a minority more cultural communitarianism, even if liberal in a different way. The ideologues each have an heir that tries to lead the rest into battle, but most abhor activism of this sort, though the call for social justice has a greater appeal to their moral tastes.

Are Deneen and Haidt but the intellectual heirs of Alan Bloom decrying like Cassandra the end of the world we once knew? In part. In good part. But they also offer an explanation for why the university is at once an excellent breeding ground, not just for cultural anthropology as an engaged discipline and for BDS, but why that call for engagement and support of BDS falls on essentially instinctively empathetic but also deaf and dumb ears. The students quietly accede to the appeal, but in their passivity ensure BDS falls on dry and sterile ground where only mummies walk. In the vacuum, universities, particularly those with an activist history, habitually drift toward an activist left monoculture according to Richard Vedder attacking from the right as the university drifts into a place where faculty are wards of the state, anyway at least 50% of them who have gained tenure in an average public university, where administrators are now their bosses and where students have become their customers.

The fight becomes one between different ideologies of attachment, an abstract one versus very personal ones and the central issue becomes which group has suffered the greatest victimhood, us in defence of the whole world or us against the whole world, whether that us be Zionists, members of Islam fearing Islamophobia, or evangelical Christians repelled by the solipsism of the new dominant ideology. Even within Israel and Israeli academic institutions, the battleground of identity politics becomes the dominant hegemonic discourse among activists. The ideological uncompromising radical activists disdain dialogue in favour of confrontation while the soft liberal ideologues prefer dialogical interchange between different groups in promoting evaluative rather than engaged scholarship, in promoting an understanding of differences rather than a clash between and among differences, but neither side providing any more general ground for resolving those differences.

One of the results of this radical shift is that, as Leonard Saxe documented at the AIS meeting in Jerusalem from his empirical studies, Jewish students on campuses in North America are subjected to an increase in verbal abuse as a fact of life at the same time as more Jewish students, though still a minority, feel connected with Israel, and more than half of the Jewish students, like the students described above, remain blissfully ignorant of the BDS effort to boycott Israel. Most of those who are aware are, perhaps less blissfully, ignorant of the anti-Zionist foundation of BDS. BDS is not simply a movement opposed to settlements in the West Bank. Further, campuses with the most perceived anti-Semitic and anti-Israel atmosphere were Canadian, with the only close completion coming from Mid-Western state schools and the California state system.

Even more significantly, while Zionism now occupies a central place in collective Jewish life, most Jewish students were dramatically ignorant about Israel. Of the 60% who even check into current events in Israel, the vast majority of these do not follow the policy debates there. So even if they feel a connection, there is very little intellectual connection. As indicated above, this is but a reflection of the state of mind of the majority of students on campus about public affairs more generally. Thus, the students are ill-equipped to deal with comments that Jews have too much power, that Israelis are Nazis and practice apartheid, and even that the Holocaust is a myth. Most Jewish students, surprisingly, often know little more about the Holocaust than they do about Israel. They are certainly unable to review the different sides of the argument claiming anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism. Ironically, the more liberal they were, the less capable they were of defending Israel from many extant criticisms of Israel.

Thus, Saxe concluded that countering Jewish ignorance was the great problem, not engaging in conflict with BDS. But how does one conduct an educational program on campuses that revere historical ignorance and where community leaders see the strife on campus only in ideological defensive terms?

With the help of Alex Zisman

BDS V: An Ideology of Intellectual Activism

The Intellectual Roots of AAA’s Support of BDS: Part V
An Ideology of Intellectual Activism


Howard Adelman

With the exception of this past Friday and Monday, in the last of four previous blogs I wrote on the subject of BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that promotes, among other things, the boycott of Israeli academic institutions, Israeli academics and non-Israelis who are open to dialogue with Israelis. The adherents vary. Some BDS supporters boycott only Israeli academic institutions and their representatives in the name of human rights. Some even declare that they are not opposed to Zionism, even though the “charter” of BDS insists it is at the forefront of the resistance movement against Zionism. The Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions (ABIAI) within the American Anthropological Association (AAA) managed for a while, before a general referendum defeated by a narrow margin the proposal to endorse BDS, to make AAA one of the very few leading academic professional organizations to back BDS. My last blog on BDS reviewed the last three years of this political debate within the AAA. In this blog, I want to explore why the AAA was so susceptible to such an appeal by offering an intellectual analysis and critique of the rationale for AAA’s engagement in advocacy. In my next and last blog in this BDS series, I will probe why universities have appeared to be fertile ground for advancing, and, in a small number of cases among students, backing the BDS cause.

Engaged anthropology is the general rubric used to rationalize the involvement in and support for BDS by the activists in the AAA. (See the special issue of Current Anthropology 51:2, October 2010 entitled “Engaged Anthropology: Diversity and Dilemmas,” that followed the AAA annual 2008 conference called, “Inclusion, Collaboration and Engagement.”) Engaged Anthropology operates at six levels, at each level expressing an increased involvement:
• A basic commitment to respect informants
• Sharing and support with the communities with which anthropologists work
• Teaching and public education
• Social critiques in academic and public forums
All of the above are consistent with traditional academic norms.
• Collaboration with cultures under threat versus hierarchical approaches
• Advocacy
• Activism

Though I have worked with cultures under threat (Indochinese refugees, Sri Lankan refugees, victims of the Rwanda genocide), though I have advocated on behalf of Syrian refugees and I have also engaged in involved activism, and although these activities are informed by my research and scholarship, I do not regard that activity as part of that research. They are simply expressions of my role as a responsible member of civil society. I might ask some relevant professional associations to speak up on an issue, but I would not think of asking the Canadian Philosophical Association to take a controversial stand favouring one side on divisive social issues, let alone try to get my fellow philosophers, individually or through our scholarly association, to take such a stand. Instead, I might invite colleagues to participate in information dispersal and advocacy organizations, but I would never label them as collaborationists if they took an opposite position. I just do not believe that intellectual inquiry is based on an either/or dichotomy, especially where one side accrues the virtue and the other side is cast into purgatory. Self-righteous commitment is not the essence of my ethics of engagement.

For an ideology that insists upon a discipline contributing and adapting to global realities, it is surprising how often this mostly postmodernist approach, which defies a correspondence theory of truth and the existence of a singular reality as a point of reference, specifically adopts the position of insisting what reality is. Admittedly, some defenders of the new engaged anthropology regard the shift into postmodern symbolism and hermeneutics as a deviant sidetrack. Nevertheless, whatever mutation was regarded as mainstream, a shift had taken place away from a correspondence model of truth.

Further, for a perspective that also lauds critique, it is actually shocking to read how un-self-critical much of engaged anthropology is and closed to in-depth structural critiques that examine the effects of funding shifts to give preference to so-called engaged research. The support of BDS is merely the most extreme of the range of efforts by ABIAI to transform the discipline of cultural anthropology and make engaged anthropology the core of the discipline and, in the end, enlist more and more anthropologists into a postcolonial approach to their work. Talk about an imperialist approach to anti-imperialism!

Somehow, the reverence for diversity and breadth does not translate into a conception of itself as a discipline. As engaged anthropology seeks to achieve a virtual monopoly in the field of cultural anthropology, it also began colonizing archeology, physical or biological anthropology, and linguistic anthropology as well as the overlapping turf of its cousins, cultural sociology and social psychology. As engaged anthropology claimed a unique perspective on the dialectical interaction of the microsocial with macroeconomic and political forces, it often pushed aside and/or ignored much of the valuable work of sociologists, economists and political scientists. But in the minds of its advocates, that could be explained by accusing these social scientists of being secret collaborationists and apologists for the reigning power. More generally, engaged anthropology, along with its committed sociological cousins, insisted that their political agenda should be at the centre of public policy, not the work of political scientists and economists.

For a discipline that allegedly reveres history and context, it is revealing to discover how often peer-reviewed articles display an ignorance of history and a deliberate distortion of context, all in the name of its esteem for the rights and dignity of all humans and the promotion of social justice. Even more seriously, under the rubric of advancing human rights, engaged anthropology often ostensibly offers witness to organized social violence, sometimes implicitly and at other times explicitly. Though engaged anthropology is spread thinly over numerous social problems as diverse as climate change and the performance and effects of health systems, from war, racism and genocide to economic development, I cannot tell you how many times I have found that these practitioners ignored acknowledged experts in these areas coming from other fields. For example, did Jean or Stephen Schensul in the field of economic development even read Albert Hirschman?

On the other hand, virtually every committed student of my generation, regardless of discipline, read Margaret Mead and Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict and Ashley Montagu. Sixty years ago, I specifically remember being mesmerized by a lecture by a Harvard scholar and cultural anthropologist, Clyde Kluckhohn (Mirror of Man), in Convocation Hall (the hall held 1,600 and was packed) in, I believe, 1956 at the University of Toronto. (Clyde Kluckhohn died a very few years later at a relatively young age of a heart attack; his or their work was continued by his wife, Florence.)

Though Kluckhohn was a pioneer in ethnographic analysis and intensive longitudinal observations as well as the utilization of empathetic reenactment of thought patterns, famed as both a scientist and a humanist, the lecture that I heard was more narrowly focused on five different senses of time among a specific group of Navaho whom he had studied for decades and four neighbouring cultural groups, the Zuni, Spanish-Americans, Mormons and Texas Homesteaders in the American South. He was the one who introduced me to values theory and the idea that our moral dichotomies of good and evil, our orientation to nature, our sense of personality development and of human relations, particularly between male and females, parents and children, but most importantly in my view, if not his, our sense of time, of past, present and future and their relationship to one another.

I have ever since taken Clyde Kluckhohn as a model both for respect for sensitivity for differences, nuances and variations, as opposed to homogenization, while searching for uniformities, of activism while insisting on accuracy and objectivity, of appreciation for factors that fostered dynamic change while, at the same time, respecting and appreciating traditions, and pushing me towards understanding the power dynamics of domination and subordination. I see it as a seminal betrayal of

Clyde Kluckhohn, the first elected president of AAA, when these activists in AAA are in quest of monopolization instead of appreciating the values of different methodological approaches, quite aside from the deprecation of developed scientific standards. Kluckhohn, in contrast to these ideologists, saw no conflict in working for the government during WWII, possibly for the predecessor to the CIA, studying Japanese morale and the cultural foundations for sustaining that morale at a very high level, while subsequently becoming a fierce opponent of McCarthyism. He was both an academic’s academic as well as a committed public intellectual devoted to practical issues.

It would be helpful if the current school of engaged cultural anthropologists were as active in defining the differences between them and these famous progenitors instead of simply appropriating them for the development of their way of utilizing anthropology. One did not have to be an engaged anthropologist to protest against the McCarthy persecution of academics in the fifties or the efforts to challenge the entrenched racism in the American south during the decade of the sixties or the misuse of anthropology in the study of Laotian Hill Tribes during the Vietnam War. One did not have to become a neo-Marxist to criticize the misuse of academic research or to resist attacks on the independence of academic disciplines by the power of the state.

I have not been able to find a single analysis and critique of the self-representation of engaged anthropologists as moving ever onward and upward, while suffering periodic setbacks, to the liberal vision of progress in intellectual history, even as political and economic history seems to be portrayed as in decline. If identities were constructs, what about critiquing their own self-identity? Deconstructivist and Foucault-type post-colonial theoretical perspectives are taken as givens rather than being themselves subjected to rigorous critique. Self-critique focused on the limitations of academy-based cultural critique in contrast to critical engagement, activist research and advocacy. In spite of favouring the latter, proponents of engagement research noted pockets of resistance and “considerable silence about the kinds and degree of advocacy and activism that would be supported within the discipline and especially within the academy.”
Engaged anthropologists assumed a privileged ethical position for engaging in research. Research without advocacy was considered collaborationist. Anthropology was beginning to be redefined as not even just advocacy, but demanded activism and revolutionary encounters with established power instead of rather than as a complement to detached observation and analysis. They regarded the latter as relegating what is being studied to being an object, a sign of deprecation, instead of examining these intellectual approaches as providing a standard of objectivity.

Support for BDS comes as a logical outcome of such an intellectual shift rather than as a result of an objective and detached study. The practitioners accept a number of premises:
• Zionism is a particularist enterprise concerned only with one group, Jews, and indifferent to the needs of others
• Zionism planted itself in Palestine on the coattails of colonialism and, as such, was and remains a colonialist enterprise
• The problem is not just settlements in the West Bank or even Zone C of the Oslo Agreement, but the Zionist enterprise of settlement altogether
• Zionism continues to be a presence in the Middle East only because it is supported by the imperialist forces behind globalization.
• Engaged anthropologists contend that traditional human rights discourse, that usually targeted limiting state interference in individual rights, while also requiring the state to enforce human rights protections, does little for the Palestinian cause because Palestinians have been the victims of this imperialism and colonialism AND not just the abuse of its own members by the state, thus truer to the universalist discourse of human rights

“Liberation of the beloved Al-Aqsa Mosque and Palestinians from under the occupation of Zionists by the courage provided by the Islamic Revolution and a globalized approach to systematically fighting dominance and Zionism on International Quds Day, have bestowed upon Resistance Front strength and unflagging spirit which had made of Resistance an iron fist against any compromise with illegitimate regime of criminal Zionists.” This is not a statement of engaged anthropologists at the extreme end of the revolutionary spectrum, but of the Revolutionary Guards of Iran determined that Israel not exist in twenty-five years. But it could just as well have been made by this so-called vanguard group of engaged anthropologists, but without such colourful language.

That is why Ken Stone of IJV (Independent Jewish Voices), ABIAI and large groups of engaged anthropologists can make common cause. An academic discipline has been redefined to fit a so-called revolutionary program. Its own history has been described as an exercise too often in serving colonial and imperial interests. Thus, applied anthropology in the United States is depicted as a mixture of New Deal humanitarian liberalism and progressive industrial management ideology. British applied anthropology provided a humanitarian advisory function for colonial administration in Africa. Cultural anthropology itself morphed into institutional anthropologies, such as educational anthropology, thereby replicating positivist approaches to social science in economics and sociology, defining research as a normal part of modern society’s institutional activities and betraying its authentic identity. By the end of the seventies, cultural anthropology had reached its nadir of detachment from modern society with its exclusive focus on the study of tribal and possibly non-urban societies.

However, this imperial success brought with it a revolt against the so-called sins of capitalism, colonialism and male patriarchy. The current conflicts within AAA are heirs of this thirty-five-year-old battle. It is difficult to predict whether the vote defeating support for BDS by AAA by a very narrow margin is a sign that BDSers have reached a nadir and will now enter on a slow decline, or whether, the defeat was just a second act in a longer struggle in which BDS will be reborn and reborn, again and again. Tomorrow I will deal with why universities have become such a hospitable petri dish for a Trotsky-like continuous revolution to culture politically activist cells rather than to understand and comprehend various cultures.

With the help of Alex Zisman