Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Importance of the Study of Anthropology

It often said that “anthropology is the most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities”. 

This is the context in which an anthropologist studies and works. Anthropology is the study of humanity, its origins, diversity, histories, institutions, languages, beliefs and values. as human beings and their institutions. It is a relatively recent addition to the social, biological and humanistic sciences. In its American version, anthropology evolved as a merger of four core fields — physical/biological, linguistic, archaeological, and social-cultural studies.  

Cultural anthropology tends to be the focal point of anthropological activity and lens through which the other three sub-disciplines approach their subject matter. Cultural anthropology is the study of Culture as defined by Edward Tylor. 

“Culture, or civilization, taken in its broad, ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”

This definition has been modified, changed, narrowed and expanded as the study of these elements have revealed new and different feature. It runs from the nature and outlook of the individual based on personal experience as an individual and member of a group to the Grand Traditions of the great and lesser civilizations found both in history and in today’s world.

For some, Cultural anthropology is the study of the “Superorganic” (Herbert Spencer, Kroeber, A. L Kroeber, Leslie White for example). The superorganic nature of culture relates to Tylor definition where the substance is ideational and axiomatic beliefs, values and knowledge that is learned by the child and passed on to others and its offspring. This individual focus on the “superorganic” tends to be more humanistic and psychological (in the broad sense).

For others the focus becomes the group or society that holds and passes on a set of beliefs and traditions that distinguish the group from other groups. We use the term “ethnic” group to distinguish between such societies. This approach tends to be more “sociological” in focus looking at the rules and relationships of human society.

Thus, Cultural Anthropology can be summed up as the core subject and focus of Anthropology. And Anthropology is the study of a species, Homo Sapien, by Homo Sapiens, It is the physical existential study of the human animal and the ideational (humanistic) search for understanding why this animal is unique.

Anthropology, like all Subject areas has developed over the years and changed. In my perspective, it has become more of a point of view and way of interpretation of experience. In the past, anthropologists focused on the fringes of Western Society. That is, they studied the past and what was thought to be “the past” in an evolutionary, non-western, colonial sense of the present. Within this context, the focus has been on the “human” animal.

The 20th Century has seen the end of western colonialism, the emergence of national anthropologies where locals trained in anthropology have begun to study their own socio-cultural systems based in part on the western ideal of science and also from a humanistic perspective of auto-ethnography. Aside from a diffusion of anthropology from the American and European cultures to the former colonies, there has also been the pressure toward specialization. Such specialization, using the American model, can be seen in the evolution and change in the structure of the discipline, its organizations and its training institution/programs.

Today, in the 21st century, we see this dynamic continuing toward a more complex and diversified body of knowledge — both scholarly and applied. Like music has changed,there are multiple styles of anthropology based on time and place and society and culture, all different and yet all the same. Just as you can sense the difference between “music” and “noise”, today anthropology is a point of view with many subtle differences. 

Boas, in America, defined the field as being composed of four primary sub-discipline reflecting the four basic voices of the human spirit — tradition (history), language (communication), physical limitations (biology), and collective sharing (social order). In Boasian terms, these were reflected methodologically as archaeology (what human activity left behind), physical anthropology (the range and biological variation in the human species), linguistics (the range and diversity of language) and culture ( the values, beliefs, and meaning shared by individuals).

As one can see from above as we learned more about others, more detail, we began to diverge in area and temporal specialties. As technologies improved we diverged based on the tools we had to learn to use and employ in our studies. As the primitive became part of the global world, they developed their own voices employing the tools shared with other anthropologists but interpreted in their own manner.

In the 21st Century, there is a great diversity in what is and is not anthropology. But it is like music rather than an academic department. It is a point of view shared by “anthropologists”. Like musicians, you can’t define it, but you can share it. It is real but you can’t point to it. Most of all, it very simple —- you know it when you see and feel it. Anthropology is a point of view on the world and your place in it. How you got here, where you are and where you are going (with you being both the individual and YOU being the social animal).

ANTHROPOLOGY - -" Can I get a brutally honest opinion on this major?"

I think you are asking a good good question but for the wrong reason. By this I mean that anthropology is a great major, It has served me well since the1960’s. But to think you can be employed as an anthropologist, that is another question.


When I enter the discipline as an undergraduate one expected that either it was just another liberal art major, or a potential career. As a career, you would go on to Graduate School earn a Ph.D. and retire into a tenured teaching and/or research role. Today, the latter is a rare and very unpredictable career plan and course. 


Remember your major will label you. You should realize that the job label is determined by the employer, not you.  To expect the employer to jump at the "anthropologist" label is to assume that she/he knows what a “rocks and bones” person could do for a marketing, manufacturing, financial or other business. This puts you at a disadvantage if you feel that you have to sell your major and training, rather than yourself. as qualified for the position.


In a global economy, anthropology is the NEW Liberal Arts. As a perspective, anthropology  enables you to understand how different peoples behave and why they do what they do. This is your advantage if packaged to meet the employer’s need.


At the undergraduate level, a traditional 4 field approach — physical/biological, archaeological/ethnohistorical, linguistic/psychological, and cultural/psychological — equipt one to appreciate the role of the human as both an individual biological organism and as a cultural member of society.
This is a perspective that has, in my own case, opened may opportunities and provided an adaptability to respond to changes within and across the job market. 

In today’s employment market, I found that being a generalist gave me the ability to read the market and adapt in advance to societal and economic change.
 As you grow older, you either advance in the organization — changing from technical to administrative role in the specialty or organization. Or you lock yourself into a speciality niche that competes with technological innovation and younger workers with more current state of the art training.


Who would you be competing with? Today, there are many more people looking for work, It’s a global market for skills.  And with technology replacing people through mechanization and AI more traditional human jobs are being lost. The anthropological perspective, if applied effectively, enables you to read the changing socio-cultural environment and adjust to it.


Thursday, March 26, 2020

HUMANITY VS. NATURE: COVID-19

 It is Nature against Human kind.                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
Nature encodes itself in DNA/RNA. It succeeds by mire geometric replication in millions  of ways. This "survival" of the fittest" strategy has generated millions, if not billions of varieties of combinations and forms of life. One of which is the human species. Another is the Corona Virus.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
We are one species that has rebelled against Nature and created our "Own" form of DNA  called Society and  RNA called CULTURE. As we have evolved we are following the same path as Nature (we have to because we are a part of Nature's experiment despite our  modern arrogance to think we are apart from Nature).                                                                                                                                                       
Where Nature encodes its formula for a species in the genes, Humans encode the formula for their society in Culture. A simple society has a simple Culture with a simple technology that can be passed from generation to generation through example and teaching. A complex society encodes its cultural "DNA", in its physical and intellectual technology and its cultural "RNA" in the extensive and diversified knowledge and skill base that is taught and stored in its institutions and the members serving them.                                                                                                                                                               
The current pandemic, CONVD-19, is an attack by Nature against the Human Species. It  is just another test of  the human model by Nature. These tests are coming more frequently and globally as our numbers and our impact on the planetary environment increases. In Human terms of time, such attacks are infrequent. But  Nature's time table they are more frequent and test our weaknesses as an opportunity for a new variation of life. We help Nature when our population size expands, our ease of travel increases, our social networks become more complex and we become more depend on technology to satisfy our individual and collective  needs.                                                                                                                                                            
The current pandemic is only 100 years away from the last in 1918. Between and now we have had such plagues as polio, SARS, Ebola, AIDS, to mention only a few. Each has tested our species' genetic weaknesses  and technological adaptability.                                                                                                                                                      
Biological Species adjust through Darwinian adaptation. Societies adjust through technology adaptation. Just as different gene sequences carry the variations of the trait that is being tested, so different social and  technological structures carry the variations of human adaptability being tested. Today, March 26, 2020 we are being tested. The question is “Will we pass the test as a Species?" or "Will we fail the test as a Society?"                                                                                                                                                       
The Dinosaurs evolved over some 200 million year and today some scientist believe survive in their genetic  adaptation as birds. Humans are mammals, We are primates. 
                                                                                                                                         
 Homo Sapiens are one species of this general class. Just as the today's birds are represent the survival of the dinosaur class. Homo Sapiens have been especially successful over the past 200,000 years (more or less) because of their unique adaptation, This is the ability to organize into complex social units, adapt our technologies to the great diversity of the physical environments we inhabit, adapt our cultural processes for defining meaningful  problems and methods for  solving them through technological adaptation. This is the physical and behavioral side of CULTURE.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
Culture has a mental side as well, we call TRADITION. Traditions require learning the collective knowledge of the society and the transmission of that knowledge to the develop the skills to use that knowledge. In the Modern Global Society, it is the skills and skill level of a SOCIETY and Human SOCIETY as a whole that is being tested by NATURE.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
Today, this minute, we are focused on the latest pandemic and wonder how we can survive it, as individuals and as communities. But Nature does not care. The Virus is an equal  opportunity species that attacks the biological human host. Our natural response to it is  determined by chance and our unique DNA's ability to  ward off or to be susceptible the Virus.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
Our Society and communities, however, are complex structures represented by the supply chain of goods and services that make the structure work. Any break or constraint in that  chain imposes boundaries on our environment. These limits determine our ability to survive as individuals and in many cases as communities. Nature can be and has been contained within these environments. But as we become more unified as a species, Nature exploits these new avenues to test its adaptations. The history of the planet demonstrates how Nature  expands and contracts and how species emerge, flourish and become extinct. We are NOT an  exception.                                                                                                                                                               
To assume that this current threat will pass without a longer term cost is irrational. We must find the opportunities that exist within the threat and exploit them if humanity is to survive.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
Pandemics, among all species, exist because they follow the food chain. The food chain of the virus and the food chain of the host, And the food chain of the host is the food  chain of the Species. For the human species, the food chain of the SOCIETY, And finally,  FOOD is anything and everything that the biological individual  and societal CULTURE value that sustains and gives meaning to life.                                                                                                                                                   
To fight the current pandemic and prevent future pandemic we (as a species and as individuals) must think and act in tune with our one and only home -- Planet Earth. This struggle between Humanity and Nature is the Biblical Armageddon. It is the test of  Humanity's ability to recreate a mythical garden of Eden or sink into the fossil record as just another experiment by Nature.                                                                                                         




Saturday, March 7, 2020

CONSUMPTION PATTERNS --- NEEDS, WANTS, DESIRES – PART 3


As one proceeds up the SUPPLY CHAIN, and from the human animal thru the human social animal and sociocultural system, we find that the paradigm, NEEDS, WANTS, and DESIRES, repeats itself on each level[1]. This paradigm reflects changes in the power relationship between Buyers and Sellers in the transaction space. The power relationship can be divided into two parts – survival and replication.

Survival and replication takes place in all living systems. 

Humans have evolved two basic exchange systems that take place between individuals and/or social systems. These are a barter system and a monetary system, Exchange systems have a cultural significance that derives from the meaning and value of the products exchanged to the Buyer (recipient) of the product and the Seller (offeror) of the product. These exchange systems are barter and monetary, discussed below. In either system, the buyer seeks to acquire a good or service that meets a personal or social NEED. The seller offers to exchange a good or service in order to acquire a product that fills his/her NEED.

A barter system is a social system of exchange that creates the status/role set of a “buyer and seller” that both parties to the exchange occupy In a barter situation each party acts as both a Buyer/Seller. The value of the items exchanged is relative. The value is determined by the ratio of supply and demand at the given moment in the given place where the exchange takes place. Each party engages in a search process to find an interested BUYER for their good/service. And they act as a SELLER of the product they seek to exchange.
   
A modern exchange system involves a unique commodity, Money. Money serves as an intermediary in an exchange system and separates the roles in the system, by separating the Status of Buyer from Seller. Money is the physical and ideational manifestation of a cultural expression of value for a good and/or service. The value of a commodity is determined by the buyer and seller acting as members of a sociocultural exchange system.

Value is expressed as a ratio between the supply of the product and the consumer demand for it.  Money, in this instance, is just another commodity. In and of itself, Money has no intrinsic value. It only derives its value based on what individuals and cultures give to it. It is symbol and may be represented in physical form or an entry in a journal.

Money, as a cultural commodity, becomes a store of value for expressing this ratio. When a willing Buyer offers and the willing Seller accept a quantity of money in place of a good or service, money becomes the medium of exchange that captures this relationship. Money, by serving as an intermediary commodity, gives cultural meaning to the value (ratio) of the exchange by serving as a “neutral” unit of account shared by and equating the Buyer’s willingness to pay and the Seller’s willingness to accept a transaction.

The monetary situation separates the Buyer and Seller roles. The Buyer has specific needs, wants, and desires while the Seller has a specific product, (a good or service) to offer that may satisfy a particular need. The Buyer is thus engaged in a search for the “best deal” or an exchange rate that gives him/her the best or greatest future return or benefit (utility) for his/her investment in a Seller’s offer.

The Seller is focused on the “best deal” from selling the product of his/her investment in time and effort to produce and sell the product. This “best deal” is defined in terms of finding the Buyer or situation where she can find the greatest Need (demand) for the product and gain the "best price."

Finding and creating the “best deal” is an uncertain event. The difference between the best deal and a good deal is risk each actors assume by accepting a deal. Here is where a monetary system captures the uncertainty (or risk) of a “best deal”. Money, in exchange for a current good or service, enables the Seller the opportunity to concentrate on production and sell it when it is ready.

Money allows the Buyer to acquire the product in the amount and at the rate she/he wishes to consume it, rather than depending a single producer or single opportunity. The differences in the risk of holding or using the product is transferred by the monetary  system. The risk value of holding (storing) or using (consuming) a good can be measured in terms of the discount rate, or interest paid for holding the money between transactions.

The Agricultural example

The good example here is agricultural production. Here the farmer requires seed at the beginning of the growing season to begin production of a crop. In a barter system, he would have to reserve some of last year’s crop production for seed to use in the next season. This exposes him to the risk that not having enough for food or trade between harvests. In a monetary system, the farmer can borrow Money from a “bank”today, at a known interest rate or risk premium, to use to buy the seed needed today. Assuming that the farmer has a good season both he and the bank prosper when the farmer pays the loan owed plus interest, from the proceeds from the sale of the future harvest.

If it is a bad year, some of the risk has been transferred to the Bank and might be postponed for another season via another loan and interest rate. The Bank becomes an intermediary between the planting and the harvest, i.e. the capital investment  and the investment's return. The Bank shares the risk and would lose its investment should it  chose to foreclose on the loan.

By transferring risk, the farmer is taking out “insurance” today against the potential failure in the future. Here failure is a metaphor for the risk to “survival” and the “insurance” a metaphor of the potential for “replication.” These are cultural tools that humans have developed to spread risk and to bind social groups through an exchange system.

The questions facing every Buyer and Seller are: “How do I manage my consumption to maximize my chances of survival?” and “What steps do I take to insurer that I can replicate and/or improve my survival?” These are the two different questions we will address next.



[1] See my earlier essay Consumption Patterns: Needs, Wants, and Desires

Friday, February 28, 2020

CONSUMPTION PATTERNS: NEEDS, WANTS, AND DESIRES - PART 2


Having taught marketing courses, especially Consumer Behavior, and being an Applied Anthropologist, I find that there is a simple paradigm you can use when considering your product and your customer.[1] Business is a transactional human activity that takes place in a “transactional environment.” The act of consumption is transactional taking place on the individual and the social level. To understand how and why business takes place the way it does, one must understand how the transactional system works. That is, one must look at the very nature and structure of the consumption patterns and their motivational roots.

The transactional environment may be divided into basic observational or transactions units.  A transaction is a dyad, a simple two-party behavioral structure of a “buyer” and a “seller.” It represents an exchange between the two parties that is “mutually” satisfactory in the moment. The key word here is ”satisfactory” which signifies that the exchange has taken place. “Mutually” implies that each party agrees that “what was exchanged” met their individual standard of “fairness”. “In the moment” implies that the transaction is bound by the time and place of the transaction, i.e. is an event resulting in behavior under specific circumstances. Every event is unique, yet every event pattern falls into one of three motivational patterns. These patterns together represent the Consumption Pattern.

A transaction event or situation arises when two or more parties[2], each decides that it wishes to exchange a quantity of A for a quantity of B. The transaction begins with individual party’s decision and ends when a “deal” or agreed decision is made to make the exchange and the exchange takes place.

The Consumption pattern consist of a buyer or consumer and a seller or producer of a physical good or behavioral service. The pattern is structural, that is an outside observer can witness the exchange and identify and label the part or role each party plays in the transactional event.

In a smaller or more traditional economy (transactional space), exchange may take place in a context of “barter” where the status/roles of the parties are complementary. In a barter economy, the individuals in the transaction occupy both the buyer and seller statuses and must play both seller and buyer roles in order to “make a deal”. Thus, every Buyer is also a Seller and every Seller is a Buyer. The exchange takes place when there is a mutual agreement on the relative value of the good/service A = the value of good/service B. Value varies based on the availability of A and B in the transactional space and is highly situational.

In modern and global society, we identify the “buyer” as the party that receives the product (a good and/service) from the producer in exchange for money (“an object of generalized value”) received by the “seller.”[3] The value of the exchange is defined as the “price” the buyer pays to the seller or the value demanded by the seller. Money is an agreed upon unit of measure that transforms the good or service provided by seller into a generalized “value” that the buyer can access at a time and place of his/her choosing.
Every “deal” has a purpose. That purpose is to support Life, that is the life of the parties to the deal, in some way.

Life has two basic requirements. First, a living body must survive its environment. That is, it must have the capacity to perform the basic function of life – self regulate itself within an external environment. To do this the individual must survive as a separate entity in its environment. Survival in itself does not constitute “life”. Life requires that the entity also contributes to the dynamic stability of its environment. When the entity can no longer contribute to its environment it dies, or ceases to exist.

What distinguishes life from non-life, is that its survival is dependent upon and requires that it contributes to environmental stability. Otherwise, if the entity fails to contribute to stability, the system must change or adapt in order to survive. Thus, the entity must be capable of replicating itself. 

Every transaction constitutes as “deal” and , as such, it has both an individual and a social psychological dimension. These dimensions begin with the customer as an animal with basic physical needs that can be satisfied by the physical environment. The individual acts as the “buyer” and Nature acts as the “seller”. These are the inherited biological requirements for survival  as a human animal with individualized needs.

As a human, however, we have a specific set of needs that can be satisfied by Nature by a certain set of products. There are other products in Nature that threaten the individual's survival. Humans must learn the differences. This means the individual must Choose between the products that Nature offers. 

Choice creates “wants” which are preferences among the products offered by Nature. Finally, as the individual grows and ages, her/his needs and wants change to accommodate his/her position or a status in its environment. These changes are part of the lifecycle.

An individual’s lifecycle is defined in terms of one’s biological age, physical characteristics and needs, and the social meanings and values attached those characteristics. These meanings and values create social status. The social meanings and values influence one’s choices in their social environment and their status in that environment. 

One's choices influence how others interpret one’s status. Status, in group terms, is based on the group’s shared values. To conform to the group, individuals must select among its available choices, those that conform to the group. Thus, they distinguish between those choices that satisfy a physical need and those that satisfy a social status need.

Choices that satisfy a social need become desirable choices because they identify one’s social standing in the wider socio-cultural system. We can define these choices as desires. As we proceed through the lifecycle and become identified with social groups, we find that the power relationship between BUYER and SELLER changes.

We find that the paradigm, NEEDS, WANTS, and DESIRES, repeats itself on each level[4]. But what and how it will satisfy the individual’s need in the buyer’s and seller’s roles changes with their status.




[1] See my earlier essay, “Consumption Patterns: Needs, Wants, and Desires” https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259495871_Consumption_Patterns_-_Needs_Wants_and_Desires
[2] “two or more” implies that there may a “supply chain’ through which the “end buyer” and “primary producers or seller” are connect through a “chain” of deals, e.g, buyer of bike + retail store + wholesaler+ shipper+ bike manufacturer. 
[3] “Money or generalized value” means that the object received by the seller fulfills the three basic functions of money – a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a unit of account.
[4] The study of Consumption patterns depends on the researcher’s focus e.g. the individual, family, community, social class, etc. They also express the power relation between buyer and seller.  

Friday, February 21, 2020

Peace Corps and Anthropology


Becoming an anthropologist is a slow  and challenging process. As I remarked in an earlier essay, Expanding American Anthropology, 1945 – 1980, published through the Association of Senior Anthropologist, brought back lots of early memories. One article is by Robert Textor  where he described the formation of the Peace Corps. This brought back many memories.

In 1960, toward the end of my freshman year at Brown University I walked into Faunce House, the Student Union at the time, and picked up a copy of the Brown Daily Herald, the campus newspaper. That day there was a Supplement (I don’t remember the name) but I do remember an article about the British Overseas Volunteer Corps[1]. As I read the article, I thought to myself –“Wow, I’d like to do that!”

I had enrolled in NROTC in the Fall of 1959, this article suggested an alternative type of service. Little did I know at the time that I would be suspended from NROTC that fall because of my grades the previous year. Those grades which included the math required for my planned major in astronomy, were to be life changing as was the article I had read.

According to Textor[2], a few days after his inaugural address President John F. Kennedy began work to establish a new governmental organization that became known as the U.S. Peace Corps. President Kennedy chose his brother-in-law, Sergeant Shriver, for the task of turning the concept into a reality. On March 1, 1961, Kennedy signed the Executive Order that created the Peace Corps.

Textor’s article traces the development of the early days of the Peace Corps and some of its key personalities. He also recounts his role in the process. At the time, I was still struggling with the immediate personal issue of being placed on academic probation as I entered my sophomore year.

Textor’s major contribution to the development of Peace Corps was to lobby and insist upon a strong language training program for the volunteers who would be assigned to serve in the program. The tradition of US representative such as embassy staff, USAID, and military advisers to live in enclaves and work in English in the metropolitan cities and with host government officials. But this would not work at the village level where the PCV’s (Peace Corps Volunteers) would be assigned.

At the time, Textor was a post-doctoral fellow, Yale/Harvard anthropologist, who was working on a book about Thai Religion when he got the invitation to join the Peace Corp/Washington. The goal was to develop a language program to train the PCV recruits in Thai and to get them in place quickly. Textor’s article brought back memories of my own training for Peace in the summer of 1964.

In the May, 1964 I graduated from Brown University and faced the question – “What next?” 

This is the perennial question facing AB graduates in anthropology. “Is anthropology simply a major, like history or English, preparation for a middle-class job or professional graduate school?” Or, “Is it a path toward an academic career?”

Another question I faced at the time was, “What about the “peace time” draft?” 

I considered my options. After an interview with a J. Walter Thompson recruiter, who chained smoked Marlboro cigarettes while bragging, “This is one of our clients!”, I decided that advertising was not for me.

 I consider OCS, Officer Candidate School, as a way of fulfilling my military obligation. I also applied to 10 anthropology graduate programs mostly west of the Mississippi. I figured that I would play the IVY LEAGUE degree and geographical distribution card to overcome my early academic record.

 And, I remembered the British Overseas Volunteer Corps article I had read and how it had excited me. So I decided to apply to the newly created Peace Corps.

I was accepted by several of the graduate programs in the mid-west and south-west. However, an offer from the Peace Corps to train for Peru arrived and was more attractive. Our training would be at Cornell (famous for the Vicos Project). There I became one of some 50 candidates who would go through the basic RCA/Tools project training.

I wrote to the schools that had accepted me and indicated my decision. A problem I’d been concerned about was how I would handle the logistics of applying from overseas while serving as a PCV. So, I asked in the letter, ”If I went to Peru, could I update my application for the entrance class of 1966?” Most responded that I would have to reapply for the 1966 class. One, however, the University of Arizona, wrote back that they would update my acceptance to the class entering in 1966. This solved my problem.

In late June, I prepared to go to Cornell and begin my training. There I ran into Robert Textor’s idea for intensive language training. The Cornell Program, headed by William Rideout and anthropologist, Cara Richards, had two language tracks. For those who knew Spanish (either as Spanish majors, or native speakers) there was training in Quechua, the predominate Indian language of the highland Indians. For the rest of us, the language was Spanish. Language training was the dominate subject we trained in for 4 to 6 hours a day for the 8 weeks of training. If we survived Cornell, we would spend 2 weeks in Puerto Rico at Camp Radley.

Reading Textor’s essay brought all this back. My Spanish teacher was an American Graduate Spanish major, a young woman, who spoke Castilian Spanish. Other classes had native speaking instructors who were graduate students at Cornell and represented different Latin American “dialects”.

The classes seemed to go on and on. I found myself getting out of seat and pacing back and forth in the back of the class. That earned me the nickname, El Tigre. I found that as I was learning Spanish, the German I’d studied at Brown also improved as I tried to not respond in English but would go to a German translation first.

I learned from this training the two major truths that Textor described in his essay. Most Americans, outside of the diplomatic corps and who were US representatives in country, did not have good language skills. Most lived in American enclaves that insulated them from the local population. Peace Corps was modeled more like the traditional anthropological field situation, living and working with the locals and in their community. 

Our first task was to learn and/or develop our skills in the indigenous language
As an anthropologist, I observed how my classmates’ language skills had improved and been altered by their communities. Indians, Cholos, and Metizos did not speak Castilian. They spoke with accents that combined Spanish and Quechua derived elements. Second, those of us assigned to work as a link between the PC and the American community – tended to fall into the class that Textor was attempting to have Peace Corps avoid.

 I fell into this latter class.  My spoken language proficiency never exceeded a 3.5 on the foreign service exam. I was based in Cuzco but covered the Departments of Cuzco, Puno, and Apurimac where I was assigned to work on Special Projects as a liaison between USAID/Alianza para Progreso and the Peace Corps Volunteers working in Southern Peru. Special projects included local school construction, potable water, introduction of rabbits as a food source, etc. at a cost to USAID of around $1,000.

Textor’s essay describes the ideals behind the Peace Corps and documents the history of the very earliest days of the Peace Corps, from the Washington perspective. It is a valuable lesson in the history of anthropology and points to the anthropological input in the development of training for the foreign service.

My “class” was part of the second wave of volunteers into Peru. When we arrived at the airport, we were met by the local PC office’s American secretary. The problem was she was there to meet her friend returning from vacation. No one had informed her of our arrival. There were no preparations made for us. In addition there were the representatives of two other classes of PCVs arrived with us. What we found, when we arrived, was a poorly organized program that was still working out its purpose and processes.

It took the regional Cusco office several months to get everyone assigned and settled. My roommate, an artist/ceramist had been told that he would be helping to set-up a kiln in one of the native villages in Cuzco. That never happened. He ended up working with local PC office. In those days, we h had to learn to be flexible and adaptable.

I discovered that there was more than just the basic speaking skills to learning the language . This is what Textor described as his goal in the formative days. There was also learning the “occupational or subject” vocabulary of the language.  This was especially true if your assignment dealt with cultural differences in a specific skill set or activity. To this day, much of my “agricultural” vocabulary and knowledge is in a bastardized Spanish/Quechua based on a mixture of 16th century and 20th century agricultural culture.

 In my assignment as a liaison, I learned the “culture” of grantsmanship and program administration. Each has its own language and English and Spanish vocabularies. In essence, Textor was correct insisting that PCV’s know and speak the language of the peoples they would be serving. I doubt, however, he thought of it in this other sense. 

There was a disconnect problem between language training and the country and skills training components at US based facilities,  and, in those early days, the uncertainty of the in-country assignments., When Peace Corps later shifted to an in-country training model, this problem was corrected.

Peace Corps was an adventure, especially for a young BA in anthropology. It confirmed my interest in anthropology – working with village leaders, other volunteers, government (Peruvian and American) officials developing simple low-tech projects – as an applied field.

At the end of my tour, I was offered a contract to work with the Lima USAID office. I turned it down and exercised my option to enroll in the graduate program at the University of Arizona. I recommended a fellow volunteer for the position, which he accepted.

In Arizona, I met Dr. Edward H. Spicer and enrolled in the Community Development Seminar that he conducted with Dr. Cortland Cleveland from the sociology department. There I was introduced to Spicer’s case-book approach to training, Human Problems in Technological Change and had an opportunity to put my personal experience into perspective.

Peace Corps has been the training ground for many who have since considered anthropology as a career. It carried forward a certain Boasian quality even as academic anthropology was fragmenting in to narrower and narrower specialties. It has also trained many in the more exotic languages humans have developed over the history of the species. More important, Peace Corp has helped to salvage may tongues that might have been otherwise lost in the expansion of our global culture.

 For me, reading about those very early days, reawakened many fond memories.

 Isn’t part of what the Association of Senior Anthropologists mission is, is to document the traditions of the profession?




[2] Chapter 2, Textor (1980:22),in Expanding  American Anthropology 1945-1980

Thursday, February 6, 2020

How to Conquer the USA without Firing a SHOT

[ Applied anthropologist are often called upon to help design programs for  the organization that has hired them. This is the planning stage in program development. How can an anthropological analysis help to create a program out of the past and present elements of the organization? Whether a real program for a real organization, or a fictional story based on an anthropological perspective, it means taking historical facts and projecting alternative combinations of these facts to create a future. The following is a fictional conspiracy theory based on a structural-functional projection of historical trends that outline one possible explanation for the current American sociocultural conflict.]

 We are witnessing the next stage of international warfare. The cyber manipulation of the battle field. Geography has always played a significant part in warfare. Control the battlefield and you can control the battle. Control the battle you can control the outcome of war. We, the United States, are engaged in a NEW COLD WAR. 

 The year is 2000. Since the end of World War III. the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West relied on the development and control of Nuclear Weapons, It has led to a stalemate. And then with the fall of Communism as a political/economic doctrine the Soviet Union broke up. It resulted in the weakening of Russia as a geographical power in Europe while China and India became the major powers in Asia. In 2000, a former KGB agent assumes power as President of the Russia Republic, what remains of the Old Soviet Union.

The Cold War was created in the disintegration of the European Colonial empires at the end of WWII and the post-war geography. It also opened up the long religious war between Zionism, and Muslim  nationalism, between Muslims and Hindus in the breakup of India, between Sunni and Shiite Islam in the Middle East, It also to the form of  Client struggles between capitalist and communist economic systems, e.g. North and South Korea with their threat to Japan. These territorial disputes were and are still waged in the context of the older Nuclear paradigm as well as ideological terrorism.

Meanwhile, cyber-warfare developed along side the internet evolving into the cyber-geography of global commerce. Russia, under the former intelligence office, saw the potential of cyber-power. Cyber-power could be used to become the undisputed dictator of the Russian Republic. Such an intelligence officer would be the one who knew how important "data" was and how use it to the create an "alternative cyber-reality."  A cyber-reality, such as one finds in video games, could be used to create quasi-real geographical cyber-worlds that seemed real to an unsophisticated public. 



Everyone agreed that the Cold War strategy of "mutually assured destruction" through nuclear war would, as its acronym said,, be MAD and produce no winners.


 The cyber-skills developed by the KGB during the-Cold War era released Russia from these two great Satans that held  Russian expansion back in 20th Century.The end of the Cold War presented opportunities for Russia to pursue its traditional expansionist objects. The fall of communism freed the leadership from the ideological and economic straight jacket of Marxism. Russia might achieve its destiny.

To do so, however, meant that the strategic objective was to solve the puzzle: "How to apply cyber-knowledge in a practical sense to contain and defeat the expansionism of Western Europe and the United States?" "How could it be used to achieve Russia's destiny?"

 The political wars had to be made winnable. Could they be made so that they can be fought in a virtual world and have real world consequences? "Fiction" especially expressed through movies and Television has always been popular in the West for more than century. Mass media has the power to influence and control public perceptions of reality. The Canadian Media Guru, Marshall McLuhan, had said it, "The Media is the Message."



The Ex-KGB officer thought, "Why not create a virtual geography designed to elicit strong negative emotional reactions such as "doubt", "suspicion", "hatred", "tribalism,"and "partisanship." These emotions would be used to play on the natural negatives human and cultural themes of racism, classism, sexism and religious bigotry. We would fight such a war in cyber-space on the plane outlined by Orwell in his's "1984". It would attack the very creditability of the enemy's cultural assumptions. We could cause chaos through the invention of "fake news" to counter the real news."

He thought, "Isn't the capitalist system itself based on the lies, and the half truths of advertising?" "Would fake news about candidates in the democracies just be a form of 'advertising?"  "Couldn't we weaponize it to achieve Russia's objectives?"An experiment might be worth a try.

2010  An experiment would be tried to influence an American political party -- the out-party -- the Republicans. The first thing we would want to do is to separate the right wing from the center right and get control of the right wing. But, how do we do that? 



"First," the ex-KBG Officer thought, "We create a 'fake news' geographical map by finding some "leaders" who are so wrapped up in their own fictional world that they will act in Russia's interests even as they think it is their own."



"Second, 2010 is when the United States conducts a census and redraws its congressional districts. Let's test our strategy in those districts where we can support right wing primary candidates running for state legislatures against their center right competition. Maybe we can recruit some of the bigots who hate the idea of a black man being President; and some the greedy Plutocrats and their minions who hate taxes and the poor. These are a good target for our fake news. If we could get enough successful candidate we would: (1) redraw the districts in our favor using the time honored American political tradition of "gerrymandering; (2) remove the center right nationalists, and (3) replace or neutralize them with a more partisan ideologue."


The plan worked and the Republicans won control of the House of Representatives. In addition a new crop of "Tea Party" activists controlled the Republican caucus.

2014  Mitch McConnell came on the scene to wrest the leadership of the Senate from the Democrats. It was seen as a Republican victory but really it might have been a Russian victory. McConnell single handily stopped Obama from appointing federal judges especially for the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court was the least visible branch of government yet controlling it was critical to gain and retaining the support of the extremist right wing. McConnell held out the hope of reversing important federal laws affecting abortion (Roe v.Wade), gun control (2nd Amendment rights), laws calling for immigration reform and the loosen environmental controls, etc. etc.

"Using these issues" said the Ex-KBG Officer, "We would use the time between elections to feed the racial hate and religious bigotry among the people. We would play on the economic dislocations that global trade and innovation were introducing into the economy, We could play upon the general fatigue of endless war, and the shock of 911 and the Arab Spring. Our goal would be to question the whole premise of an American dream, And, we could support the extreme right to took over one of the two major U S political parties."

The Plan worked. Judgeships were held-up; fake-news for national cable networks were designed to attract and fed negative messages into the cyber-sphere featuring stories of ethnic crimes and violence. Social networks were hacked using cyber-weaponry to plant trolls who expounded themes of racial, regional, and ideological hatreds.  


"2016 is an election year for the Presidency," the Officer declared. "It is an open election.We could finish the job in 2016 by picking the winner of the Republican nomination." But in order to win we must find a candidate who can be seduced into promoting our plan." the Ex-KBG Officer said. 

"How?" asked his cyber-warriors. 

"In two stages," he answered.

"First, we must destroying the most creditable and viable Republican candidates one at a time. We would use the debates to supply and spread fake news and rumors about the target to the less viable candidates. They will use and to gang-up on the more viable ones. We would start with someone like Jeb Bush, who represents the center right and is probably the most qualified. We will encourage the weak to attack the center and working to eliminate the most acceptable candidate to the general public." We would encourage our "man" to point to the next target and then step back while the others do the dirty work. Finally, our preferred prospect stands out as the "savior" for values of the right wing and win the nomination."


"Meanwhile, we will encourage leaders of the Senate and House to put fear into any remaining center right Congressional members by threatening to challenge them in their districts or States. We would support "primary" challenges that we would fund through shell accounts if they don't tow the line. And this way we would have captured the party and we would control the congress and promote our candidate. "

"Who would that person be?" The Cyber-Hackers asked.

"We need to find someone who egotistical in public but very insecure in private. Someone who can spread 'fake news"  without questions and who can sell it to an uninformed, disinterested, and angry public or to a group of passionate partisans who are looking for a leader they think can solve their issues."   

"Of course we want to be able to control this person. It would be someone who has had a long a relationship with Russia. Someone who identifies with and is debt to the our Oligarchs.  He was be a puppy dog to us and a bull dog to his domestic opponents. He will reflect the irrational and hypocritical that only he call solve the problems that our fake news has been spreading for years. The right type of person would be willing to accept the help of anyone who would feed his ego", explained the Ex-KGB Officer. 


"In 2017, our next step would be to take over the government of the USA as a whole. This would then enable us to change American policy causing chaos in the Western alliances."

"How to do we take over the government of a foreign country?" the Cyber-Hackers asked.  

"The same way we used to take over and control our allies in the Cold War days, bribery, threats, and manipulating the legal system to our advantage," said the Officer 

"We would use the electoral college. In 2010, there was a census, People did not pay to much attention to it. But, that census, led to redistricting of the electorate and the reassignment of the House of Representatives. That was why we wanted to gain control of the local legislatures. This we did with the 2010 census."  

"Gerrymandering is an old and proven practice in American politics. Win the State Legislature and you control the redistricting process. Gerrymandering is quite simple. It has two goals: (1) to create a majority of your voters in a district and (2) breaking up any concentration of your opponent's supporter by cutting up their district. Our goal is to create a majority for our party in the electoral college. If we win that, the popular vote doesn't matter." 

" We will create a candidate, through "our" surrogates who now control the Republicans party. He will promote our anti-constitutional policy. The partisan battle that should follow, suits our and our candidate's plan. With Russian's backing, like the old post-colonial days, we will use the party as an offensive weapon to win the NEW Cold WAR. It will be much better to steal America's assets than destroying them with Nuclear Weapons," said the Officer.

 "Not a bad deal. Just like taking the Queen early in the Chess Game.You destroy the centrists leadership of the Party, and neutralize the country's leadership -- then turn a nation's security issue and policy into a mere partisan dispute." smiled the Cyber-Hackers. "Let's get to work!!" 


(written as a speculation during the impeachment trial as an explanation for the Senate's refusal to accept the obvious)