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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 16:23
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

...But no-one sees a culture through more heavily tinted glasses than members of that culture themselves. If you wanted a good account of a Manchester United - Chelse game, would you pick a Chelsea or Manchester supporter? Or would you prefer one from Barcelona?
 
I don't agree. Biassed people can be found on both sides of the topic. An European could write a biassed or idealized book on Amerindians, and also an Amerindian could write a biassed book about its own people. However, given both are impartial writers -there are many cases as well- the Natives always will have the advantadge of an "insider" look to the topic.
 
Just imagine who may write the best book about freemasons. A catholic outsider or a great master degree 33. Or who could write the best book about Chinese literature and character painting: a British schollar with no knowledge of Chinese, or a Chinese school teacher.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 17:29
I am going to make a subtle point here, so please read carefully.

Are outright biased books wrong and mostly useless? Yes, yes they are. And by those books I mean the ones that heavily characterize a group with adjectives such as "savage", "primitive", "infantile", etc. Also included in these are the ones who pretend to be in favor of the group by doing a mirror image, "pure", "noble", etc.

That being said, let me make a few points.

1. Biased books are worthy of study. Not because what they say about the target culture is so good, but what it says about the observing culture. A great example of this is "Coming of Age in Samoa" by anthropology god Margaret Mead. Keep in mind that Mead was actually being careful not to be biased :P It is even more fun in those works where they don't even keep that in mind.

2. Outsiders must write about cultures. Why? Because often people within a culture will not see what is clearly seen by others. Examples of this is how every non Mexican who looks at a Mexican soap opera notices that most people in lead roles tend to be whiter and more European looking than the actors playing servants, who have darker skin. Most Mexicans in Mexico don't see this. This is why outsiders looking into a culture is necessary.

3. Of course, we do need insider explanations of a culture. On the other hand, the outsider will miss the meaning of many cultural practices, rituals, or even just aphorism. And outsiders will be at the mercy of the informers, and informers tend to have a wicked sense of humor. My favorite example on that is how a secretary in a record company mislead the NYT doing a story on grunge slang by making up bogus terms as a joke.

In summary, when studying a culture, we need to have outsiders and insiders writing about it to get a better picture.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 18:55
In general yes, especially about biassed books being worthy of study.
 
But sometimes there aren't only outsiders and insiders but two kinds of insiders and an outsider, as I tried to explain with the football analogy. Without wanting to name any specific instances, if the people of tribe A are at odds with those of tribe B, arguing about their ancestry, relative honesty and tolerance and whatever, are you going to believe what people from A say, what those from B say, or what someone from Z who couldn't care less about the quarrelling sides says?
 
Similarly, to take pinguin's example, neither a Roman Catholic nor a Freemason is going to be a reliable guide to Freemasonry, not as long as they stick to the two party lines anyway. The Roman Catholic would be OK as a source for the Roman Catholic view of Freemasonry, and the Freemason for the Freemasons' view of Freemasonry, but that's all, unless you start taking into accout the personal characteristics and objectives of the individual, including their training in observation and recording.
 
And why would anyone think that some descendant of a old tribe, anywhere in the world, having listened to tales that have been orally transmitted over several generations, is going to be a better source of factual information than someone who observed things first-hand and recorded them?
 
Who would you take as the better source of information with regard to Jacksonian New York, a modern Manhattanite picked at random or de Toqueville?
 
(The story about the secretary and the NYT just shows of course that the NYT hires some lousy reporters, though it also exemplifies that you cannot trust insiders.)


Edited by gcle2003 - 29-Apr-2009 at 18:58
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 20:03
Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

.. Examples of this is how every non Mexican who looks at a Mexican soap opera notices that most people in lead roles tend to be whiter and more European looking than the actors playing servants, who have darker skin. Most Mexicans in Mexico don't see this. This is why outsiders looking into a culture is necessary.
....
 
ConfusedConfused
I wonder how many Americans watch Mexican Soap Operas...
The fact is I can't see the difference between Mexicans either. The fact is 99% of the actors are mixed, no matter some have lighter skin than others.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 21:26
Yes, I agree with most of the points that you are making.

In the case of a conflict, as with Masons and Catholics, one could consider them both insiders, not on a strict sense of the word, but because the conflict has a lot of baggage on how they see themselves.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pikeshot1600 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 23:03
So if only an insider can write from an objective point of view, I guess any history of the Roman Empire ever written *edit* in the last 1500 years, is a worthless waste of time.  Disapprove
 
Come on.  Such a position in itself is most subjective and suspect....as well as naive.
 
  


Edited by pikeshot1600 - 29-Apr-2009 at 23:09
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 23:28
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

.. Examples of this is how every non Mexican who looks at a Mexican soap opera notices that most people in lead roles tend to be whiter and more European looking than the actors playing servants, who have darker skin. Most Mexicans in Mexico don't see this. This is why outsiders looking into a culture is necessary. ....

 

ConfusedConfused

I wonder how many Americans watch Mexican Soap Operas...

The fact is I can't see the difference between Mexicans either. The fact is 99% of the actors are mixed, no matter some have lighter skin than others.


You see? You prove my point....
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 23:33
     "every non Mexican who looks at a Mexican soap opera notices that most people in lead roles tend to be whiter and more European looking than the actors playing servants, who have darker skin. Most Mexicans in Mexico don't see this."

Hugo, perhaps they don't "see" it because they accept that depiction as a reflection of the state of Mexico's culture. In other words; "Of course those in the lead roles tend to be whiter, they're playing upper class Mexicans. That's what upper class Mexicans look like." Of course, my impression may be superficial, but it was gained living in an upper class Mexican "privado" off of upper Reforma Ave for two and a half years, working and interfacing with Mexicans of all classes on a daily basis. (I cannot say "living with", because in my neighborhood I was the only one without a chaufeur, maids, or bodyguard.)

Impartiality is not received at birth, nor usually imparted in anyone's nationalization process. It is usually the result of intimate knowledge of that particular country or group, combined with solid scholarship and rigorous testing of one's theses. Some of the very worst observers of various nations political and cultural life have been products of those very same nations.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 23:37
ooops, I replied to a reply to you, and not your original post. You obviously agree with my point. Not the first time I've done that, as Pinguino can attest, so I'd better get more "rigorous".
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29-Apr-2009 at 23:41
Originally posted by lirelou lirelou wrote:

     ....
Impartiality is not received at birth, nor usually imparted in anyone's nationalization process. It is usually the result of intimate knowledge of that particular country or group, combined with solid scholarship and rigorous testing of one's theses. Some of the very worst observers of various nations political and cultural life have been products of those very same nations.
 


I repeat.

How many Americans do see Mexican soap operas? How many times have you seen them? How many movies?

Or do you form your oppinions from biassed opinion leaders in the US?

Besides, Do you consider Victoria Principal and Rachel Welch "white" people?

If so, I got it why you guys are so confussed ... ConfusedConfused

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Apr-2009 at 00:09
Answer 1: Probably several million Americans. Of course, the great majority of these are Hispanic Americans watching one of the various Spanish language U.S. networks. Then there are the 1 million estimated "North Americans" who reside in Mexico. Someone in their home will be watching, and Soap Operas are a tremendous tool for learning Spanish.

Answer 2: How many people form their opinions based upon their "leaders"? More to the point, how many of those "leaders" have written anything about a) American Indians, or b) Mexico or Mexicans? My guess is close to zero.

Answer 3: Do I consider Victoria Principal or Raquel Welch "white". I certainly took them for Hispanic Whites of Mexican descent. Obviously, their physical appearance evidences some Amerindian ancestry, but it is not dominant. I would be willing to bet that neither grew up speaking an indigenous language, living in an indigenous community, wearing indigneous clothing or hair styles, or practicing an indigenous form of Roman Catholocism. Thus, neither is Indian. White works for me, and that was how the U.S. Army classified Mexicans back when the Army was segregated.

Oh, we're the ones who are confused?!  Hey, one of my neighbors in Mexico's family name was Moctezuma. But I'd be willing to bet he had nearly as large a Caucasian cromozone count as myself.

Speaking of confusion, why is it that Canadian Boy has never given us a listing of these racist, ignorant books, and the context within which Canadians are either obliged, or encouraged, to read them. I.e., are they School histories? If so, title and publisher, as well as the school district they are taught in, Please?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Apr-2009 at 00:16
I see, at least from my point of view, you guys are confussed. The only "white" people is blond, blue eyed, pink skinned and tall. The rest are mixed. Either in Europe or in the Americas.
You better solve your problems on definitions, before continue arguing, I guess.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote edgewaters Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Apr-2009 at 00:58

Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

I don't agree. Biassed people can be found on both sides of the topic. An European could write a biassed or idealized book on Amerindians, and also an Amerindian could write a biassed book about its own people.  

Absolutely. In fact, it's very difficult to find a book on the subject that is unbiased. 

Most books tend to portray natives as either naieve innocents living in some sort of primordial, peaceful Eden, at one with nature; or as primitive savages. Those two views have been with us since Europeans arrived and seem to simply reinvent themselves over and over again. There's only a rare few books out there that just treat the history dispassionately and present it all without judgement, as one would expect from a book on, say, Roman Britain or ancient China or almost any other historical topic. The few that are like this are almost always devoted to urban civilizations in Mesoamerica or Peru.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Apr-2009 at 01:01
Originally posted by Seko Seko wrote:


Originally posted by eaglecap eaglecap wrote:

 
When I worked at Old Mission State Park in Idaho I read the Roman Catholic catechism to missionaries who were going out west to convert natives...
You are old! You convert the missionaries then they converted the Indians. I see! Wink (I would insert the word "about" between 'read' and 'the' in your sentence.)


I had to peek during my Greek studies- Seko- Mr

Yes'em I was born in a log cabin and done learned to read by the fire place back in the 1800's. Ouch my old hickory bones sure yam hurting - yee haaw!!

I archived all the items in the museum from Native American artifacts to pioneer. They had an old, in storage, catehchism from the 1840's. I handled it carefully but I read portions of it but it was so biased against the Natives but it was a different world.   

Edited by eaglecap - 30-Apr-2009 at 01:01
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pinguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Apr-2009 at 01:41
Originally posted by edgewaters edgewaters wrote:

Absolutely. In fact, it's very difficult to find a book on the subject that is unbiased. 

Most books tend to portray natives as either naieve innocents living in some sort of primordial, peaceful Eden, at one with nature; or as primitive savages. Those two views have been with us since Europeans arrived and seem to simply reinvent themselves over and over again. There's only a rare few books out there that just treat the history dispassionately and present it all without judgement, as one would expect from a book on, say, Roman Britain or ancient China or almost any other historical topic. The few that are like this are almost always devoted to urban civilizations in Mesoamerica or Peru.



Perhaps that's the common pattern in English. In Spanish, the books about natives tend to be very realistic, showing both defect and virtues. And not only about natives, but of Europeans as well.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote hugoestr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Apr-2009 at 03:09
Hi, Pinguin,

I don't know how it is in Chile, but in Mexico they do tend to match the description that edgewaters gives: either total racist rants or noble savages. Sometimes you get them both at the same time.

And I can name names!Specifically, Jose Vasconcelos, the man who single-handedly invented a national education system out of thin air, was a raving racist who praised the virtues of the Native American noble savage while using indio as an insult to his political enemies. And that still goes on today; after all, Subcomandante Marcos pretty much preaches a noble savage narrative. And this ambivalence exists to this day.

Sure, Mexico has statues to great Native American historical figures, but at the same time the country discriminates so strongly against Native Americans that many of them choose to refuse to speak to their children in Nahuatl to prevent discrimination.

And I know that you are making a genetic argument, and you are right about that. However, culturally, there is a distinction between the mostly Spanish and the mostly Native American in Mexico, and this distinction is clear to foreigners, yet elusive to Mexicans.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Apr-2009 at 03:27
     "The only "white" people is blond, blue eyed, pink skinned and tall. The rest are mixed. Either in Europe or in the Americas."

Wow! That's a rather Aryan-biased view. So Greeks, Italians, non-Norman or Flemish French, Serbians, Spanish (Except Catalunya, Romanian, and all those various and sundry other Europeans who are not "blond, blue eyed, pink skinned, and tall" are not Caucasians, i.e., "White".

Mr. Penguin, me thinks that thou art the one who is confused. Perhaps you should look up the term "Caucasian" in an encyclopedia, or some reliable social science book.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chilbudios Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Apr-2009 at 07:26
Originally posted by Pinguin Pinguin wrote:

I see, at least from my point of view, you guys are confussed. The only "white" people is blond, blue eyed, pink skinned and tall. The rest are mixed. Either in Europe or in the Americas.
Why bother calling them "whites" then, call them "pink blue-dotted blondes" Tongue
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Chilbudios Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Apr-2009 at 08:52

Originally posted by hugoestr hugoestr wrote:

Examples of this is how every non Mexican who looks at a Mexican soap opera notices that most people in lead roles tend to be whiter and more European looking than the actors playing servants, who have darker skin. Most Mexicans in Mexico don't see this. This is why outsiders looking into a culture is necessary.

I've read your entire message, but I'll use this example and then I'll expand back to your point.

I know nothing of Mexican soap-operas and too little about the culture, the stereotypes, the images of Otherness, etc. in modern Mexican society. However noticing or ignoring a skin-color difference can be a cultural constraint. For instance, it could be that certain complexions are markers of beauty in Mexican society, so the Mexicans perceive those actors in leading roles as handsome, beautiful, not necessarily whiter. It could be that the difference in color is actually noticed by many individuals but not made meaningful, not voiced (as I notice that - let's say - the brown of the drawers is lighter than the brown of the door, but I don't assign any meaning or importance to it, so if I'll be prompted to describe the room I'm in, probably I'll leave such detail out of my description). It could be that those uttering the difference in color actually do so because their own culture is hypersenstive about skin-color issues (racism). It could be that such a remark is actually a mirror of own society and culture, so we might miss to understand the Mexican society in such terms.

Therefore the question of insideness vs outsideness can be actually be rephrased as the perspective of the inside culture vs the perspective of the inside culture reflected through an outside culture. What I don't like about several approaches in this thread is that the insiders are presented as part of a culture, while the outsiders as somewhat independent observers. The other becomes "savage", "primitive", "pure", "cruel", "noble", etc. mostly because of a cultural bias in the society of the observer, not only of the observer himself. This is a reason for why I agree with your call to read and study the books, no matter how biased they are. Even if we might not learn much about others, we might learn a lot about our societies.

Also we prefer the outside view in cases when our access to the inside view is limited, either because the insiders are no longer in existence or because the cultural gap is too large to be easily bridged (a 21st century urban civilization vs a tribe in Amazonia, etc. - notice my cultural bias too). But if we're to look at societies like French and German, I think we'd prefer French scholars for most French issues and German scholars for most German issues.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mixcoatl Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30-Apr-2009 at 10:02
Originally posted by pinguin pinguin wrote:

I see, at least from my point of view, you guys are confussed. The only "white" people is blond, blue eyed, pink skinned and tall. The rest are mixed.

Wow, I never knew I was a mestizo

But in any case: yes, you are right, the average Mexican soap star is whiter than I am.
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