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Re: [xmca] sounds like the young Dr. Cole?
No wonder that Obama is what he is...a formidable set of genes on the one
side (We don't know about his Dad or do we?) I respect anthropology even
more than psychology, and that thesis sounds formidable.
On the other hand, I would love to hear about how his grandparents brought
him up--but that is in his books, I expect---and I haven't read them.
I hope he can do all of them justice.
2009/8/11 Peter Smagorinsky <email@example.com>
> Op-Ed Contributor
> Dreams From His Mother
> By MICHAEL R. DOVE
> Published: August 10, 2009
> New Haven
> PRESIDENT OBAMA's late mother, Ann Dunham Soetoro, was famous for the good
> cheer and optimism that she preserved in the face of a complex and
> challenging world. Her personality went hand-in-hand with her career as an
> anthropologist in Indonesia and Pakistan, where she studied and worked with
> village craftsmen, slum-dwellers and countless others. I knew Dr. Soetoro
> a friend and colleague for many years before her death from cancer in 1995.
> Though I only met her son once, briefly at her memorial service, I've
> watched him as he's taken on the hardest job in the world, and often found
> myself wondering how her worldview might have shaped him.
> Dr. Soetoro's most sustained academic effort was her 1,043-page
> dissertation, "Peasant Blacksmithing in Indonesia: Surviving Against All
> Odds," completed in 1992 and based on 14 years of research. This was a
> classic, in-depth, on-the-ground anthropological study of a 1,200-year-old
> industry. Her principal field site was a cluster of hamlets, containing
> several hundred households, on an arid limestone plateau on Java's south
> coast. There, village metalworkers produced dozens of different iron blades
> and tools for use in farming, carpentry and daily life.
> When Dr. Soetoro began her study in 1977, the village could be reached only
> by walking a mile and a half from the nearest paved road. The first
> battery-powered television set did not arrive in the village until 1978,
> was placed in a window and watched by the village en masse; electricity did
> not arrive until a decade later. In her dissertation, Dr. Soetoro called
> this village "a wonderful and mysterious place to live."
> Running through Dr. Soetoro's doctoral research, as through all her work,
> was a challenge to popular perceptions regarding economically and
> politically marginalized groups; she showed that the people at society's
> edges were not as different from the rest of us as is often supposed. Dr.
> Soetoro was also critical of the pernicious notion that the roots of
> lie with the poor themselves and that cultural differences are responsible
> for the gap between less-developed countries and the industrialized West.
> Indeed, Dr. Soetoro found that the villagers she studied in Central Java
> many of the same economic needs, beliefs and aspirations as the most
> capitalist of Westerners. Village craftsmen were "keenly interested in
> profits," she wrote, and entrepreneurship was "in plentiful supply in rural
> Indonesia," having been "part of the traditional culture" there for a
> Based on these observations, Dr. Soetoro concluded that underdevelopment in
> these communities resulted from a scarcity of capital, the allocation of
> which was a matter of politics, not culture. Antipoverty programs that
> ignored this reality had the potential, perversely, of exacerbating
> inequality because they would only reinforce the power of elites. As she
> wrote in her dissertation, "many government programs inadvertently foster
> stratification by channeling resources through village officials," who then
> used the money to further strengthen their own status.
> These same observations also led her to start working with institutions
> the Ford Foundation and the United States Agency for International
> Development to devise alternate pathways for reaching and working with the
> poor. She helped to pioneer microcredit programs that made small amounts of
> capital available to weavers, blacksmiths and other low-income groups -
> people who would otherwise have had no access to credit.
> It's worth pointing out that though microenterprise is fairly well-known
> today - and Indonesia now has one of the world's largest microcredit
> programs - it was pretty radical stuff when Ann Soetoro was doing her work.
> But then, she had a habit of swimming against the current. While many
> American academics tried to avoid antagonizing the repressive Suharto
> government, Ann Soetoro called attention to those the regime had failed to
> benefit: the village craftsmen, the plantation workers and urban
> the underpaid workers in the shoe and clothing factories.
> There is a final lesson from her work that is worth remembering: No nation
> even if it is our bitterest enemy - is incomprehensible. Anthropology shows
> that people who seem very different from us behave according to systems of
> logic, and that these systems can be grasped if we approach them with the
> sort of patience and respect that Dr. Soetoro practiced in her work.
> The anthropologist Clifford Geertz wrote that "the aim of anthropology is
> the enlargement of the universe of human discourse." This was clearly a
> central goal of Dr. Soetoro's work and life. From an admittedly great
> distance, I can see those same values in her son.
> Michael R. Dove is a professor of social ecology and anthropology at Yale.
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