from E Goody

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Thu Mar 11 2004 - 13:03:44 PST

Dear Colleagues,
   What follows is a mixture of a note from Esther Goody to me
explaining her problems responding to messages from xmca and some
background on the paper.
   Thank you very much for perservering, Esther. Isn't it nice that
we have been able to preserve the memory of your earlier experience
in communicating these ideas, for them to be a provocation to the
thought of a later generation, and, best of all, to enable a dialogue
across those temporal and ideological divides.
   Until you are firmly and evidently hooked up with xmca, hopefully
those responding on this thread of the discussion can take a moment
to cc you directly. I will forward what is not cc'ed.
   Also, note that in our archive at http:/lchc.ucsd. the first three
pages of your paper were somehow deleted. They have not been sent
to all xmca members and we will re-do that issue of the archive.
Dear Mike,
Thanks for passing on the comments on the Herrschaft paper. I replied to the
first one - and then lost it in trying to send. With the same phone used for
house and e-mail this can happen when someone tries to phone out while I am
on line. Rachel has now fixed me up with something called Outlook Express so
I can compose offline. See it this works.

1) How do I join in the fun?
How do I address this? To you -Mike Cole?
To 'Colleages'.Do I e-mail to '' ?
Or what?

I am trying to also send this to the above adddress - as an experiment.

2) The debate might like to include my experience as author of
'Herrschaft'. It was originally written - several years earlier - for a
German conference in Gottingen on 'Herrschaft'. Hence the title, which I
would not have chosen myself, but which seemed delightfully doubly apt.
     I may have told you that it was received there with shock and horror.
In the end I couldn't get to the conference, but it was read for me and they
sent a transcript of the discussion. One man insisted that I was misquoting
the bible (I checked, and had not). Some people said that this was not a
valid way to argue, moving from ethnography to myth, and between simple
societies and modern Western societies. But the main objection was to the
implication that there was any biological element in gender relations. Even
in written form it was clear that the discussion was heated, even angry. I
was glad I had not actually been there.
    Later I sent an offprint to an old anthropology/feminist friend, Sherry
Ortner. She was important in defining and building early feminist
anthropology. When she eventually replied it was to say that the whole paper
was a mistake. Not because the material was wrongly chosen or analysed, but
because - in effect - as feminists we should not be looking at crude factors
like biology, but rather only at their social and cultural expresson. Since
we know that societies and cultures change and adapt, we must focus on
factors relevant to positive change. To even discuss biology is to be
seduced by the male domination which we struggle against. [This is of course
a paraphrase of what I remember from years ago. But fairly conveys the gist
I think.]
    At this time there were a number of papers/books appearing arguing for
the absence of any evidence for biological constraint on social behaviour.
After looking at some, I realised that they tended to describe special
conditions (e.g. the occasional biological overlap between male and female
traints in relation to homosexuality) to argue that there is nothing
'necessary' about biological gender differences. In fact probably the single
most robust ethnographic finding across cultures is the association between
male/female gender and social roles. So this rejection of biology as a
central factor - though obviously only one factor - in gender roles seemed,
and still seems, just plain wrong.

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