Guest post: Why curl yourself into such a tight uncomfortable ball of insularity?

Originally a comment by YNnB (yes again) on A blanket fort for big babies.

Happily, this is a task at which anthropology should excel: spotting where the preoccupations of one cultural order—in this case, that of a late-modern, mostly Anglophone, very-online ecumene—are fervently insisted upon by members of that order as constitutive of reality itself.

Wait. Is she saying that the freshly-minted concept of “transness” is a narrow, Western, hegemonic, colonial imposition on the rest of the world’s varied cultures?! Say it’s not so!

This is just so outrageously meta, with anthropologists failing to recognize the global projection and reification of their own particular, parochial concerns and ideas. They can see the arbitrary, constructed, local nature of everyone else’s belief systems, but not their own. They’re giving a pass to the incoherence and contradictions within their own thought system, nodding in agreement at the punishment of anyone daring to step outside this awkward, stuffy little frame of reference to point out the peculiar restrictiveness of its tenets, all the while insisting that “this is how things are; agree or else.” They can’t see they’re just like any other cult which has found the Truth.

Like the Church’s self-defeating persecution of Galileo, the cancellation of Lowrey’s panel makes the anthropological community look foolish. My understanding of Galileo’s intention was that he was trying to strengthen the Church by suggesting that its teachings should conform to reality rather than try to dictate it. He could see with his own eyes (and through reading Copernicus, who was clever enough to wait until he died before publishing his heliocentric hypothesis) that the Church’s attachment to Ptolemaic geocentrism was going to be a problem. Lowrey can see that her field’s attachment to gender ideology is a problem right now. Except the worldview the anthropologists are clinging to isn’t some centuries old, sclerotic orthodoxy, but a jumbled, incoherent, faddish confection of word play and reality denial slapped together in the last decade or so. She doesn’t want to destroy anthropology, but save it from itself, restoring its practice to the proper, provisional relationship to observable reality, before it stumbles further into heedless, blinkered, trendiness.

Why curl yourself into such a tight uncomfortable ball of insularity when you can pop out, stretch your legs and enjoy the sunshine? The sun will always be there, so the fight to remain in self-imposed, cloistered darkness will be never ending. Future anthropologists will look back, shaking their heads and use this episode as an object lesson in professional self examination.

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