In this episode Professor Kamari Maxine Clarke reflects on her ethnographic work in Africa, her thinking on the legacies of colonialism in the discipline of Anthropology, and her recent work with the Radical Humanism Initiative.
Kamari Maxine Clarke is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Toronto. Clarke is the recipient of the 2019 Royal Anthropological Institute’s Amaury Talbot Book Prize, as well as the 2019 finalist for the Elliot Skinner book award for her latest book, Affective Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Pan-Africanist Pushback.
Nick Smith is a PhD Candidate in Anthropology at the University of Toronto.
Musical intro and outro: "All the Colors in the World" by Podington Bear.
Logo designed by Janita van Dyk
Asad, Talal. 2011. “Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter.” In The Politics of Anthropology: From Colonialism and Sexism Toward a View from Below, edited by Gerrit Huizer and Bruce Mannheim, 85–94. New York: De Gruyter Mouton.
Clarke, Kamari Maxine. 2019. Affective Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Pan-Africanist Pushback. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Diamond, Stanley. 1974. In Search of the Primitive: A Critique of Civilization. New York: Routledge.
Jobson, Ryan Cecil. 2020. “The Case for Letting Anthropology Burn: Sociocultural Anthropology in 2019.” American Anthropologist 122, no. 2: 259–271.
Wolf, Eric. 1982. Europe and the People without History. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Wenner-Gren workshop on extractivism
- Audio timestamp for link reference: [28:46]
[Into Music Plays]
Nick Smith [00:02] Hello, welcome to AnthroPod. My name is Nick Smith. I'm a contributing editor with AnthroPod and with the Society for Cultural Anthropology, and today I'm really excited to be here with anthropologist Dr. Kamari Clarke, who is a Distinguished Professor at the Centre of Criminological & Sociolegal Studies at the University of Toronto, and the Centre for Diaspora & Transnational Studies also at the University of Toronto. Throughout her career, Dr. Clarke has been interested in understanding how interrelationships among state actors, lawyers, religious leaders, and scientific and religious practitioners negotiate culture and power in contemporary period. Such a focus has been central to her intellectual commitments and to the development of a new and growing area in political, legal, and transnational anthropology. Dr. Clarke is a recipient of the 2021 Guggenheim prize for Career Excellence, and her most recent book was published in 2019 by Duke University Press and is entitled "Affective Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Pan-Africanist Push-Back." One of Kamari's most recent initiatives, which we'll be talking about today, concerns the radical humanism initiative, which is a collaborative project engaged in the development of a radical praxis in contemporary anthropology, designed to explore and implement what a radical humanist anthropology could look like. This initiative emerged in response to Ryan Jobson's 2019 year-in-review essay for American Anthropologist, entitled "The Case for Letting Anthropology Burn." Through multiple collaborations, this project has been committed to the parsing of the fields enduring legacies of objectification, dehumanization, and erasure, to consider how we can continue to rebuild the field of anthropology by reflecting on the core principles of an engaged and decolonizing anthropology. So welcome, Professor Clarke to AnthroPod.
Kamari Clarke [1:53] Thank you, Nick. Thanks so much. Glad to be here.
NS [1:58] So I'd love to really just start off with a very basic background question, which is what influenced you to get into anthropology to begin with? And what pushed you to pursue political anthropology?
KC [2:14] Yeah, it's it's a great question. And sometimes I reflect on that period. And I reflect on the path I was on prior to my introduction to anthropology. And I wonder, you know, what if I had continued in another direction, because initially, I after I graduated from undergrad, I was going to law school, and I, and a few things in my life changed. And instead, I ended up going to grad school to study anthropology. And, you know, at the time that I was interested in law, I actually thought law was the the future, that affirmative action and legal interventions were key to levelling social inequality, you know. I thought of some of my aspirations involved working for the World Bank, looking at political economic questions through law, as well as through significant international players, international organizations. Even aid at the time, I was a believer that properly engaged aid solutions could help to build the development resources that were necessary to change the world. And I very quickly found that that was not the case. And it certainly wasn't the case, based on the aspirations I had for a world, a new a different world. And I, at the time, I was based in Canada, and I ended up moving to the States. I ended up going to The New School. And I studied anthropology at the New School when it was quite vibrant. And there were post colonial conversations underway, as well as conversations about, you know, the classical European canon. And so that led to a whole set of other things, and I ended up pursuing political anthropology [4:14] and political legal anthropology.
I do tell, just, I'll just tell one short story, that was my "aha" moment, when I switched from political science and law to to anthropology and it was in a class that I was auditing. I remember the professor talking at the time about a development project where, and I believe it was in Mali or it was a West African country, where this development organization had brought all of these latrines, these toilets to the region and spent spent millions and millions of dollars on, you know, thinking through sanitary conditions in the region. All of these toilets, these latrines were set up, and no one used them for over a year. It was not the place where people went to defecate. And everyone wondered why? Those who were working for this international organization didn't really get it at the time. And that example, of course, when we think about it as anthropologists, and we think well, "Why could it? How could it be that this multimillion dollar project failed in this way?" It really highlights the the importance of of using vigorous and critical anthropology and ethnography for thinking about, you know, what certain defecation practices mean, and what are the context in which they are done? And, you know, how do we think in medical anthropology about the social meaning, and the organization, the location? There are so many factors that go into to these questions, and it's not simply a question of civilized practices versus uncivilized, or ensuring that there is, you know, cleanliness and sanitation as the only mode for engaging with people's lives or transforming them. It involves a much more rigorous set of practices by which we meet people where they are and try to figure out, [6:14] you know, what are the problems for them? What are the issues, what do things mean to them? So it's your classic, you know, "aha" moment, in many ways. It's sort of the classic arrival story. But it's it's a critical story. And it's one of the stories that makes anthropology important. And so that was part of my own introduction, and what changed my interest. Initially, it was methodological. It was this, this field, has the, has the tools for really understanding and engaging with the problems of our world. And that was what brought me over to anthropology.
NS [6:55] Hmm. I wonder, were there particular classes or books in anthropology, that you would say were formative for you or pushed you into the discipline?
KC [7:05] I mean, from the early days, I was very much interdisciplinary. But, one of the key texts was Stanley Diamond's In Search of the Primitive (1974). This was when I was, you know, in the late 80s. And Stanley Diamond was at the new school and had retired at that point and passed on. But that text was an important one. Wolf's text on the people without history, Sidney Mintz's work was important for thinking about capitalism and slavery, Brackette Williams' work, I really, really it was formative for me in thinking about a whole set of questions, including Michel-Rolph Trouillot and then Talal Asad. Talal had just moved to the New School when I was just leaving, and his work on anthropology of the colonial encounter, also formative. And then later, I then came to read, you know, works by Faye Harrison and other decolonial scholars that were critical for me in thinking about both how to articulate some of the key problems that I felt and read and engaged in, but didn't have the vocabulary yet, as a graduate student at the time. And so, certainly, the work that Faye and other scholars, especially other Black anthropologists, were doing was also important for me during those early years.
NS [8:36] One of the topics, since you you mentioned Faye Harrison, that I wanted to talk with you about today is your work on the topics of decolonization, of racism, and of the possibility of a radical humanism in the discipline. So to start off this discussion, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the ways that the topic of colonialism and or decolonization have figured into your work on the anthropology of law and politics in in Africa?
KC [9:06] Yeah, in many ways, it's central, it's critical. It it is a key part of the ways that we understand the contemporary human condition. And, you know, I have to also say that my earlier training, I very much always saw myself as Foucauldian analytically, to some extent with some critiques of Foucault as well, but certainly interested in, in particular, the problem with law. And the problem with juridical institutions is often what law does best, which is to hide the conditions of its making. And this is sort of a Foucauldian, a well-known Foucauldian, intervention that what we see when we think of law and we think of the legal may very well be about the revolutionary potential of law to ensure equality for all. But the reality is that law is deeply political, that the things that law clarifies and engages in is, is often what is seen. But what we don't see are other things that are often outside of the scope of law and law's purview. And so much of my work over the last 20 years has been interested in legal questions in terms of the law, and in terms of international justice.
And so in my latest book in Affective Justice, I talk about one of the the most disappointing phenomena that is at play in this moment, which have to do with a number of things, one, the alignment with justice, the alignment of law and justice. And the presumption that when people say We want justice, it means we want law. And part of the argument [11:06] in that book is that, increasingly, we're seeing the collapsing of law and justice in popular vocabulary. I demonstrate how this is happening through the language of the victim through the emergence of a concept known as the perpetrator. And through this notion of the international community around which social media, electronic technologies are often mobilized to save the "victim," and so that book is, is really an attempt to think about the things that are outside of the law that are also that are often invisibalized. And the colonial, colonialism and decolonial practices are part of that, in many ways. The colonial is part of that.
So for example, and I'll just give you one example where this is concerned: questions of temporality. So a lawyer might very well be interested in prosecuting crimes against humanity and war crimes and genocide in a given region as a result of mass atrocity violence, so say, in Kenya, or in Sudan. And one of the problems is that there are very narrow strictures through which lawyers will often see and pose questions about who is culpable. And culpability has to do with a number of things, mens rea or actus reus that they speak of in law. And part of the problem is that there's a very narrow framework through which culpability is understood. And so anthropologists, legal anthropologists, like myself, and others who are equally interested in this question, would interrogate differently and engage differently with the kind of histories and the legal questions that one needs to ask in order to understand the conditions that led to violence in [13:06] the first place. So what were the political and economic and other conditions that led to the genocide, it's not just about who is culpable or who pulled the trigger. It's about the underlying conditions that that produce the the kind of violence that we might have observed in a given place in the first place. And so this really is the dimension of much of that work around colonization. And the remit around which the colonial past has very much shaped contemporary political problems in Sub-Saharan Africa.
NS [13:45] And I wanted to maybe shift the discussion towards anthropology as a discipline and the discussions of decolonization and anthropology's colonial history. So this would be to talk about the Radical Humanism Initiative, which you are a part of. There's been a lot of discussion about decolonization and race and anthropology lately. So for example, in a series of webinars which are ongoing, which have been hosted by Wenner-Gren. But, I wanted to ask you how the radical humanism initiative emerged, and perhaps what circumstances have made it so necessary to think about at this time.
[KC 14:32] Yeah, the Radical Humanist Initiative is, is really a collective. It's a collective of like minded anthropologists who are committed to rethinking the human subject–object binary. And one of the key dimensions that makes it a necessary intervention is how much of anthropology, with its positivist past, has been about the knowability of the human, the knowability of the subject, the ability to decode and understand what people think, and to analyze it and to render humans as objects, as well as data points for our analysis. And the Radical Humanist Initiative in many ways defies or rejects the idea that people are knowable as a fundamental premise, that there is something—that knowability can be decoded and understood using anthropological measures. And that that produces a totality that shapes the ways that we understand culture and cultural production. And so there's a refusal, by many of us who are part of that collective to rethink the liberal subject as the knowable subject. And that doesn't mean that we're interested in undermining knowledge production, especially in the South and elsewhere. It's that overall, the human condition requires that we think about how fragmented knowledge really is, and how inconclusive even our our understanding of the present is. And so the the initiative really attempts to do that.
But one of the ways that we're doing that is through the articulation of principles. And so we have these five principles that we're working on that form the basis of much of the work that is underway and some [16:32] of the future work that's underway. And, of course, some of these conversations emerged from Ryan Jobson's piece, as an inspiration to continue this trajectory of discussion. And, and then a whole set of other conversations that have been ongoing around where the nature of changes within our institutions, the syllabus as this optic for anthropological training and for training in general in in North American universities, and how the syllabus itself is a domain of knowledge production and regeneration, but it's also part of the problem. And so, through the articulation of these five principles, we've cordoned off particular areas that we can rethink ethnographic work, ethnographic practices, as well as ethnographic knowledge production.
NS [17:32] I actually wanted to kind of push a little bit more on that these questions of which are kind of epistemologically fundamental in rethinking practices of anthropology. So, I wonder what kinds of conversations does thinking through decolonization, but also towards a radical humanism, open up for us when we think about knowledge production, representation, or methods in the discipline?
KC [17:58] That's great. Yeah, I would love to talk a bit about that because much of it can be understood through the five principles that are organizing principles. And so the one of them—and we call them draft principles because over the next couple of years, there are a number of fora that are underway, you know, Wenner-Gren seminar, we have some public debates, we have public writing, their webinars, a number of things that are underway, around which we are working through these draft principles of getting input and further clarifying. But the first draft principle is what we call—I mean, it's sort of the baseline principle, which, and some call it the new do no harm, but it really it's about a commitment to humanism as a praxis of equality, connection, and becoming. And this is really this idea of equality, connection, and becoming: becoming destabilizes the stability of the subject; connection is about the interconnectedness and equality is the basic premise through which we engage with with each other and, and so yes, it's about doing no harm. But it's also about recognizing that, even as we aspire to do no harm, some of the fundamental principles in our discipline are principles that actually undermine the integrity of the people with whom we work. And, so this commitment to a different kind of humanism of equality, connection, and becoming, means that we destabilize the idea of the knowable so called subject that's reducible to these cultural units, or data points, right, that produced the data through which we do our work. And so in that first principle, we are more interested in in in that destabilization, [19:58] we're interested in the content of human more than human entanglement. And, pushing against the liberal subject and thinking about the complex entanglement of the worlds, the various worlds within which we live. So that's the first principle, which in many ways is a foundational one. And it's the point of connection for us as the first draft principle.
And then the second is a principle that I've been working on for some time. It's the notion of abduction. So it's a—it has to do with the kind of method that we approach, it's the—it's the posture that we take to the certainty of the work that we do, and rendering it uncertain, in fact. So it's a commitment to a method of relational and what we call multimodal attunement. So, multimodality having to do with multiple modes of engagement, multiple ways of being attuned with those, with those we work alongside. And also a commitment to a mode of reasoning through abduction. So, this is an approach that doesn't presume that there is a truth or something, you know, some certain fact of the past that needs to be found, but instead that seeks to amplify the frameworks that people that use to pursue it explain their world. And in part, it, it also presumes that world and that journey to understand in these multimodal formulations might lead, and hopefully will lead, to unanticipated effects. And so this is a methodological question about what we do, how we do it, and what the basic mode of reasoning is through which we search for [21:58] people's stories, the stories that they tell of their lives without an assurance of truth. So, this is an important one to us because so much of anthropological thought presumes the contrary to this formulation.
And then the third, the third draft principle is something that we're also continually working through, which has to do with a commitment to centering lived experience, rather than over representing science and quantification. And because often the science and quantification, in this moment where big data and algorithms provide solutions and ways to see and map out large scale effects, often the privileging is of these mappings, the kind of mega metadata, the large scale effects, and less on the centering of what people feel and what their experience is. And so it's not to say that big data or larger patterns aren't useful at times, or don't show us things that we can't see if we didn't have the benefit of these aggregate formulations. But it's to say that the lived experience and people's articulation of such should be on par with other attempts to aggregate larger conceptions and patterns in our world. And we've really had to think this principle through significantly because it's not an anti-science formulation in and of itself—it's actually, and one of the things during this period that the pandemic has shown us is that there are ways that some of this aggregate data is able to show patterns that micro data [23:58] may not be able to do. But of course, junk in junk out. So the data you put in, as you know, the quality of what it is and the coding of that material that one inserts is what you get out in the end. And there are often flaws with some of the the input, but it's really to prioritize and center people's lived experiences and also see—continue to see that as valuable and not get taken off in the wave of big data and algorithms. So that's the third.
The fourth and fifth—the fourth has to do with multiscalar approaches and processes, and recognizing the the way that these important multi-scalar and rhizomatic formations are critical for thinking about the complexities in our world. And often those multiscalar analyses make traditional ethnographic methods are difficult. And part of what we're interested in with this draft principle is thinking about the context in which traditional methods are appropriate, useful, and allow us to send our lived experiences—and then the context in which those methods actually exceed ethnographic scrutiny. And that we may need to abandon ethnographic methods in order to think about the tremendous, rhizomatic, complex connections that exist in our world. And, part of the key with this principle is really to have a commitment to that multiscalar analysis, and to make to help people and to make key decisions about when ethnographic traditional methods can work and when they are futile, to put it bluntly.
And then finally, we we, we have a webinar coming up on [25:58] extractivism—knowledge extractivism. And this final principle is really about a commitment to collaborative knowledge production, which is antithetical to so much of our university institutional approaches and the valorization of the individual lone researcher, especially for cultural anthropologists. And instead, we're interested in thinking critically about the kind of knowledge extraction that happens in the academy, where we go into the field, we collect data, we interview our our interlocutors, and then we leave, and we write books, and we build our careers. And, we claim the authorship of all of our production as if it's only our own. And we—part of what this collaborative knowledge production commitment has to do is to think differently about ownership and authorship and to really encourage creativity around authorship and alignment. And so that's the fifth draft principle, and all of them in so many ways, you know, can't happen in a vacuum. They involve multi-levels of clarification, of advocacy. So, you know, you could be committed to collaborative knowledge production, but if your institution doesn't value it, and your referees, who are evaluating your work, want to see individual, you know, scholarly production, it could lose someone a job. And so part of the the work with this initiative is not just on the level of the people in the field and their relation to fieldwork and with collaborators. It's also on the level of larger institutions, departments, [27:58] funding agencies, evaluating modalities. So, you know, we're putting together recommendations for evaluations for a range of things that, in some ways need to happen on institutions—need to involve engagements with, you know, educational institutions, ensuring that chairs of departments and others can value the basic principles that are key to some of these draft principles.
NS [28:31] Yeah, wow. Thank you so much for that. Before I move on to the next question, I wonder if we can get a when and where for the webinar on extractivism, which some listeners might be interested in attending?
KC [28:46] Yeah, well, the the webinar, it's on November 4th, it's a Friday. It's a Thursday. Yeah, it's a Thursday from 12:00 to 2:00 pm Eastern time. And it's called Beyond Extractivism. And we have a range of really fantastic colleagues who will be part of that discussion—colleagues from the Global South, predominantly, who are part of that discussion, who will really lead the way in helping us think creatively about the conundrum of knowledge, the privatization of that knowledge through ownership of authorship, and some of the challenges around knowledge production. So that's happening, and it's the last of our webinars in the series. And it's, again, like the others being hosted by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, so it will be on the website. So even if it's people aren't able to watch it at the time when it's live, it'll be on the Vimeo page of the Wenner-Gren Foundation. So it'll always be available, and it also comes with their resources, and readings, and articles, and various things that are accompanying all of these webinars. So if people watch the webinar and engage and follow the debate, they can also read other sources and continue this engagement. It's also seen as a teaching tool. So we're finding that a lot of faculty are accessing the Wenner-Gren page and using a given excerpt from the webinar with their class. Their students are watching them, and they're raising questions and asking students to respond. So even if it's not, you know, people don't watch it live, it will be there as a part of the repository for for further work and further engagement.
NS [30:43] Amazing. So even if it's after November 4th, take note, you can still head over to the Wenner-Gren website and find this to watch or to use as a teaching tool. It strikes me that in these conversations about decolonization that some of them have been going on for a long time and are not limited to the discipline of anthropology. So I wanted to ask, in what ways this work on decolonization and radical humanism might draw on previous work that has been done on these topics or work in other disciplines? And then on the flip side of that, in what ways we might consider it to be unique, given contemporary theoretical or political moments in anthropology?
KC [31:28] Yeah, that's a really good question. And a lot of the work is underway around this question. In fact, you know, that there are a range of approaches. I think many of my colleagues, collaborators are struggling to figure out, you know, what is the analytic space through which to intervene in the problem of the discipline in the first place? So many of our disciplines are fundamentally about knowledge production interpretation, and genuinely interested in understanding our world in a way that we might not otherwise—that might not otherwise be evident. But, you know, what are the presumptions, what are the theory tools that are used? And for some, it's, you know, if you if we think about the Black radical tradition, the problematics around slavery, the ways in which the category of the human was used and also held against people of African descent? You know, what are the ways then that we can reclaim the human as a category? And if we reclaim [32:43] the human as a category, what does that really mean to reclaim a category that was once not available to people, Black people, First Nations, Indigenous, etc? There many, many people to which that category was off limits. And what does it mean to reclaim the category? And what are the preconditions? Or should we move beyond the human? Is the human not a viable category? And should we think of the human more than human relation? Or, you know, should we be talking about a form of planetary humanism? Are there other ways of thinking about the planet on which we live and our relation to that planet that isn't necessarily Anthro-symmetric, Anthro...
NS [33:36] Anthropocentric?
KC [33:37] …Anthropocentric, excuse me. And so these are questions that we continue to work through, and there's not full agreement on, or there hasn't been full agreement on reclaiming the category of human. And I think that's why radical humanism has become the rubric for us for thinking about these questions. It's a rejection of the presumptions of a liberal subject, which I've talked about earlier. And it's a different way of thinking about the way we cobble together what's knowable based on people's lived experiences, which isn't about truth or a positivist existence—it's about other things. And so much of this work builds on a tremendous amount of work and critiques that we see with Indigenous scholars around the human—more than human that has to do with forms of refusal of certain categories and rubrics and knowledge bases that draws on some of the really wonderful work on worldings and other things. So, radical humanism becomes the operating formula formulation for us in trying to interrogate what it means. And, you know, as I've said, the draft principles are really, you know, they're sort of open slates at the moment. It's very clear what some of our commitments are, and some of the details still need to be worked through because, as I've said, there's not always full agreement on on reclaiming that category—that category of humanity as the key category. But, you know, we'll see how things go over the next couple of years.
We have a public debate coming up, that will be published in the [35:37] Sapiens—with with Sapiens, this is Wenner-Gren's public facing journal. And that public debate will be published at the end of October, I believe. We have some public writing workshops that are coming up in December—there are four of them. So people have applied, and we have to select, you know, those who will go through the public writing workshop. And there are a number of other things that are part of the work that we're doing, including the Wenner-Gren seminar. And, you know, we'll see where we'll come on the other side of it after the various forms of engagement. But I think one of the things that we we desperately need, and I think that there's tremendous agreement on this, and it goes back to the the the nature of the institutional and the conundrum that we're faced with. That, on one hand, we can have these aspirations, but people also need to live, they need their job, they need to be promoted, so that they can stay in their positions and do the work that they do without threat of being, you know, fired because they don't—their work isn't legible to others who are evaluating it. Which means that there's a lot of work to be done around institutional rethinking and institutional guidelines that can set a different standard or help to set a different standard for these evaluative measures. There's, you know, how we evaluate collaborative work. Again, how we evaluate films and other modalities that some of which aren't even permanent, you know, and art installation that involves a non-permanent structure, you know, that that is part of an intellectual formation—it is part of knowledge production, but it might not be a permanent thing that can be [37:37] documented, you know. What do we do about these things that don't fit into the commodity that is in intellectual production?
And so this is some of the work, and you know, other very real challenges around, you know, how do you rebuild your syllabi when for 25 years someone has been teaching the same content and continues to use similar syllabi? What does it take to retool, to teach a text by an Indigenous scholar or the teach a novel, instead of, you know, some tome or some classic ethnographic text? It takes rereading these texts. It takes finding forms of analysis that that fit into a different worldview through which to make sense of it. And this is a challenge to which many of us have a real commitment. And also sympathy and appreciation that to retool and to rethink how we teach the field involves a lot of work. It involves a different appreciation for texts. But it also involves being vulnerable in contexts in which we're expected to be experts. And, you know, this is also very real. And, you know, so part of the work that and discussions we're having is around the retooling and training of experts—how do you retrain experts? Well, you know, part of it also involves having tremendous humility and being able to read theory where one might not otherwise have seen theory, you know. We often embed theory historically—anthropology has identified theory and in the classic, you know, structuralism, functionalism, systems analysis, etc. It goes on and on. For theory building, how we recognize [39:37] theory building is, you know, we're taught to engage with theory building in particular ways—it looks a particular way. And, you know, with the syllabus project that we're engaged in, we're really pushing to get people to appreciate theory building and knowledge production in other ways, and to take it seriously in the ways that we formulate our syllabi. So yeah, there's a lot of work underway. It's massive, but it's not a one- or two-year project in any way. And I think that's why it's a collective—people are involved in different stages of it. And we're very excited about the potential, and, in many ways, this is the moment for this kind of interrogation of the field.
NS [40:27] Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that—in many ways gets to my, the last question I have. So perhaps I'll just read it as I have it here. And I think you've answered parts of it. But the last part, perhaps, is something we could finish this conversation with. So it's on the topic of work to come for this initiative. There have been seminars and workshops with scholars from around the world—many of which are available online. And I wanted to ask what comes next? Where does this work go from here? Or what do you hope that anthropologists take from these discussions? And perhaps, especially speaking, I guess personally, as a younger generation scholar—as a grad student, what would you hope that young scholars or grad students or junior scholars can get from these discussions?
KC [41:22] Yeah, it's—and I would actually frame my response differently, which is that we are invigorated by the commitment and vibrancy of young people in this field, frankly. The—of course, this is a moment, it's an important moment post, you know, the Floyd killing and the kind of revolutionary action by all sorts of ages and, you know, people with different commitments that have come together to really unravel structural inequality and think differently about it. People who were, you know, right of center even, who have now recognized that the nature of racial and structural inequality is very real, and that the patterns are unfair, right? That there's a larger buy-in to the—to this problem. And so what we're seeing in the classroom—so it's not so much that students can learn from us, those of us who are we it's an intergenerational domain of scholars and thinkers and activists, who are really committed to social change. And we take our inspiration in so many ways from our students. And in fact, it's some students that were in the early stages were part of the discussion with Deborah Thomas, who basically said, well, if anthropology burns, is there nothing that you can recoup? Or do we just burn down the field, and build it a new? Or if we recoup something, what would that be? And this was a conversation that Deborah Thomas had with students.
And in many ways, the draft principles emerged from that earlier conversation, and it was students that said, Well, these are the things some of the things that I would want to [43:22] keep. I would want to keep a commitment to humanism, of a certain form. I would want to keep a form of methodological reasoning, that is—that allows us to rethink the category of truth. I would want to keep, you know, a commitment to centering the lived experience, you know. I would want to keep collaborative learning and knowledge production. And this was graduate students engaged seriously about thinking about what is preservable? And what isn't? And, you know, for many of us in our classes, you know, it's our students who are really pushing us to think in phenomenal ways about the limits and possibilities for the field because it's their field, you know, that they are also claiming. That it's theirs—they're involved in reshaping it. They're involved in thinking about the syllabus as the, you know, this crucible of knowledge production that also has its limits. And at the current time, it—there are limits to the formulation of a cannon. It's not the way to proceed with how we train students, presuming that there is a cannon in the field. And so I love the question that you've asked because it's a provocation.
It's sort of—it's a call for thinking intergenerationally, about how we invigorate each other to rethink the field. And we like to say to rethink the field anew, in the sense that it's not about burning everything down, but it's about identifying those principles that we've drawn from anthropology that we want to preserve, and then building around those principles a new future—a new way of thinking about those things that matter to us and clarifying why it matters, and why it's worth fighting for those things that matter. And that's our field—that's anthropology. And I think no one is interested in [45:22] eradicating the field, but it does have a difficult past, and I think it's through those terms that the Radical Humanism initiative is committed to creating this field anew.
NS [45:41] Before we go, I just wanted to say a heartfelt thank you for being with us on the podcast today. It's been a fascinating and inspiring conversation.
KC [45:53] Great. It's been wonderful being here. Thank you so much, Nick.
NS [45:56] Thanks, Kamari.