Fieldwork today or cultural theft ? (part 417.2)

Neil Alasdair McEwan ap435 at
Fri Feb 7 23:04:41 UTC 1997

On Fri, 7 Feb 1997, Rob Pensalfini wrote:

> While I don't necessarily disagree with Neil's general position (I think I
> made my own stand on the fieldwork issue clear in an earlier posting), I
> think we want to be careful with generalising from 'good for the goose/good
> for the gander statements' like:

     I'm merely starting from the premise of equality between the Maori
     speaker and the Scots Gaelic speaker -- both are speakers of endangered
     languages and both of their languages deserve the same protection, do
     they not?

     > > I don't really see the difference between a white New Zealander
     > >speaking Maori, on the one hand, and a Chinese resident of the Isle of
     > >Lewis speaking Scots Gaelic, on the other -- if one is acceptable, so
     > >is
     > >the other.
     > Let me make an analogy to religion. Does it follow from the above that
     > >a
     > native American's conversion to Christianity and a white person's
     > conversion to shamanism are equally acceptable (and no, I don't mean to
     > imply that all native Americans are shamans)? In the former case we are
     > dealing with the conversion of a member of a colonised people to the
     > dominant religion, a religion whose very aim is to acquire converts
     > >from
     > all cultures. In the latter case, at least when it involves New Age
     > variants such as sweat lodge or drum circle operators or channellers, I
     > think we would all agree we are dealing with appropriation of beliefs,
     > behaviours or knowledge that were not necessarily intended for
     > >widespread
     > public (or cross-cultural) 'consumption'. The lack of parallellism
     > >becomes
     > clearer in cases where sacred/secret knowledge is divulged in the
     > >interests
     > of 'enlightenment' (e.g.: Marlo Morgan's "Mutant Mess Downunder").
     > And before anyone suggests that this has nothing to do with endangered
     > languages, it would be wise to note that language endangerment is
     > >always
     > (?) accompanied by socio-economic donimation and, in turn, ethnic or
     > cultural endagerment.

          I still fail to see the relevance of this.  You refer to a lack of
	  parallelism between colonizers and colonized peoples, but in the
	  I gave before both the Maori and the Gaels are colonized peoples
	  culture is under threat from a dominant, English-speaking society.
	  again, what would be the difference between an immigrant to the
	  learning Gaelic and an immigrant to New Zealand learning Maori?  I
	  the question because someone else rather disturbingly suggested that
	  is OK for non-Europeans to do whatever they want to defend their
	  cultures -- even to the point of shutting out outsiders -- but not
	  Europeans.  As someone trying to reclaim his endangered but
	  European language and culture, I can't agree with this
	  double-standard for
	  obvious reasons.

	  le meas,

	  Neil A. McEwan

	  > It's just a cautionary note, as I haven't fully decided what I
            believe on
	    > most of these issues yet.
	    > Rob
	    > Attorney for Satan
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