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What Happened When the Culture Wars Happened to the U.S. Anthropology Sector

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Joseph Manson, a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles for more than 20 years, published an essay last month titled “Why I’m Leaving College.” He loved his studies, but he decided to resign because “the Woke takeover of higher education ruined his academic life,” he wrote.

Manson himself doesn’t seem to come under much personal attack, despite writing on controversial topics such as whether the government is too authoritarian during the Covid-19 pandemic. is that Western universities are becoming as tribal and shameful as some of the ancient cultures that anthropologists have studied.

Most notably, colleagues are being humiliated, hounded, or fired as a result of social media mobs. He was particularly upset by the recent “public distress and humiliation” by another of his UCLA anthropologists, P Jeffrey Brantingham’s faculty.

Incumbent Brantingham used predictive data technology to model the urban crime ecosystem and marketed the software to law enforcement agencies through Predpol, a company he co-founded. Predictive Policing His algorithms can be used for predictive purposes, but they can also reinforce existing biases, as they are often based on biased and selective historical data. A resolution passed by UCLA’s Anthropology Graduate Association condemned the study as “settling.”[ing] and naturalis[ing] The criminalization of black people in the United States”.

Manson dismisses such objections as “uneducated.” But what really irritates him is the reaction of his department colleagues to Brantingham. “Jeff was not only expelled [due to this work]he was unmanned [since] No one on the faculty spoke about him,” Manson wrote. UCLA spokesperson Bill Kisliuk says the university not only strongly supports scholars’ academic freedom, but also expects “fairness and fairness, even when people strongly disagree.” .

There has been explosive controversy at other universities — about the work of Bo Winegard, an assistant psychology professor who believes it’s disingenuous not to talk about differences between ethnic groups. Peter Bogosian is an assistant philosophy professor who wrote papers based on bogus theories to show how some academic journals could publish something more in line with their “progressive” worldview.

A friend in academia told me that these cases are just the tip of the iceberg.The number of books banned from school libraries is increasing by right-wing activists. Conservatives, on the other hand, argue that campuses use processes such as “diversity and inclusion” to impose liberal views.

How do I do this? An anthropologist might suggest that some common stereotypes about American culture are false. Twentieth-century social scientists said that Anglo-Saxon culture was shaped by individual guilt, unlike other cultures defined by community shame. Shame now shapes American public life.

Whatever the reason, these trends make me deeply uneasy about the future of liberal values ​​and the political economy of the West. I have a lot of sympathy for academics who are critical of race and sexism.

My own inclinations are socially progressive, so I can understand why critics take issue with predictive data and Brantingham’s research on crime. Having written a book that explored this factor, I know that blind reliance on algorithms, if not overlooked, can cause a miscarriage of justice.

But challenging an idea is not the same as silencing it. I don’t want to live in an environment with left or right wing censorship. Or, as John “Jay” Ellison, the dean of student affairs at the University of Chicago, argued, turning the university into an exclusively “safe” space would undermine the essence of the university.

My daughter is going to college in the next few weeks, so I read Manson’s letter and ask myself if I’m prepared to spend the next few years being exposed to ideas she might despise. I hope she will. But one of the depressing aspects of this new atmosphere, according to academic friends, is that it seems more intense among young people, perhaps because social media is reinforcing echo chambers and social tribalism. Instead of the right banning the book and the left being put to shame, we need to be prepared to tackle challenging ideas. That is the essence of social science.

Gillian Tett speaks with Alex Karp, CEO of US data analytics group Palantir, at the FTWeekend Festival on September 3rd at Kenwood House Gardens in London.Book your pass

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Letter in reply to this article:

What Schismogenesis Can Tell Us About Awakened Debates / Anthony Carter, Anthony Carter, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of Rochester, Branchport, NY, US