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Today, I want to discuss two of the most important words in the Social Sciences and certainly in Sociology.

Us, and then us, the people over herE. Them, the people out there. Us, the people with whom we feel camaraderie. Them, the people who listed our hostility. Us, those who we quarrel with. Them, those with whom we fight wars. Us, the We group. Them, everybody else. Us, the people of color and them, the white people with privilege. Us, the working classes. Them, the top one percent or the ruling classes. Us, the Christians. Them, the Muslim and the Jews or us, the Muslims, them the Jews. Us, the people who live far away in Forbes College. Them, everybody else. Well, those of you who are not on the Princeton campus may not get that reference but I'll explain it to you in our seminar discussion on Wednesday. Us, the people who go to Princeton University online and them, the people who go to all the other online schools. No matter what you do and no matter how you divide it out there, there's always been differentiation between in-groups and out-groups. There's always an us and a them and it's always socially constructed based on some differences that are real or imagined and made into big differences as well. We'll get into that and how it woks and also we'll get into the question of whether or not it's even possible to study society. When society is composed of us' and them's and the people who are doing the studying have to belong to one of those groups. And especially when they think a, that their group is the center of the universe and b, that everything should be measured by its standards. Let's begin there. If the notions of us and them or two of the central ideas of sociology, then surely the most important word we could ever know and understand and think about is Ethnocentrism which is the technical name used by William Graham Summner in his 1906 book Folkways. A book which I took out of the library this morning for purposes of this discussion. On page thirteen of the book, the word Ethnocentrism is defined a nd it is actually in fact, a word that is similarly ill defined, it's a vague word that gets invoked frequently in contemporary discussions as an insult against people who try to study other people. And here is how it was first defined by Sumner in his classic book. He wrote, Ethnocentrism is the technical name for this viewer of

things which one's own group is the center of everything and all others are scales and rated with reference to it. The word rated here, I think, is very significant because it implies a judgement. Sumner went on to argue that each group believe it's ways are the best. As a way of illustrating how this word gets bended about today, let me tell you about one of the most important debates in the social sciences that take place over the past half century. A debate between two anthropologists. One at the University of Chicago, my Alma mater and the other here at Princeton. The one that Chicago is named Marshall Sahlins, the one here at Princeton is named Obeyesekere. You can call him Obey because that's what some people on the Princeton Campus call him. He's retired now but they still call him that. It was Sahlins versus Obeyesekere. In the early 1980s, Marshall Sahlins came to Princeton University to deliver an important lecture. A talk that in, a Stein scholar is invited to give every year. And he gave this lecture on the discovery and the conquering of Hawaii by Captain James Cook. Captain Cook around the time that America was also "discovered". He "discovered" the Hawaiian Islands and showed up from England with his crew and according to Marshall Sahlins. Was immediately deified or made into a god. The god Lono, which is the god of birth. And this occurred according to Sahlins who provided extensive documentary history because the ship arrived on the day of the holiday celebrating the birth of the children, which is one day of the year. And because he arrived on that day, he was immediately considered to be Lono, the god of birth. Well, Professor Obeyesekere was sitting in the audien ce here at Princeton listening to this white man deliver this lecture about the history of Hawaiian discovery and he thought to himself, this just doesn't seem right to me. It doesn't seem right to me that these Hawaiians saw this ship come and immediately made this myth about Captain Cook and immediately made him into a god. This doesn't sound right to me. I don't believe that this is what happened. This makes the Hawaiian people seem irrational like they don't have the same kind of rational thought that Westerners imagine that they themselves have. Well, a rational way person would imagine that a brown person was their god because he arrived on a holiday. Obeyesekere's views were no doubt

influenced being a Sri Lankan. He had grown up in Sri Lanka. And as you know Sri Lanka is quite close to India. It's about twenty miles from India. About half the distant that Princeton is to New York City. It has about twenty million people, lots of different ethnic and racial groups. It was, itself, conquered many times by Indonesians, the Portuguese and finally, by the British. It's a country that has lived through a lot of conquering and colonizations and he, as a Sri Lankan Anthropologist who had grown up in Sri Lanka, knew that there was no president for the Sri Lankan people or any other people he had studied to have immediately deified, in other words made into a god, a white man, when a white man came to their country. And so he sat there in the audience here at Princeton wondering what is the evidence for this? What if rather than this being a story of Polynesian myth making about the white man is their god? What if this is really a story made up by a white person to justify imperialism and conquest to justify to themselves and others. A story of Western European or Euro-Centric mythmaking about the Hawaiians. What if it's the case with this famous white anthropologist from the University of Chicago is really the latest instrument of your opinion of mythmaking about the people of Polynesia? What if in fact Sahlins i s perpetuating the mythology that is long been used to conquer and colonized and imperialize the world. So, we have this South Asian scholar who comes from a country with a history of being conquered, questioning a white man who comes from the United States, a country with it's own history of imperial behavior, both in terms of land and culture. For many people who knew the work of Marshall Sahlins, discharge was a great irony. For since the 1960s, he had been known as a left critique of the Vietnam War who had joined the student protest and later advanced the Marxist critique of economically rational man. The dominant paradigm of classical conservative economics. But whatever irony there was in the accusation, this was indeed Obeyesekere's view of Sahlins' characterization of the death of Captain Cook. That Sahlins had written a book that adopted the perspective of the imperialist and the colonizers and justify their view of the world. Now, when he started out, Obeyesekere didn't really know that much about Polynesia or the Hawaiian people or

Captain Cook or any of that. But the whole thing left him feeling very [inaudible] and he went over to Firestone Library, the main library here on the Princeton campus and he started doing research on Captain Cook and his trip and he started going through his logs, he started reading biographies of Captain Cook trying to find out everything he could and he ended up becoming over the course of the next few years quite an expert in Polynesia and he wrote up what he learned in a book attacking Marshall Sahlins. The book I have in here was called the Apotheosis of Captain Cook: European Mythmaking in the Pacific and apotheosis is when someone is transformed which from being a man into a god. The book was published right here on the Princeton campus by the Princeton University Press. Obeyesekere began his attack by asking a very simple question, where did Sahlins get his evidence? Well, Obeysekera argued, he got his evidence from the ship logs of the people that were the assist ants of Captain Cook. And particularly, this ship logs of a John Rickman who is the first lieutenant of Captain Cook. And John Rickman, who in his ships logs have said, that when they arrived in the Island of Hawaii, that the people on the island seems to react to them in a way that seem to suggest that they were gods. And Rickman never actually spoke to any Polynesians in writing these logs and what Obeysekera goes on to show within previous journeys such as when Cortez went to South America and conquer the Aztecs, did he too had thought that locals thought that he was a god when he arrived? He had surmised this from things that he had done, ways that they had treated him but not on the basis of anything that they had actually said to him either. He had written this down and this writing to become part of the mythology that others had read including sailors that had gone to other places. Such that Rickman who is very educated at the, as the First Lieutenant and the assistant to Captain Cook would have probably also read these journals of Cortez. And this was a part, according to Obey, of a kind of mythology that what's created on the basis of not talking to the people directly and not having direct conversations with them but projecting on to them, something that came from the colonialist view of what he might have thought he wanted them to think. He might have though these people were thinking of

him. Well, Marshall Sahlins is a pretty tough guy. I don't know him but I would venture to guess that this man of the political left did not relished the idea of ending his career, a great career, a monumental career in which he had written many great books by going down as an ethnocentrist. Someone who simply relied on the accounts of people who believed that they were the center of the universe. At first, he might have thought that he could endure this. That it was just some little book that had come out, that nobody was going to pay much attention to. But it went on to win some of the highest awards of American ant hropology. It became the subject of many symposium. And it even received significant notice in the popular press. It was read by graduate students around the country in all of their seminars and all of the sudden, Marshall Sahlins may have felt that he was being called the kind of ethnocentrist and decided that he was going to write a response. Well, his response ended up taking up an entire book of his own in which he went and looked at all of the evidence and that book here also. The book was called How "Natives" Think about Captain Cook, for example, and it was published by his university's press, the University of Chicago. And he said, look, these Hawaiian people are different from you and me. They are not necessarily going to respond the way that Westerners did. Obeyesekere had said that you think that these Hawaiians are just dumb. You think that they're not like us, that they are somehow so different that they can't exercise basic rationality and know that a white man who arrives on a ship isn't their god but is a white man on a ship. You think they're so different. Well they are not so different, they have rationality and they can exercise the same rationality as we would. But Sahlins came back and said, wait a second, you're the ethnocentrist, you Sri Lankan anthropologist, you. You're the ethnocentrist because you're assuming that everyone can be understood with reference to the same mentality that everyone is governed by the rationality of the west. You are placing that mentality at the center of the universe. But now, everyone is not the same. People are different, they are shaped by their cultures and these Hawaiians have view the world differently than we did. And he went on to present his own kind of evidence for what

would be the case that Hawaiians would interpret the world in this way. Well, these two famous and respected anthropologists spent a lot of time for the next decade essentially accusing one or another the fallacy of studying them by the standards of us. And this played into the l ong standing debate about whether we really are, a coming humanity governed by common human qualities or whether we are transformed or made different by certain things that happened, certain aspects of our culture. Whether or not some people start out different to begin with. This is the one of the fundamental questions that surrounds the phenomenon of studying the other. And for many sociologist like many anthropologist, the goal is to discover the common human tendencies. For many sociologist their goal though also is not only to discover what's common and what unites us but to account the differences in terms of social structure and situations and history and culture. As I see it, both of these great scholars make some very useful points for us. On the one hand, I stand with Sahlins. At the very least, it is ironic that in the name of anti-ethnocentrism that the Hawaiians are endowed with the highest form of Western mentality in erasing the particularities of Hawaiian culture and arguing that everyone is governed by the same practical rationality around the world. Sahlins argue that Obeyesekere subverted the kind of Ethnographic respect, that's a condition of avoiding Ethnocentrism. On the other hand, I stand with Obeyesekere that we have to be very careful about where our evidence comes from. If we're going to make claims about what is in the heads to the other, we should try to find out directly from them what they are thinking. Seems to me to be a case of Ethnocentrism when scholars rely on interpretations that come not on the subjects themselves but from colonizers like Colonel John Rickman who think that they are the center of everything. Ultimately, the debate also illustrates how hard it is to avoid Ethnocentrism. Both Sahlins and Obeyesekere convincingly accused the other of erasing the Hawaiian voice or mentality and substituting for it in English voice or a Western way of thought. When we studied the world, we are never completely immune from understanding society through the lens of our cultural as sumptions. But to harken back to our last meeting, we must always try to be

aware of the grounds of our understanding which is, of course, what it means to be reflexive.