Language corruption, “public choice,” and more

I had almost finished a very good post and it was lost. In it, I had talked about some pieces of LARR 40:3 (2005), a great issue of the journal but that I am going to put in the café bookshelf because not only do I have electronic access to it but also, the wonderful pieces in it that I had been keeping it for are not central to me now. There is a piece by Juliet Hooker on mestizo nationalism in Nicaragua, that even today works to limit the political inclusion of people darker than mestizos (actually this is a GREAT example for the Ferreira da Silva piece), and an article on violence and difference in the short stories of Mistral. Then there are a lot of useful review essays, including one by Jorge Duany on identity in Puerto Rico, one by Marc E. Prou on Haiti, and one by Nancy Appelbaum on post-revisionist scholarship on race. The “revision” to which she refers is the critique of “racial democracy.” What can still be said? A fair amount, she shows, by looking at case studies like Jerry Dávila’s Diploma of whiteness.

Important: by 2005 Appelbaum no longer thought racial democracy needed critique; that work had been done. Then: there is an essay by Virginia Higginbotham on (then) new work on cinema, still useful. There is also an essay on Mayan identity, by anthropologist Les W. Field, that criticizes identity discourse. This is very interesting. 1/ It is capitalist economies which have organized social stratification around axes of race, class and gender, conjugated in ways that reproduce hierarchies again and again. 2/ In the last 3 decades or so of the 20th century many social movements were created on the basis of these identities. 3/ Anthropologists used these as analytic devices — thereby misunderstanding or misrepresenting these categories as scientific or always relevant/germane.

The other and arguably more important discovery is a point in Nancy MacLean’s book. “Buchanan was the leading light in what has become the public choice movement, which uses the concept of choice to undermine public belief in a broader common good and public interest.” To get support for this or at least compliance, it was necessary to use “a level of language corruption.” For instance, you promote the idea of school choice when you are actually aiming to dismantle public education.


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