[URBANTH-L]Response to Ellman: theory, practice/ pragmatics

Allen Feldman af31 at nyu.edu
Wed May 4 04:15:38 EDT 2005

As an anthropologist who has also engaged in “process evaluation,” in
addition to “outcomes evaluation,” “quality assurance- best practices
assessment,” “fourth generation”  evaluation and "program logic models."
I would suggest that all the prior terms and many of those found in
Maida's post below, despite their faux-self evident aura, and 
institutionalization by funding streams and by expert knowledge systems
are entangled with metaphysical and theoretical constructions of social
reality, historicity, and just crude political ideology. They are as
densely layered as any concept advanced by Derrida or Foucault. And
their anchorage in empirical reality is equally questionable.

“Child Traumatic Stress,”
 (The checkered history of traumatic stress syndrome has already been
the subject of anthropological inquiry see Ian Hacking and  Alan Young)

“Substance Abuse” 

A medicalized juridical concept applied to socio-cultural behaviors that
more often than not legitimates the criminalization of ethnic, racial
and economic minorities and that is crucial to the economic well being
of the American prison system.

“Terrorism and
Disaster Branch”
(A organ of government that that never acknowledges State terror unless
committed by a so-called “rogue or outlaw state or an axis of evil.” 

“good process or formative evaluation”

( a concept that mainly analyses institutional practice within the
framework of  narrowly defined instrumental rationalities and mission
statements, that tends to bracket out multi-plex life-world realities
and phenomenological experiences.)

“mass casualty event”

( a new type of historical occurrence congruent with statist
intervention mandates, that excludes ethnocide and genocide, and first
world state generated political terror in  American governmental
lexicons- see 'collateral damage" "Shock and Awe" which are used to
identify unacknowledged "mass casualty events")


( a disciplinary specialization with deep metaphysical assumptions and
historical precedents in 19th century disciplinary discourses of the
body,social hygiene and public health; see Foucault and Agamben on the
relation between modern state sovereignty and the formation of bio-
political subjects.)

I do not make these points to disqualify these concepts, but to show how
utilitarian, and applied frameworks are deeply implicated in many
unexamined theoretical abstractions, presuppositions and untheorized
historical contexts.

And was not this observation below my original point?

“corporate governmental influences on the uses of anthropological
knowledge are key concerns emerging from this type of research, and
these are often not a part of the discourse heard in my
multidisciplinary study team, where I am the sole anthropologist.”

Lets not limit this to the uses of anthropological knowledge, at least
in our discipline we try to pose these questions as Beck and Maida are

Allen Feldman
----- Original Message -----
From: cmaida at ucla.edu
Date: Tuesday, May 3, 2005 6:55 pm
Subject: [URBANTH-L]Response to Ellman: theory, practice/  pragmatics

> With respect to doing ethnography and qualitative studies on public
> issues. I have been involved as an evaluation with the UCLA-Duke 
> National 
> Center for Child Traumatic Stress, funded by the Substance Abuse an
> Mental Health Services Administration, specifically its Terrorism and
> Disaster Branch. Most recently, my colleagues in this group of 
> child and
> adolescent psychologists and psychiatrists received a grant from the
> National Institute of Mental Health to develop a five-year training
> program to improve the quality of child and adolescent mental health
> research after a mass casualty event. Ten research teams across the
> nation will be trained using a curriculum that is under development by
> the grantee. As the evalutor of the grant, Ihave worked with the
> investigators to employ structured interviews, expert review panels,
> focus groups, and eventually some ethnography along with other
> qualitative frameworks to ensure good process or formative evaluation
> data. We have used a standard ethnographic program to analyze the 
> focusgroup transcrips, and have received IRB approvals from two 
> universitiesand a large hospital system in the New York City metro 
> area.
> In addition to the formal evaluation, we have number of  ways  to
> critically evaluate the normative framework and the disciplinary or
> ideological preconceptions that are routine in a study of this scale
> .There is a bioethicist on the study team to ensure that research 
> ethicsare included within the training curriculum, and that the 
> discussion of
> ethical issues is an ongoing part of the study. The other members 
> of the
> study team are politically well-informed both at the local-level 
> and in
> the national political arena. Further, the  NIMH grant is embedded 
> within 
> a nationwide network of over fifty child and adolescent treatment
> development and/or application centers, so that there are hundreds of
> colleagues who are aware of the study, who are being informed of its
> progress, and whose feedback is welcomed. Web-based dissemination and
> feedback is part of the grant requirement.
> I came upon evaluation later in my career, and only after two years of
> post-doctoral research in medical anthropology at UCLA's 
> Neuropsychiatric 
> Institute, 15 years of NIMH-NSF funded research studies in children's
> mental health following natural disasters. and the publication of a 
> bookin the area.  My interest in evaluating programs in this area 
> comesdirectly out of my scholarly work in the field as an 
> anthropologist, who
> is not a clinician.   The offer to evaluate these programs came from
> colleagues in psychiatry and psychology who have worked with me 
> over the
> years. I have been fortunate to work among highly skeptical and 
> criticalcolleagues who are dedicated to their scientific fields, 
> and who work in
> institutions where academic freedom is highly valued. As a professor
> within the UC system,  corporate trends and unionization concerns 
> are a
> part of everyday life in the twenty-first century university. 
> Corporateand governmental influences on the uses of anthropological 
> knowledge are
> key concerns emerging from this type of research, and these are 
> often not 
> a part of the discourse heard in my multidisciplinary study team, 
> where I 
> am the sole anthropologist.  That is why Sam Beck and I have been
> chairing sessions at AAA over the years to provide a reflexive 
> dimensionto these issues in our own professional arena.
> _______________________________________________
> URBANTH-L mailing list
> URBANTH-L at lists.ysu.edu
> http://lists.ysu.edu/mailman/listinfo.cgi/urbanth-l

More information about the URBANTH-L mailing list