[URBANTH-L]response from Carl Maida

bvergara at sfsu.edu bvergara at sfsu.edu
Thu May 5 08:35:55 EDT 2005

>From cmaida at ucla.edu


I knew that I was leaving myself open to deconstruction, however I was bored
during office hours and wrote up this little narrative about an evaluation
project that I became involved with after the 9/11 attacks.

Your style of hypercritical anthropology has become fairly marginalized, except
in graduate seminars where postmodernist thinking is tolerated as a moribund
practice that certain students need to work through and to get  beyond.  The
response reads like a grad student or other novice taking apart a difficult
passage, line by line, to grasp the meaning.

Even more interesting are the various evaluation techniques attributed to me
that were not even discussed in my narrative, but rather assumed to be the case.
That is precisely why ethnographers need to stay focused on reality,
and the reality that I have chosen is normal and not-so-normal child and
adolescent development  in low-income urban communities, and the institutions
that promote or inhibit it.

I did not see anything in your critique related to children's suffering: their
abuse/neglect by addicted parents, gang violence and rape, HIV/AIDS. This is
what I discuss with colleagues at the Children's Hospital where I evaluate
trauma treatment for kids trying to survive at home, in the streets, and in
California's second largest school district.

And of course, there is no discussion of the Oklahoma City bombing or 9/11 and
their impact on kids, and what we have learned about trauma, grief, and
resilience as a result of our work.

>From the perspective of public finance, I am pleased that the legislative
process worked back in 2000-2001 and that the federal government set aside tax
dollars for states and localities on behalf of this initiative. Better in the
cities than in the pockets of defense contractors and Pentagon planners.

The world that you allude to is a fairly paranoid place where dark entities
("states") are trying to provoke fear in their subjects and control them through
mass education and psychiatric treatment.

I view things a bit differently:

There is a "new class" of professionals that has been gaining ground since the
1930s and that currently controls the discourse on the life course, illness, and
urban institutional life. This new class is what Laura Nader challenged us to
study ("study up') in the late sixties and early seventies. You do not get into
"new class" professional networks (think tanks, clinics, urban school districts)
by hanging out on the fringes, rather you have to get beyond "perching" and
enter the arenas where "new class" professionals are talking among themselves.

That is the kind of ethnography I have been most interested in.


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