Culture in safety and in danger
Goldsmith, M. (2005). Culture in safety and in danger. Anthropological Forum, 15(3), 257-265.
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/2189
In late 1999, Michèle Dominy and Laurence Carucci announced a session on ‘critical ethnography’ at the forthcoming conference of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania to be held in Vancouver. The notice came at a critical moment in my own professional life. Rumours had begun to spread that the University of Waikato, where I teach anthropology, had allowed Hans Joachim Kupka, a German Holocaust denier, to enrol in a PhD supposedly intended to explore the role of the German language in New Zealand history, culture and society (Renwick 2002). Kupka’s repellent views on race and a parallel controversy over ‘holocaust discourse’ (Goldsmith 2002) coincided with a complaint of racism by a student against someone associated with my department. My current interest in critical ethnography and anthropology, then, has roots in a specific combination of circumstances in my own work and workplace. More broadly, it also stems from my sense that anthropology has come to require more than the usual degree of justification in the economically neo-liberal, culturally hypersensitive and politically fractious space of contemporary New Zealand. Though I focus on my own society, the pressures I have just listed are not unique to it. I have no doubt that some of my comments will resonate with the experiences of anthropologists teaching, researching and commenting publicly elsewhere, especially those working in other (post) colonial societies.