Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
JulyDiaz

Episode 528 - Cargo Cult

Recommended Posts

Andrew Ti and special guest Emily Yoshida finish the week off by discussing the term “cargo cult.” As always, leave us a message about anything you think is racist at (323) 389-RACE.

Share this post


Link to post

A cargo cult isn't just used to describe cultish behavior in general. It's a metaphor for someone replicating the trappings of something without understanding the underlying dynamics, and therefore failing to get the results they want. Andrew really mangled the definition.

 

Moreover, I don't buy the argument that anthropological terms like cargo cult are racist. Is the term fetish racist?

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

A cargo cult isn't just used to describe cultish behavior in general. It's a metaphor for someone replicating the trappings of something without understanding the underlying dynamics, and therefore failing to get the results they want. Andrew really mangled the definition.

 

Moreover, I don't buy the argument that anthropological terms like cargo cult are racist. Is the term fetish racist?

 

Mongoloid is an anthropological term. Is that racist? I think so. Anthropologists are not removed from the larger culture they are surrounded by and even though they are "supposed" list their own biases in their research, doesn't mean that they do or are even aware of them.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post

 

Mongoloid is an anthropological term. Is that racist? I think so. Anthropologists are not removed from the larger culture they are surrounded by and even though they are "supposed" list their own biases in their research, doesn't mean that they do or are even aware of them.

 

Congrats on proving that racial classification and eugenics were racist. That was a real hat trick.

 

Do you want to actually engage with my question at all? Do you think the term fetish is racist? Unlike Mongloid, that's actually analogous to cargo cult.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

 

Of course it's racist!

 

Why? It's a useful metaphor, and the use of literal fetishes isn't restricted to West African religions even though that's how the term was popularized. Communion wafers, for instance, are fetishes. Hell, so is a cross.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

I'm drunk so I'm going to expand on this.

 

Anthropology is the study of other cultures, but inevitably that's going to mean a study of our own culture. You go out and study a people, and immediately the differences are going to stand out to you. Those people worship a little idol instead of the Holy Cross, as all right thinking people should. How come? They think there's a spirit in that idol that controls the world around them. How weird. Let's call that fetishism.

 

As soon as you start to walk down this path, you're inevitably going to come around to the the thought: well, how come we worship the cross? There are two responses to this question: a right-wing response and a left-wing response. The right wing response is: we are inevitably right, these other cultures are inevitably wrong. There is fundamental difference between us. We are different races. The tools of anthropology should not be turned back on us.

 

The left wing response is the complete opposite. We are all human beings; there are no fundamental differences between me and someone who was born in Gao. I should apply the same level of critical inquiry to what I believe as I do to the beliefs of those people who worship that idol. This is the stand of thought that ended up winning in Anthropology, and it's the reason why the term Mongoloid and the entire idea of racial classification was abandoned by mainstream anthropology at least fifty years ago.

 

When Andrew comes on air and is like, "Uh... I think like... a cargo cult is... liking iPods?" it is extremely frustrating to me. There is an interesting discussion under-girding all of this that he isn't taking the time to research. Fifteen minutes on Google would have made this episode much, much better I like discussions of race and politics and think they're both necessary and helpful. But Yo is this Racist always disappoints me when I listen because it's so, so surface level. Like the time when Andrew and his guest said that racism in Hollywood was entirely the fault of Middle America, and the nice writer and studio executive friends they have are blameless. Come the fuck on, you dipshits! Don't fucking shit in my mouth and tell me it's a chocolate sundae! Fuck you!

 

Sorry. I've drunk a lot of vodka and there would be a lot more misspellings in this if not for spell check. Sorry.

 

But no, fuck you.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

I wasn't being ironic! I was saying, they took a term that refers to the religious practices of pagans, and were like, "Let's use this term to refer to a sexual preference which we call deviant and weird!" Now maybe you could say that, technically, it refers to things like the Eucharist but you know that the psychologists who coined the term didn't see it that way. They saw it as a weird superstition that ignorant heathens practiced, and saw it as a good analogy for something that was seen as weird and perverted at the time. How is that not racist?

 

And if you are going to base your argument on seeing the term "fetish" as not specifically referencing the religious practices of certain people of color, then it has no basis as a comparison to the term "cargo cult."

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

I wasn't being ironic! I was saying, they took a term that refers to the religious practices of pagans, and were like, "Let's use this term to refer to a sexual preference which we call deviant and weird!" Now maybe you could say that, technically, it refers to things like the Eucharist but you know that the psychologists who coined the term didn't see it that way. They saw it as a weird superstition that ignorant heathens practiced, and saw it as a good analogy for something that was seen as weird and perverted at the time. How is that not racist?

 

And if you are going to base your argument on seeing the term "fetish" as not specifically referencing the religious practices of certain people of color, then it has no basis as a comparison to the term "cargo cult."

 

You're confusing a lot of things about the word "fetish". It originally had religious meanings, not psychological ones. It didn't come to mean "a sexual perversion" until Freud, and still doesn't exclusively mean that; that's just the most popularly known use of the word. See commodity fetishism, as an example.

 

The term "cargo cult' is also almost never used to describe the religious practices of Melenisian islanders. It was probably made most famous by Richard Feynman in his speech Cargo Cult Science: http://neurotheory.c...cargo_cult.html

 

Even if you're right, though: why is that racist? If these terms were being used to denigrate people of color, that'd be one thing. But they aren't. The entire point of both metaphors is that these are universally human foibles that anyone can fall into, no matter how "civilized" they think they are.

Share this post


Link to post

Look, there are far more racist terms than fetish or Cargo Cult. But both of them were at least strongly associated with foreign people of color before they became psychological or sociological terms. And they had racist undertones--exoticizing them and associating them with ignorance and superstition. The fact that terms like these almost always seem to be favored as ways to label things that society finds weird or silly is also very telling.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×