Anthropology: The Study of Humankind (and their extinction)
To talk about our extinction is by definition talking about our species, Homo sapiens. This is the “Anthropos,” which, until feminist anthropologists intervened, was translated as “man.” The accepted scientific term is now “humankind,” which, while gender neutral, lacks the political dimension of “humanity.” Anthropology is its study.
An anthropolitics, collectively forged to defend our species and shared humanity, requires that we change the rules of the game, rekindling our human connections across groups and organizations, and put our bodies on the line for one another. True, we need to get actively involved in the systems of power that currently exist, including not only registering people to vote but actually running for office, telling our own stories in the established media. We must also create. A solidarity-based anthropolitics connecting local struggles lays the groundwork for building new systems. While dismantling the old order we must simultaneously lay the groundwork for the world we want to live in, through our conscious, embodied choices as well as the principled solidarity relationships we build through our anthropolitics.
The Anthropological Imagination
The anthropological imagination is the ability of people to see as connected species-level phenomena to individual lived experiences, understanding particular local injustices as manifestations of global capitalism, built on the theft of Indigenous lands and plantation slavery, buttressed by patriarchy, and hence connected to one another. Products of human action, these injustices are therefore changeable. Importantly, an anthropological imagination also sees these global and species-level phenomena as lived, understood, confronted, and resisted by real human beings. We must identify the humanity in others, and the humanity in their struggle, while affirming particular identities and challenging differential privilege: an anthropological imagination inspires radical empathy and solidarity.
- Being able to see the humanity in people defined as your enemy by for-profit media and a seemingly endless War on Terror.
- Being able to identify with a struggle for justice that does not directly impact the community you care about or seem connected to your own experience.
- Understanding that the undocumented, nonbinary gendered, Muslim, or any other person does not exist for people’s moral edification or education but that “they” too are “us.” That humanity itself is always (already) hyphenated. That no one gets to claim universality based on the fact that history textbooks, evening news programs, Bibles, and entertainment programs reflect a certain norm of a middle-class, patriarchal, white, Christian, suburban household as “human” and that everyone else has to struggle to claim and reclaim the status of “person.”
- That we are all queer to someone else.
- That it might just be our way of life that is strange, that needs to change.
The fight for equality must be fought on many fronts—in the urban slums, in the sweat shops of the factories and fields. Our separate struggles are really one—a struggle for freedom, for dignity and for humanity.
Martin Luther King Jr. to César Chávez
from September 22, 1966.