A slight digression onto useless bloody academics and movements

The letter below speaks for itself. Reader, I sent it.
Why? Because I am sick sick SICK of activists colluding (one of my favourite words of late) with academics who are not trust-worthy, who bait and switch and can’t even keep the agreements they made, let alone be genuinely radical and produce useful information for activists in formats likely to be used by those activists.
Which part of “study the rich” (1) do these clowns not understand, eh?
I am ashamed. I have been duped, but should never have said yes in the first place. Ego ego ego. Idiot.
Ya basta for me. It will be a cold day in hell before I – as an “activist” (I wear other hats, it’s true) – allow any academic who I do not know for sure to be the real deal within a gazillion miles of me.

Dear xxxxxxxx,

re: broken agreement around research

I am writing with extreme disappointment, and some anger.

When we met in early February 2012, I explained that I had had bad experiences with academics. I explained that I was participating in the interview with you on the basis that within 30 days a transcript would be provided.

I contacted you well after that month was up. You then told me that a transcript would not now be provided. I have asked you for the mp3 recording. You have not provided this.

I believe it was incumbent upon you tell me that I wasn’t going to get a transcript, before the month deadline we agreed. Chasing these things is not what I expect to have to do.

I do not believe that you have any moral right to retrospectively alter the terms of the verbal agreement we made.

I sincerely hope that this is a one-off aberration, and not the way that volunteer subjects in research are treated..

I regret participating in the research now. I regret not bringing my own voice recorder to record both our agreement and my participation.

I find it hard to imagine circumstances under which I personally would agree to participate in any more research with any PhD student from xxxxx University.

I find it impossible to imagine circumstances in which I would pass on requests to such contacts as I have in the activist, policy-maker and business community.

I also find it impossible to image any article about future research proposals seeking participants appearing on the xxxxxxxxx website, as your request for participants did.

I am ccing this email to Professor xxxx xxxxx.

Study the rich and powerful, not the poor and powerless. Any good work done on peasants’ organisations, small farmer resistance to oppression, or workers in agribusiness can invariably be used against them. One of France’s best anthropologists found his work on Indochina being avidly read by the Green Berets. The situation becomes morally and politically even worse when researchers have the confidence of their subjects. The latter then tell them things the outside world should not learn, but eventually does. Don’t aid and abet this kind of research. Meanwhile, not nearly enough work is being done on those who hold the power and pull the strings. As their tactics become more subtle and their public pronouncements more guarded, the need for better spade-work becomes crucial. If you live in an advanced country, you undoubtedly have the social and cultural equipment to meet these people on their own terms and to get information out of them. Let the poor study themselves. They already know what is wrong with their lives and if you truly want to help them, the best you can do is to give them a clearer idea of how their oppressors are working now and can be expected to work in the future.

Susan George (1976) How the Other Half Dies: The Real Reasons for World Hunger, p. 289

About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
This entry was posted in a little self-knowledge, activism, climate, competence and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A slight digression onto useless bloody academics and movements

  1. leavergirl says:


    The damage done by anthropologists who furthered their careers by studying remote tribes only to see their work used in the tribes destruction has been incalculable.

    Let’s make that a lesson for us as well.

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