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For my weekly Anthropology film course, I am assigned hundreds of pages of reading in preparation for a three hour film-watching session (the satisfaction of which is robbed by all the time spent printing and reading until 3am).

Two weeks ago, to prepare for The Battle of Algiers, an Italian black-and-white film based on the '54-'62 Algerian War of Independence, I held my usual routine of printing away what would determine my next few hours in the library. I accidentally came across a text by Robert Stam called "Fanon, Algeria, and the Cinema: The Politics of Identification" (which mysteriously disappeared from Courseworks the week after).

This all sounded boring enough until the sub-header, Multiculturalism, Postcoloniality, and Transnational Media, caught my eye. I read further.

Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), "the eloquent critic of colonial opppression", is often regarded as a forefather of Ethnic Studies. He is well known for believing that "social oppression itself generates 'extraordinary unhappiness'" and that classical anthropology's view of the colonized as "living in another time" (acting as contemporary ancestors) is problematic. His work, The Wretched of the Earth (Les damn├ęs de la terre), discusses the psychological effect of colonialism and calls for a movement of decolonization. Bringing it back to Asian American issues - one could say that Fanon's critique of colonialism also fueled anti-Orientalist sentiment.

Long ago, my view (and others' too) of the Anthropology vs. Ethnic Studies situation was that the two fields were fatally pitted against each other, completely opposite in principle and not to be studied conjointly. I was once given the impression that Anthropology was rust and Ethnic Studies gold. The fact that Fanon, an anticolonialist thinker, appeared in my anthropological readings, however, shatters this misperception and shows that some judgments of anthropology are outdated and prejudiced.

Readers, let me break it to you: one cannot go through life believing that studying Anthropology is either an unforgivable crime or a shining light of truth. Yes, it claims a history of providing colonialist, racist sentiment while Ethnic Studies has too often been overlooked; but making an early assumption about the fields will not help provide an accurate understanding towards the conflict between the two. One must be fully aware of the information and resources that any field (however problematic) provides.

Most importantly, with whatever you're studying, a critical eye is necessary. If you're going to deal with some 18th Century Eurocentric thinker talking about "the perfection of the white man", you might as well have an Intro to Cultural Studies class in your schedule too.



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