One of the beautiful things about UR is the fact that the curriculum allows me to pursue my personal academic interests. No offense to the philosophers-to-be, but I have no intellectual desire to analyze whether or not the chair I am currently sitting in is indeed real or not. I’m more interested in what the use of that chair says about an individual in different contexts. On a similar note, the most I really want to know about neuroscience is that I have a brain and if it shuts off, I have a problem. There is nothing wrong with these particular subject areas; neither just happens to be my intellectual drink of choice.
Instead, I like reading ethnographies and coming to the slow conclusion that almost all of my long-held assumptions are social constructions. However, as I am making my way through my junior year, taking three anthropology classes this semester alone it just happened that way I wonder if I have had one too many sips of the anthropology cocktail. Do I need to sign up for an anthropologists anonymous meeting? Let’s look at the evidence.
‘Scrubs” is by far my favorite television show. My obsession is so bad that my mom could never give me the latest ‘Scrubs” season DVD set as a gift because I would have already preordered it on amazon. I know all the jokes, and 99.9 percent of the time they all made me laugh. It was just funny, or so I thought before anthropology.
In the episode, ‘My Identity Crisis,” Turk and Carla, an interracial couple, are struggling with how outsiders are going to view their newborn daughter, Izzie. According to Carla, Izzie’s African ancestry is unmistakable whereas her Latin roots seem almost inconceivable, and as Carla struggles with losing her own Latin identity, the thought of not passing on that culture to her child is hard to swallow.
Turk tries to comfort his wife by saying that Izzie physically embodies both racial identities, but to no avail. Carla, to prove a point, decides to ask the next guy coming down the hallway to identify the race of their child. The person takes a few seconds to look and promptly replies that she is most likely African American and Latina, more specifically of Dominican origin. But, as he quickly notes, such knowledge is obvious to him. He’s a geneticist.
This situation is funny. For once Turk proved Carla wrong, and this rare victory deserves giggles. Yet, there was one thing I always overlooked the 45 previous times I watched the episode not just any hospital personnel looked at Izzie. A geneticist looked at the child and, through his distinguished genetic expertise, assessed an ‘accurate” racial identity.
Hold up, one second. If I am not mistaken, race is not biological or natural. It just creates a power hierarchy. Suddenly, my anthro-dar was off the charts. Is ‘Scrubs” misguidedly attempting to connect DNA to race? The episode was not quite as funny anymore.
Similarly, I just recently watched the Discovery Channel special about the new hominid, Ardi, not because it would satisfy my scientific curiosity (though it did). Instead, I was more concerned about analyzing how this discovery will impact the human race. It’s as if anthropology is everywhere. Sometimes I wish I could just laugh at a ‘Scrubs” joke or watch a new Discovery Channel special without consciously incorporating anthropological theory. But then I realize I can informatively question the world around me. Can I honestly complain about that?
Massie is a member of
the class of 2011.