Monday, August 11, 2008

"Name that Scientist!"

First posted at Open Anthropology:

Imagine, 2008, and some foreigner travels to Barbados, and right under Barbadian noses he picks up the “world’s smallest snake,” known to native Barbadians since there have been native Barbadians, and he proclaims — without a metal helmet, bible, and cross — that he has discovered the snake, and that he will name it. The man clearly has balls, because he also decided to name the creature after his wife. S. Blair Hedges then says the naming is to establish its “genetic profile.” Apparently now his aim is to drive his wife into a murderous rage.

While some local academics tried to hush up the very negative local reactions to this latest episode of scientific imperialism (it’s no surprise that they would do so, given their dependence on academic networks owned and controlled within the dominant seats of Western power), Barbadians are clearly right to be critical.

What kind of world is it where one people gets to name the world for the rest of the world?

What kind of world is it where words from one particular, dead, European language are granted exclusive dominance in the name of “science”?

The answer: it’s a 2008 world, hardly different from a 1492 world.

So name that scientist!


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