Buffy and racism

Maureen Therese Anderson manders at midway.uchicago.edu
Tue Feb 23 22:07:53 PST 1999

Paul Rosenberg writes:
> (Maureen said:)
>> Likewise, the FMs were anti-religious and secular, all the
>> while bringing preoccupation with hierarchized rituals and
>> "mysteries" to new heights, and fetishizing secrecy for the
>> sake of secrecy more than their Renaissance alchemist
>> ancecedents ever did. It seems pretty clear these masonic
>> paradoxes inevitably flow from all those Enlightenment paradoxes
>> we know so well: Science and Reason (Europe, men, etc.) vs.
>> religion and superstition (non-European others, the masses,
>> women, etc.), constituting self and other in such dichotomous
>> ways that the repressed inevitably returns, etc.
>It doesn't seem the least bit clear to me, except in the sense that
>you've got your pre-fab theory, and the Freemasons pop out as part of a
>conceptual bonus pack.

And where, precisely, is my description prefab? I'm basing my understanding of Freemasonry and its paradoxical transformations on very mainstream, what you would call *empiricist* and decidedly un-pomo, social historians like Margaret Jacobs and Frances Yates. If you have some more informed sources on Freemasonry and politics in Enlightenment Europe, I would be grateful if you would pass them on to me.
>And I find Gar's suggestion a whole lot kinkier than what follows from
>Maureen, which is pretty much a standard read from the PoMo

Well I don't see my points as necessarily contradicting Gil's. More to the point, again: please tell me why you feel entitled to simply dismiss this as a cookie-cutter "standard PoMo" read. As I said, the scholarship on Freemasonry I'm most familiar with comes from canonical social historians. I also based my generalizations on the work of History of Science scholars (the kind who publish in Isis, and who probably adore Alan Sokol), as well as historians who have actually, *empirically* tried to trace, through much slow, tedious material documentation, the material and ideological effects of early mercantile trade encounters with NonEuropeans on early modern European society. If you don't like their archival work or conclusions, please suggest to me some historians of this terrain whose work you prefer. I ask sincerely since I'm not a specialist in early modern European history. However, I do know anthropology, a field that is largely hostile, excessively hostile, to "pomo theory." My understanding of how Europeans and NonEuropeans have historically impacted each other, materially and ideologically, is strongly influenced by critical but basically anti-pomo research and scholarship in this field.

In short, Paul, if you are "a terribly unfashionable fan of the Enlightment," then don't give it a bad name by dismissing arguments merely by putting labels on them.

>> ...But though the program may contradict itself, Buffy is large and
>> contains multitudes--that much seems clear from recent postings. I've seen
>> it twice in the past year,
>Which is the problem. Once again, theorizing on autopilot.

Theorizing on autopilot? I was open about my limited exposure to the show, and why. (An openness that I wish you would reciprocate regarding your exposure to European social history.) Based on the rave review of friends like David, I genuinely wanted to liek watching Buffy. I didn't stop watching for some pomo ideological reasons but because, like any consumer of popular culture, when I didn't "enjoy" it enough after a couple tries, it didn't find its way into my schedule. Maybe I saw uninspired episodes, maybe you have to see it a few times to get into its groove. Who knows--recent posts (including yours) have made it sound more compelling than what came through in the couple tame episodes I saw. If I do come to appreciate all these other "messy" aspects you've talked about, great. And I'm all for Buffy's utopian anarchist potential as explored in DG's ITT article. All that can be true, while the program still, simultaneously, can play into aspects of Enlightenment dichotomies that trouble me more than they trouble you.


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