4.0880 More on Multiculturalism (2/120)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Sun, 13 Jan 91 17:29:51 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0880. Sunday, 13 Jan 1991.

(1) Date: Thu, 10 Jan 91 23:21:19 EST (68 lines)
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: multiculturalism

(2) Date: 13 Jan 91 06:44:00 EST (52 lines)
From: "DAVID KELLY" <dkelly@apollo.montclair.edu>
Subject: multiculturalism etc.

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 10 Jan 91 23:21:19 EST
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: multiculturalism

C. K. Stead, in the last TLS of 1990, has written an interesting article
on the bi-cultural situation in New Zealand, "Pakeha provincialism,
Maori small-mindedness", which supplies a useful complement to the
intelligent remarks of our colleague in Cairo. I'll try not to quote too
much of this article, since I do have other things to do with the
remainder of the evening, but some will out.

Stead remarks on the way in which NZ literature has become something of
an instrument of state policy, with its attention to Maori and its
frowning upon Eurocentrism. "All of this can be seen as an appropriate
post-colonial tidying.... Yet I find myself as much out of sympathy with
official policy now as I was thirty years ago when that policy tended
still to colonial subservience. The demand for independence, for a
distinct New Zealand culture, which once seemed liberating, has begun in
recent years to take on the feel of a new provincialism, a constriction,
a retreat inward, a closing of doors rather than an opening....

"It is perhaps because of [the] contraction of the world [due to ease
and cheapness of travel and speed of communications] that local
differences are being insisted on so strenuously. [Stead describes how
23 NZ writers denounced a government minister's proposed gift of a flat
in Bloomsbury for those who might want to live and work in London for
short periods, and a counter proposal to spend the money on an island
off the coast of NZ, accessible only by rowboat]. This particular brand
of "fear of flying", it seems to me, demonstrates not a strong new
independent identity but, on the contrary, a persistent uncertainty.
Worse, it represents a failure to face up to, and come to terms with,
the world as it exists in 1990....

"The time has come for those who are seriously committed to a New
Zealand literature to reaffirm our British and European inheritance, and
our consequent kinship to the English language as it developed in the
United States, Australia, Canada, and Africa; to acknowledge the
strengths we have drawn from those traditions and from recent
developments, and the resources that remain there to be tapped; to
acknowledge above all that poetry, like all the arts, defines itself by
means of a tradition. There must always be some significant reaching
back into the past, a drawing on what has gone before, and at the same
time a sense of forward movement, like the flow of a river...

"The time has come for us to stop apologizing for our European culture,
as if it was something that compromised a true local identity; and to
stop anxiously inventing things to put in its place. I wonder whether
something like that was what Anne French, one of the most notable of New
Zealand's younger poets, had in mind when she concluded her recent poem
"Cabin Fever" with the following lines (a waka is a Maori canoe):

"It all depends
on where you're looking from.
The country viewed from an Air New
Zealand F27 on a misty winter morning,
might just resemble a J
boat, very broad in the beam, sailing bravely south
away from
Europe and towards the ice, or a waka, small as a
room, unstable
in a big swell, blown off course and heading
nowhere in

Willard McCarty
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------61----
Date: 13 Jan 91 06:44:00 EST
From: "DAVID KELLY" <dkelly@apollo.montclair.edu>
Subject: multiculturalism etc.

Several of those who responded to my recent posting on multiculturalism
mentioned Martin Bernal's recent *Black Athena*. O'Donnell in
particular called it "a crank book" and observed that it "contains
little that is new and true." The book has been reviewed in many
places, and it might be useful to list some of these reviews.

Jasper Griffin, *New York Review of Books* v. 36 June 15, 1989, p. 25-27.
Minnas Savvas, *Classical World* no. 6 (1989) p. 469.
Martha Malamud, *Criticism* vol. 31, no. 3, p. 319-22.
James Muhly, *Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology* 3/1 (1990) p. 83-110.

It is clear that Bernal's scholarship is being used by many to attack
what has been called (rightly or wrongly) western civilization. How
good is his scholarship and should it be taken seriously? Muhly's
review is most unfavorable, and I would like to quote some of his

<<In my estimation Bernal does not understand the nature of historical
scholarship. Historians work from evidence; they try to evaluate all
available data and, on that basis, to formulate reasonable hypotheses.

<<Bernal is confident that there were Egyptian and then Phoenician
colonies in Greece from at least the time of the Hyksos and the arrival
of Danaos...Forhim the subsequent history of Greece simply makes no
sense without such early colonies; therefore such colonization must be
accorded historical reality. (89) >>

<<Grote decided that the proper study of Greek history began with the
establishment of the Olympic games...For Bernal, figures out of the
remotest Greek past, especially Danaos and Kadmos, are reinstated as
full-fledged players in the drama of Greek history. But what sort of
evidence does Bernal provide for this dramatic reinstatement? None
whatsoever, save for the argument that they must be there inorder to
make sense of what follows. (90-1) >>

<<Bernal defended himself [from the attack by Frank Snowden at the
symposium mentioned by Schaps] by saying that the title of *Black
Athena* was forced upon him by his publisher because 'black women still
sell books'. I find this cynical attitude towards publishing books
entirely unprofessional. Nor, alas, does it seem to be entirely true.
Bernal has been teaching a course on *Black Athena* at Cornell for some
years now and he has always used that title in his course. Is it not
then one that he himself favors, rather than one forced upon him by his
publisher? (104-5) >> End of Quotations from Muhly.

Aside from foreign conquest and colonization of Greece in the second
millennium by Egyptians and Phoenicians (Danaos and Cadmus), Bernal
seems to maintain that many Greek philosophers and mathematicians in the
archaic and classical periods studied in Egypt and Phoenicia and merely
transmitted the older knowledge and thus have little claim to
originality. I feel that Bernal's epistemology is flawed. Knowledge is
not an object that can be transmitted like a computer file to a

David Kelly, Montclair State Colleg, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043