What happens when a concept “migrates” from science to politics? What role does the figure of the “expert”, or the scientist employed at a political institution, play in this process? And how can we characterize “expert discourse” compared to scientific, institutional, or political discourse? We will address these questions by analyzing and discussing an exchange that took place on the pages of the journal Anthropology Today between two politically engaged anthropologists: Susan Wright from the Birmingham school and Lourdes Arizpe from the UNAM in Mexico City. At the time of this exchange, Arizpe holds an executive position at UNESCO as the Assistant Director-General, heading the Culture section. We will concentrate on Arizpe’s response to Wright’s critique of the way anthropologists at UNESCO handled the migration of “culture” from science to politics, and ask how she constructs an “expert discourse,” talking simultaneously as an anthropologist and from her political and institutional position.
Arizpe, Lourdes (1998), “UN cultured” (Letters), Anthropology Today 14(3).
Wright, Susan, (1998), “The Politicization of ‘Culture’, Anthropology Today 14(1), 7-15 (for reference).