Joerg Schmitz 0:08
Welcome to The Inclusive Leader Podcast. The practice of inclusive leadership enables us to tackle the complex challenges of our times. This is the space for conversations about inclusive leadership. I am your host York Schmitz and I welcome you to this episode. race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexuality and class distinctions are socially constructed categories with real world consequences. They were deliberately created to other others, and perpetuate insider dynamics that are shaping the modern world and each of our experiences profoundly. At the same time, we are also living through a period in history where these well established and taken for granted categories are being questioned, exposed, challenged, and transformed. And precisely this phenomenon is the focus of this conversation with Dr. Adams and Dr. Williams, to anthropologists, who also discuss the important role of anthropological tools and perspectives to this transformation. With this conversation, we are introducing an entire series that will be hosted by the inclusive leadership institute. In its second season. This conversation series is dedicated to exploring how race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexuality, and class distinctions are shaping our experiences and perspectives in many parts of the world. So look forward to our conversation series, in the second season of the inclusive leadership institute. But for now, please enjoy this conversation about the topic. You know, I was intrigued, Robert, by you're kind of stitching together that the currency of this conversation about race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, cultural a little bit in the in the current context right now. So maybe you can do that again. Since we're now recording?
Robert Adams 2:16
Yeah. So let's say that we're always we understand, and it's becoming a lot more widely accepted that this is a social construction, these categories are socially constructed, but the legacy of the idea about them being biological, still lingers with us. It's a baggage. And, you know, and often we are finding ourselves tripping over these things. You know, like I said, we can look around the world and see how these things articulating themselves, whether we're talking about Eritrea and Ethiopia, they just made the peace deal last week. But that's after 1000s of people were either killed, or 1000s of people that were starved to death, because they couldn't get food around these kind of concepts of how are the two grands and the Ethiopians different, right, or the other groups that are in Ethiopia different. But then also, I mean, we saw this in the situation now with the idea of what Kanye was doing this anti semitic comments that he was doing. And he was working with a German company that was making billions of dollars in this, you know, collaboration with him, but that has Nazi past. And that has worked hard to disavow themselves from that past. And it's interesting that the one of the German Jewish leaders said, Look, if you're going to be continuing to work on this legacy, you've done a great job in the past. But if you want to continue the good work you've done, you have to break with Kanye, right? And you know, and again, from a community, German Jews, that once was super large, but that the Holocaust is diminished in size. But that, again, probably immigration is adding to, for example. So I think that, you know, we're always back and forth between this tension between the biological misperception of these categories and their socially constructed idea. And you know, this past week I've been reading this polish medical specialist, Ludwik Fleck, and he was born in LA Aviv. But when he was born, it was part of Austro Hungarian empire. And then after the First World War, it became part of Poland. So he mainly writes in Polish, some in German, 1939 and 1941. When the war starts, it becomes part of Soviet Union. And then the Germans take it over. And I think the name of it in German is Limberger or limberg, stuff like that. And he was sent to a book involved now shoot Auschwitz first, and he was on a working on a medical complex, right next, the block was right next to Mengele. But part of how he saved himself and his family was he was known for the typhus vaccine. So in the concentration camps, he was producing these vaccines. And then he was sent a book involved. And but he ended up surviving because and he was responsible for saving 2000 lives. Now, why do I mentioned this guy flick? Because fleck with fleck was talking about, beside, he was also a philosopher or sociology of science. And he kept saying that we have these collective ideas, that because everybody accepts them, we don't really questioned them, we don't break them down, right? So that we get lost in groupthink. And he called it, he called it a harmony of deception. And you know, and he was talking about ideas like syphilis as a disease and diagnostic, like how it's a lot, a lot of it was socially constructed even as disease and his ideas, which kind of they weren't really super well covered. But they becoming more and more important, because he was one of the first ones to sort of say, just because we think it, and we are in a scientific process, doesn't make it true, is the facts themselves are socially constructed, agreed upon. And we oftentimes ignore advice or evidence that says different. So we try to fit our reality onto the evidence, versus allowing the evidence to guide how we theorize and how we understand what these concepts mean. So we're, we're, we're just overloaded with the baggage of racism, biological concept, you know, ethnicity. So that's, that's kind of where I'm at this week thinking about it.
Joerg Schmitz 6:45
But not only, I mean, what I love about what you just outlined is the ricocheting of these concepts, right, throughout history and across continents, and social contexts and so forth, which is really important. So if we want to unpack that together a little bit, but also the idea that social construction, especially the ones that are that come from the 18th and 19th century, in this when evolution was was hot, and evolutionary thinking and, and natural selection was was was kind of the frame of reference, right, and using that for social and transposing those insights onto the social realm, right. And so we, we literally through the stabbing, assisted by something that all three of us share in common, namely anthropology. I mean, anthropology was the handmaiden of, of this site, quasi scientific underpinning that justify separating people into different races, or ethnicities and nationalities or cultures and creating taxonomies of who's on top and who is not, and so forth. And I always remind myself as FNS studied anthropology, that that's these that that is the discipline that under labour, scientifically under labored the Nazi regime and justify presumably justified racial ideologies and racism, and gave it a scientific, a quasi scientific underpinning. But it was just act acts of social construction, or I love this harmony of deception, right, this harmony of deception. And that still is with us today. Every time I see this in a forum where I'm asked to where there is a classification, right, what your race, your race, or ethnicity or whatnot, I'm just reminded of, this is just all made up. But it has led to tremendously powerful and painful realities. And we're sitting with those realities and our job. Our historical job is, as all of these concepts are unraveling, to help unravel them and use that energy and use it constructively. Cheryl, what is your, I guess, your take?
Cheryl Williams 9:02
So my take on this, I'm based here in California, and I identify as African American and female cisgender. And I was born into the Christian faith, but now I kind of have more of a world view of just spirituality, and all that to say, the intersectionality of who I am in my identities often take front stage and backstage. There are times when my race is all people will see. Right now I'm in Los Angeles and California. Some of you may be familiar for me, but the new story where we've had some debacles with our city council, some of the people that lead that but between the brown Hispanic communities and the black the African communities, so therefore race is all over the place. But then you know, right on the heels of that you look at the leaning in and all the other moments and gender becomes really important. cisgendered matter of fact, meaning I was born female and identify as female Nail. So I tend to find as a professional and as an anthropologist as a communication is that, you know, I'm having to read contexts, contexts becomes everything. Because I'm always looking to see how is my otherness being received, primarily where I live, and even work as a consultant is with primarily white people, mostly European, mostly American, but they certainly do also reflect some global. So I'm navigating, I'm constantly navigating, I'm straddling additionally to my race. And my ethnicity, I would say my race is black. I would say my ethnicity was African. And as I mentioned earlier, and of course, my nationality is American. There's one other thing that you know, when we talk about intersectionality, and maybe we'll talk about that in more detail later on. You often when when Dr. Crenshaw first came up with this research, she looked at Race, Class gender, and I don't know that class as an element of culture out that straddles race, because it's huge. The Kanye conversation that Dr. Adams just talked about, wonder if if he would have been a lower income, more educated, less educated, and gave that comment? Would it have had the same impact as a billionaire? You don't know what people consider Kanye class? For? Not? Certainly, economically he is, but socially and and how do you ever you want to define the term class? I don't know. He's he's got certainly Some mixed opinions here. In my area, there's a term of bipoc. And many of you have heard maybe that that that new term, what it means it Oh, the initials or B as in baby, i, p. O. C. And it stands for black, indigenous people of color, and how that was born around the race pieces. They were saying, Well, wait a minute, the black woman and the white woman did not suffer or have the same legacy and still don't today. So yes, and women are often marginalized, and often, you know, not at the seat of the table. But if you try to say that that's the same fight, or the same, the same walk, Whoa, it's not. So the indigenous means that only African but Native American folks who basically are not enough, not in a priority, and they don't they don't have the that advantages, that privilege, I guess they would say, some of the pause there. Because my areas, once again, the key thing to me is context, and what part of my otherness is showing? And I'm worried I'm not worried. But I am often mindful of it. I'm often mindful of it. How am I being received?
Joerg Schmitz 12:48
I have a question for that. And especially, I mean, because I think it's so interesting that in especially when it comes to, you know, topics of diversity and equity and inclusion of the a lot of acronyms and new terminology that can come out or trade in, which is part of the dilemma. To me, I mean, we talked about social construction, right? And sometimes it is an act of social construction to create these labels, right? I mean, bipoc, as you said, right. It's a label, and it's hurting us now, not just in the United States, but in other areas as well. But the dilemma that I have with that insinuates similarity, right, it crosses over me, when you think about black indigenous people of color, whatever that means, in different contexts. It puts together an enormously nuanced and complex pattern of experience as I would describe it. And so we're creating another label, we are socially constructing it in this in this moment. And in Los Angeles, we are seeing that the lived reality is actually one where within this group or class or whatever word, we want to define it, there is a lot of tension and conflict. So how can we use this? I mean, but yeah,
Cheryl Williams 14:10
it's now the term bipoc. And correct me if I'm wrong, but from what I understood, it was actually started over in Europe and started over in the England area. So it's not a US driven term. And of course, it's as much research came over here. So it might have made more sense. And a more European Western European context, maybe, you know, like that, I still think it has some of the same shortcomings. It has only taken on a little bit of a foothold here. From what ultimately it could mean. I'm not so sure the acronym itself or the label itself, you're going to see I have seen a lot of a lot of it that people often identify. But the fact you know, when you peel back just that and say, Okay, you're right, black women, white women, Latino women, Latin that Latinos, native American women, Asian women, they don't, they have not traveled the same journey, and they do not travel the same journey, and is the female first of the race first and is here or goes back and forth. Yeah, so you're not most people in this field that I work, we're always careful of labels always. But it's a place to start. Because, you know, words, that's the way we communicate is through words and other things in the way that we connect, as human beings, is through communication, you like that. So, you know, the most basic definition of communication is a transfer of meaning. So you and I, when we you don't meet people, you don't get married, you don't date you don't do this, you don't do if you don't have communication, and that's comes down to words for nonverbal like this. So, so that's kind of where, you know, when you talk about labels, there's a wonderful little theory, it's called the labeling theory of race. Maybe you are going to speak to that, Dr. Adams as well. But it talks about you know, that's that in and of itself can put you in a pigeonhole can put you in a box that you may or may not even should be in. So, you know,
Robert Adams 16:07
you remind me of what Ralph Ellison said, the author of Invisible Man, he was saying, like, change, the joke slipped a yoke. And he was talking about the idea about how these labels sort of imprison us and a lot of ways in which bipoc, for example, I think, while it is caught up in a lot of the same tensions, that we're, you know, we keep finding new ways to get back into the same tension between the biological and the social. But at the same time, I think that bipoc opens up a new way to extend the conversation around race in the US that's been mainly black white, over these for hundreds of years. And it allows it to be open in a much broader sense to talk about ways in which people that are non white experience and also face systemic racism. So I think it in some ways, it has baggage, but it also opens up new opportunities. And it goes back to what you were saying, you're about anthropology as one of the tools of oppression, you know, but it's also been, it's also been a weapon for people speaking back, you know, for the subaltern to sort of like, push back and to redefine, and you know, because I'm just thinking about Eric Wolff, one of the greatest American anthropologist who was born in su Dayton land, and who was his life shifted when the Nazis came to power. And you know, that he immigrated here. And I think about so many different characters like that, that have been, you know, Angela Davis, for example, all of the folks that have sort of like moved around these global spaces, and that have had to shift and use the social scientific training that they've developed, to fight back, and to try to dismantle. And so I think that our tools, even though they have the baggage are still have potential for liberation. Franz Fanon, as a psychiatrist, you know, from Martinique, who ends up using psychiatry to, you know, the anti colonial struggle in Algeria, for example. And so I think that as we move through these, you know, that we have to weigh the downsides with their liberation liberatory. Potential, and understand that, you know, you don't like so parliament, it's was the group, Cheryl, no, Parliament knows parliament. But they used to have a, they were saying in one of their songs, that it's so wide, you can't get around it. So low, you can get under it. So high, you can get over it. Yeah, yep. Right. And these social, these social constructions are exactly that. They've been with us for a long time. And we find ourselves twisted into the pretzel. But I think and this is where I get back to Ralph Ellison, and say, well, as long as we're struggling with it, as long as we're trying to bring to consciousness, its limitations. That's what fleck was doing. He wasn't saying that science and medicine didn't matter. He was saying that they matter, as long as we're conscious of the ways in which we're not reproducing stereotypes and false knowledge. It goes back to what Durkheim said from the very beginning that the sociologist from France who said social facts, which are social constructions, have concrete implications, and they have to be treated like that. And that's what we're seeing is the concrete implications of that.
Joerg Schmitz 19:31
I mean, you just reminded me why I can sleep well have been, you know, as an anthropologist, in a way, right. I mean, because there is almost I mean, there is a whole history of a discipline connected to that and the very end you're so right. I mean, the the tools that have created done that under laboring of the social reality we live can be used to transform it as well. And I think that's that's what we do in all of our work, in a sense, right. And to me, it's One of the least understood elements around this discussion around race and nationality and culture and so forth, how constructed it actually is, and how our job today is to deconstruct and reconstruct most important in the deconstruction to some degree is easier than the reconstruction. And I, you know, to some degree, my my focus on inclusive leadership is very much informed by trying to figure out what are the recipes? What are the mindsets, what are the attitudes we need to cultivate for the deconstruction, but most importantly, in the reconstruction? And to me, that is a big question mark, still, I mean, these things are really powerful, right? These social constructions are incredibly powerful. How do we mindfully deconstruct and effectively reconstruct, to me that goes to the core of this, and it's important to me for a number of reasons, and I'll echo Cheryl for or I'll follow Cheryl's invitation to just do a little bit of self reflection, right? So, you know, I always say, I became whites when I threw two realizations. One realization is learning. And this was early in my high school career learning about the legacy of European colonialism in the world. And Eric wolf was was, I read Eric wolf in high school in German, which was in the Northern College of or later, you know, they are, you know, so So that, to me, was actually really interesting. But this was a painful realization, I remember sitting in my room reading all of this, and having to reconcile that, you know, the affluence that I was surrounded by, I grew up in the 70s, in Germany, fairly affluent. And then looking at the historical legacy of, of Germany around the Nazi era, that, you know, there is a tremendous benefit that I, my generation have been bestowed based on extremely exploitative extractive histories that we don't talk about. By and large, we don't talk about this, even though it was part of the school curriculum at the time, probably with the hope that we will end up talking about it. And I think Germany has done a fairly good job at at least owning up to some of the historical responsibilities. But that was, that's when I realized, I'm connected at a level that doesn't correspond to how people around me talk or construct their identity, there is a global picture. And that came smack into my realization, when I came to the United States, where I lived for for a long time, where at every corner, you have to disclose your racialized identity. And I have to say, given the German difficulty with the moment with the word race, I have a still a very hard time just to utter the word race, just to use it as if it were a fact. You know, I much prefer the idea of racialized identity, because that at least acknowledges the social construction of it, and the you know, that we're not dealing with a positivistic you know, notion of reality. So my racialized identity is certainly white, and to some degree, European, but I say this, with all those disclaimers with all this meaning behind it, right? I'm a cisgender male, you know, and I love the idea of that, that even the use of those terms, cisgender is fairly recent and new that we we have to think about the construction of sexuality, right? And look at how our societies have are giving us constructs that may not correspond to, you know, what, scientifically, we know and we are finding out. Nationality is a fluid concept anyway. Right. So by by nationality, I'm German, but, you know, and for have been through many generations, but, you know, we see on the map of politics that that our national identities are bound to shift and subject to change, you know, very frequently. So, I mean, those are just just class WISE images, I think is a really important lens that we don't talk about. I come from a working class from two working class parents, who, in the through the economic development in the 70s and 80s, post war Germany have really moved into the middle class, right. So culturally in a sense of a middle class and a product of working class parents that that made it into the middle class. So that's a that's that's its own dynamic right, its own social phenomenon. There. Our and I see that replicated a lot in, in developing economies right now in India and, and in China and many places around the world where that my growing up experience is now an emerging reality for many, religiously I just need to because Cheryl, you mentioned religion as well as one of those categories of othering, right? I'm agnostic, I consider myself an agnostic, but I was shaped by a social environment that was very Catholic, that you know, when whenever you use the word religion in where I grew up, in that context, the only thing that comes to mind was the Catholic Church. And then also a little bit the Protestant movement, right Protestant church, because obviously, Germany, you haven't had that at the fulcrum of the division between Catholicism and Protestantism. But the part of Germany where I'm from that has shaped me was was much more than a Catholic mindset, I would say,
Cheryl Williams 26:01
you know, to pick up from that second generation, third generation African Americans are steeped in religions, feet, because that was the salvation the safety that was the Underground Railroad, you know, to use that as a success in this is an opinion, this next comment that my generation, my granddaughter's generation, and perhaps a generation that the Majan, z is they'd say, the more you travel the world, the more you recognize the diversity of people, the more you may step out of a singular religious label, or title, or church, you know, I would say that I'm very spiritual like that. And by an iPad, by spiritual I mean, the kindness of others is a greater power than me, you know, and kind of like the World Health Organization's definition of spirituality. But when I when I have gone to my church, Lutheran here in the US, some of the belief systems, you know, about what we're women stand, it's just, it's not me here like that. And I don't disrespect those who choose to do that. So therefore, I pulled away you know, and interestingly enough, as I share my comments and thoughts with others, just in general, like my girlfriend, my very my informal, you know, network. We're all kind of in a lot of agreement. You like that, even though you were teasing us earlier? Dr. Adams about being a pastor, and I know you're not but you know, but the PK, it's a pastoral kids and I fit there's, they're doing the same thing, too. I have a couple of pastors in my family, not uncles that were there not with us anymore. But none of their children. Are there my age, are in the church there. They would do. They're not for many reasons, for many reasons, you know, they're good people, but they just say, How can I? How can I just be one, you know, that's, but that's a very personal decision. And I respect that. Because there are people who would be much further on the shirt. I can't believe you said that spectrum. But it's okay. To me.
Robert Adams 28:11
I mean, my specialization in anthropology is religion. And, you know, I did my fieldwork on Dominican voodoo. But just to kind of piggy back to the idea you talked about before, in terms of communications and reference points, and kind of tied together with this idea about anthropology, and itself as a fluid signifier, because when I did my fieldwork, and I went and told people, I was an anthropologist, and you know, Haitian Dominican Borderlands. You know, what they heard from me, they heard that anthropology didn't mean anything to them. They looked at my skin and said, I'm Dominican, they looked at the fact that I spoke English, and that I definitely was tied to America, that I that I was a criminal, that had gone to jail, and was a deportee. And this anthropology thing was a hustle that, you know, some sort of a trick, you know, that I was waiting to spring on people. So I had to navigate this idea of people having all these sort of like, you know, again, in their local context, what all this stuff meant. Right? And it it took me a minute to kind of get there. But you know, the other question you asked York was like, how do we reconstruct? And I don't know if the real, the main job is reconstruction, as much as the main job is to teach people how to dance in this whole process. And I use the word dance from the George Foreman, Muhammad Ali fight in Kinshasa, right? Where, again, he has this overwhelming force, and how is he going to deal with it? He's going to dance with it. And I think that's what Ralph Ellison in invisible man is telling us is that, you know, we don't get over it. We don't get around it. We don't get under it. But we dance with it. We teach people and you know, the experience that You talked about in terms of this German experience. And you know, like even that living in Germany, the ways in which that history, I consumed it as well, you know, whether when I eat gummy bears, you know, when I go to when I go to Trader Joe's, I'm tapping into, you know, when I wear Adidas, I'm tapping into the same, you know, not to period, companies and legacies. So even I'm far away from it, I, the global environment brings me through it, and I have to dance around it. You know, Aldi is all of that stuff. Right? You know, it's not just sort of this merch, you know, these companies, because I think in some ways, if we think about Nazism is really another form of, you know, the global racism, you know, whether it's apartheid, whether it's Jim Crow, eugenics, these are all the same things, you know, and it's easy for, you know, like I said, to condemn a particular group of people that were practicing these ideas. And this is what I really liked about the Holocaust documentary that Ken Burns just came out with recently, you know, where he was talking about, we were highlighting, again, the ways in which we might have been critical in some ways in Germany, but we were turning away Jewish refugees by the scores, right?
Joerg Schmitz 31:19
Yes. It's part of that, that great contradiction, right that we are embroiled in living. Yeah.
Robert Adams 31:26
Right. Because if because the thing is, if it like, this is the thing, like, you know, Joseph Campbell talks about the hero with 1000 faces, right. And this is the thing about racism, classism, gender discrimination, and religious discrimination comes in so many local forms, that it's hard to see it as a Uber concept, it's easier to sort of condemn it in its local manifestations. And to sort of like be pointing the finger at somebody else, while you're practicing the exact same.
Joerg Schmitz 31:55
Exactly. Yeah, well, and it's in I think, this is what this realization is really important when we learn to dance again, right? I mean, the I love this way of talking about the work of reconstruction, because it's not. And I didn't mean it in this monolithic sense that we now now need to derive some other forms that are more pure or real and advanced, we've derived them we're done. It's more like, what is that process of, of reconstruction? What is how do we facilitate that? In a sense, how do we become the, the facilitators of that great dance that helps us reconfigure and, and I was reminded Cheryl, by your conversation about religion, and it's, it's, it's easy, maybe with a little bit of a, if you're not attached to any one particular religious tradition, then when you are actually very attached to one. And we may offend or by may offend? When I when I say this, that religion oftentimes isn't just like, culture is this great syncretic mix, right of of different influences that that get created and molded and give rise to certain specific forms that we then assume are pure, in some sense. But that idea of purity probably is one of those harmonies of of this that there is any, you're around these things and that we we haven't throughout this long human history, borrowed from what we saw other people do and been highly creative in, in assimilating and combining different things. I think that's just the way culture. So you know, and so the social works,
Cheryl Williams 33:46
you know, Robert, you were mentioning, doing your field work and the thinking, you might have been all those things. Oftentimes, when you're doing your gaining entry portion of the at the fieldwork, funny things happen. So as you to know, I did my PhD dissertation, studying African behaviors to make that in NC two. And so which, which brought me to the, to the jungles of the Amazon, but some in place, some tribes that have been more unaffected by the outside world. So I was there for a long time for over a couple of years. But anyway,
Joerg Schmitz 34:22
sorry to interrupt you for for a moment but need to stop you there because it's actually really important to say that you were studying African behaviors in the jungles of the Yes, I mean, just I want to highlight that because you say it as a you know, obvious thing to do and, and yet when you think about the you know, the jungles of the Amazon, most people don't associate
Cheryl Williams 34:47
thank you for reminding me that So briefly, when I was looking at what communities when I study because I really wanted to know what is about African Americans, their communication, that is African because that time back in the 90s, so that Ebonics was on, was being talked about, you know, you know, all these kinds of people were children were not being passed on because of language and all kinds of things was happening. So I said, you know, what is it about us that that's African and how we behave, how we how we speak. So in talking to do in my my field research, I realized that most of Africa, which I thought I was going to be going to do an in has a lot of global, you know, they have the Hilton and the Marriott and they have the, all the different influences there. So I kept checking. And then I followed the path of the Maroons are that time they were referred to as bush negros, and who were Africans that were, that were taken out of Africa against their will, brought across by Dutch colonists brought across the Atlantic. And for the sole purpose of being a slave, they hit South America, which was land. So if you kind of look at the belly of Africa, if you were to take a ruler, or any kind of drive from Ghana, to say the first place land hits, it's in Dutch, Ghana, Dutch Guinea, who now is called Suriname. And so contrary to what some history, say that, you know, we got off the boats, and we just kind of went aimlessly into the into into the enslavement, we didn't we hit land, and we fought, we fought 100 year war to where we finally gained independence away, you know, the, from the colonists, but were relegated to live in the in the, in the Amazon, forest, and Amazon, you know, in the jungles. So what they did is these, these Africans, that came from all the many tribes all throughout Africa that had been brought over for the express purpose of slavery, started to forge their own communities unite that so they know how to work the land, because they knew the trees and the plants. And they knew how to do that. They understood the rivers unite, that's a lot of that, because it was similar to some of the African flora and fauna. So they did that. And they remained there even to this day. And maintaining more African isms than places in Africa. I won't say every place, but a lot of places in Africa. So I learned that. And I was kind enough, I started my trips into that dislocation, hoping that they would accept me to like reducing Robert, into living with them for a while for some I could get some understanding. And for I'd probably say 80% of every place that I went to. And along this 100 mile strip, I was the first outsider, I had to carry my father's picture with me who was African who was darker, darker complected. So they because they waited me and if you had any white in you, you were considered an enemy, or they are going to question you. So anyway. But I did that. And then I was enveloped, the Paramount chiefs, everybody said, yes, they gave me all one requirement, which I thought was beautiful. They said, you're welcome to the entire tribes, all of it. And we want to tell you all of our stories, just do us a favor, tell it accurately tell it through our eyes. And to this day, you know, 25 plus years later, I still do that. Because so many white well meaning anthropologists have gone in. But anytime you're going to tell a story through your worlds lens, it's going to have some just word choice alone can have a difference. So that's what I did. So then I was able to complete the dissertation. And I've since had other publications meaning away so I live there. And so my story was to connect what you're going to say they co wives is part of who they are. And so because sometimes there's not enough males for females to keep the village going. So you have an it's a whole system our wanted and now our CO wives are brought on and on all this net, and what the men need to do to have a co wife. So even though I'm married and been married a long time, Kenny wasn't with my husband wasn't with me. He like that. I was asked to be someone's wife. I was propositioned from one of the chiefs and one of the village leaders. And so they they the culturalist that was traveling with me. I said, Oh my God, how do I how do I say this that I'm that I'm that I cannot marry someone without being offensive because I mean, they were he had sent people to you know, give this this engagement typing or whatever. So finally, she made up a story of the Nadia, love this lady. That's something where I come from, you know, we something's wrong with us, and we only get one like that, you know, the country where we come from you get one. So they have special not prayer, but they had a special ceremony. You know, sorry that I only had one. One of those times my extra husband came to visit me and they also kind of prayed for him that he only has one field like that, and he was so sorry that whatever it was he had done. Now today, you know, because they did Christianity wasn't a frame there. Now today is much much different like that. So,
Joerg Schmitz 40:12
but what I love about this is also the reminder to everybody who is not an anthropologist who is, you know, of the value, because ultimately to Robert's point earlier, when when we go in and we use this anthropological perspective, we are, we are actually illuminating the social constructiveness of the case of marriage and family and, you know, all kinds of things, right, and how difficult it is to reconcile this sometimes, but really, we are exposing ourselves and through, you know, through this to different realities, and how profound the phenomenon of social construction is. But I also wanted to resonate with something you said about, you know, that you were entrusted with telling their story, right, as accurately as possible, which is another lesson to be, is it around identity, as being a really, I mean, ultimately, identity is such a powerful source of power in a sense of attachment. And we want to make sure that our identity and the experience that it comes with, is honored and told the way it is right with integrity.
Cheryl Williams 41:27
Exactly your I spent a unusual amount of time triangulating my data. You triangulate anyway, this part of you know, anytime we do an ethnographic piece, but because I wanted to make sure even my word choice, because many of the words in English, they don't have a word that means the same thing in one of the tribal languages. And so I had to, you know, make sure we're working through translators, but even when you work through a translator, are you getting their word? Are you getting that word? And so I had to use I use men, women, young, oh, blah, blah, blah. So to find out to say the word is, there was a one question I asked, What are you doing when you're having fun? That's a no anthropology question. We ask, what are you doing? Not thinking that feeling? What are you doing when you're having fun? So fun didn't come across as as a concept as a word. So what they what finally they had several people trying to come up with that word, and they build wood carvings. And the ladies do Calabash carvings. And they either do it for the house, or they sell them now so much. So I asked us it is that fun? And but that was the closest we could get. So when I reported I reported it through their, you know, eyes, whatever I've done, I put a little for the reader who's not in that. What that means because woodworkers to you at the end. It might be a hobby, it could be. And it could be fun. It could be but usually, you know, we think of are you singing? Are you dancing? Are you this? Are you eating? Are you joyful? Are you joking? And they don't have jokes, by the way, at least not the way we would say jokes. But I asked them, tell me something that would be considered funny to hear, what might you hear? That could be funny? And they laugh at my question. That was funny. So I'm like, Well, okay, I'm getting somewhere.
Joerg Schmitz 43:28
Cheryl Williams 43:30
You are funny like that. So but you know, and they were really serious. I can't tell you how gracious I was. And to this day, I pay homage to them, and I go back as much as I can, and to where it was an education on both sides. And they told me that, and but I know I learned far more than than I left. And I bet and you're right, you're just being able to embrace that difference. That newness was most amazing,
Robert Adams 43:57
sterile. This, I never need to wrap up. And let me just, you know, I grew up with maroon objects in my house that I didn't quite understand fully. I came to understand that later. In the early 70s. I lived in Holland. Oh, then, you know, right. And my father had a horrific accident in Holland, and was in the hospital for an extended amount of time. Some of the people that were caring for him in the hospital were certain amis. And so as part of his rehabilitation therapy, they taught him how to carve these wood objects. Yes, yes. We had put objects in the house. Yes. Yeah. So I mean, that's what I'm saying about. Oh, I love hearing them back and forth.
Cheryl Williams 44:40
Yeah, we have to talk more about that. Yeah. Holland is with the Dutch collaborations it to this day, it's huge. I mean, in fact, the official language of the country is Dutch spoken to get into the interior. It's not, you know, some speaking, but mostly it's the tribal language. But yeah, a lot of that comes across the archaeology of it. The the the objects, you know that that's nice. That's very nice.
Joerg Schmitz 45:02
Yeah. So I'm, I'm just, I mean, you know, to wrap this up for today, and but I'm just amazed, you know, we've taken it for a little bit through I mean, we stitch together a few environments, right? Whether it's Poland, Germany, Russia, whatever, you know, the United States, certainly, Collin now and Suriname, and that connection right through your fieldwork and through your, your family. And we also, you know, went a little bit into the art and science of anthropology and, you know, its history and, and the power of it, illuminating our constructed social world and hopefully giving us more materials to stitch together into our dance. I just love this conversation. And I'm, you know, I just want to learn more about Robert, your, your fieldwork, actually, Cheryl, yours as well. And then I think as we are, as we are embarking on a whole series of conversations about the social constructiveness of the world and the concepts we use to other others, the concepts we have invented to other others, right race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, culture, it just really, you know, motivates me to really get deep into this and stitch it together through our own personal histories, as well as our work, right, whether it's our field work our work with corporations. Robert, early on, you're reminded us of Kenya's you know, I mean, the dilemma around, you know, endorsements and the corporate implications to all of these questions. I love the richness of our exploration. And I can't wait to do more of that and record our series for the next season in the inclusive leadership institute. But I also want to mention that our our dear friend and colleague Akash, wah, couldn't make it today. She is certainly part of this conversation, and adds a very important perspective. Namely, she is located in Ghana, she is from Ghana, with a very interesting family and personal history. And I think when we actually, you know, record our series that we are expanding our horizon by having a record of this exploration,
Cheryl Williams 47:19
yes, your thank you so much for inviting us and getting us all together. It's a pleasure. Thank
Joerg Schmitz 47:24
you so much. Absolutely. So more to come in our next season. So this was just a little bit of a teaser to what we will explore but I can't wait to share it with with our audience.
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