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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

The Eurocentric Gilgamesh

A lecture on the Epic of Gilgamesh by Prof. Kambiz GhaneaBassiri at Reed was cancelled because “student activists” declared that it was white supremacist and Eurocentric. 

So while some students are political through supporting their classmates (see previous post), others are political through hassling an Iranian prof who teaches Gilgamesh.

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25 thoughts on “The Eurocentric Gilgamesh

  1. raddledoldtart on said:

    Maybe they got it confused with the Republic of Gilead? 😉

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  2. DWeird on said:

    This is the weirdest thing I have heard yet. What was even the angle on declaring a class on Gilgamesh Eurocentric?

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  3. Demotrash on said:

    What’s great to see is that people there are pushing back, judging by the article I read. Normal students voiced their anger at the “Reedies Against Racism,” and 150 students came to GhaneaBassiri’s office for an impromptu lecture. As far as the cancellation goes, administration didn’t cancel it, the professor did because he decided he’s not going to put up with that shit. Of course, administration should’ve stepped in before that point. These students aren’t even enrolled in the class, and they’re being disruptive jackasses.

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    • I truly admire the Reed professors who are kindly, patiently and at great length explain to the students why reading great literature is a good- non-racist idea. I wouldn’t be able to do it myself because I just get angry. I’m not the nurturing type and it bugs me enormously when adults try to get me to mother them. I only know how to engage with students as adults. Don’t get me wrong, I’m amazing with kids, everybody says so. But they have to be actual kids, not 20+-year-olds with tantrums.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Demotrash on said:

        They were compassionate yet firm, the appropriate way to deal with overgrown children. I couldn’t do it either, I am done with dealing with idiots.

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  4. Once you reward tantrums with goodies, good luck ever stopping them.

    Part of me thinks this is cruel sadism on the part of the administration. I wonder if the protesters (like small children) are testing boundaries because they need to know the boundaries are strong to feel secure and the administration is telling them nope! your on your own kiddies! yell and scream and anything can happen!

    How will they ever manage a job where they can’t hold their breath until management gives in?

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    • I don’t think they will have to worry about jobs. Daddy and trust fund will take care of all that. My students are the kind who worry about jobs. Which is why they don’t protest my lectures on “dead white males” and don’t even know this term. And good for them.

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  5. Alex the Physicist on said:

    From all of the articles I’ve seen, most of the professors that they’re interrupting are not of particularly pasty complexion or European ancestry. I love the irony.

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    • For some mysterious reason, it’s always like that, always. And the professors who are wasting precious time and energy on mothering them are female and or non-white. Like typical servants.

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  6. Shakti on said:

    You know there are genuine issues with deciding everyone must read certain texts. I checked out their Facebook page and I have no idea what texts of the same age or older they’d want to substitute or add to this mandatory humanities course.

    I called a certain major Eurocentric but I had specific changes I wanted to see with faculty hiring and courses offered. I had zero problems with people taking European history courses or political courses about Europe, I just felt that certain foci were lacking in broadly based majors. They’ve made some substantive changes in the department since I left. It would have never occurred to me to interrupt a class with placards over that.

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    • “You know there are genuine issues with deciding everyone must read certain texts.”

      • There are two models of education, the normal one and the consumerist one. In the normal model, professors decide what when and how to teach. In the consumerist model, the consumer is always right and gets to dictate what s/he is willing to titillate him or herself with at this precise moment. And the professor-servants have to accommodate, entertain and cajole. I, of course, don’t support the consumerist model because it isn’t about teaching or learning. It’s about titillating the sated. I see no value in that. As a result, I get paid about a half of what the professors who nurse these rich brats do, which I guess is fair.

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  7. Alex the Physicist on said:

    The other thing that really irks me about these kids at Reed is that they believe that the people of the Mediterranean world (whether past or present) can be cleanly divided into “Western” or “white” people on the northern shore and “non-Western” or “people of color” on the southern/eastern shores.

    It’s true that the people in the European part of the Mediterranean participate in more affluent economies and tend to have Christian heritage, while the people in the African/Asian parts of the Mediterranean participate in less wealthy economies and tend to be of Muslim heritage. But those cultural and economic divides did not hold in the ancient world; societies in just about any part of the Mediterranean were wealthier and more sophisticated than those in most other parts of the world. And with all of mixing of people in that region over the ages, it’s ludicrous to suggest that you can draw a clean line of color/race between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean.

    And if you asked an ancient Greek if he felt some sort of connection or kinship with other pale-skinned people in Europe, his response would have been “What, you mean the barbarians?” He probably traded with Phoenicians and Egyptians and had contact with ethnic cousins in Asia Minor.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. These students at Reed had just better hope they’re never stuck on a planet with a Tamarian they have to communicate with while being pursued by a dangerous predator….

    Such is the power of Star Trek that this remains my strongest connotation or Gilgamesh…

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darmok

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  9. It’s, like, the elite version of what we have here: freshmen not interested in the fact that some current writing systems have ancient roots, etc. Here they just say they find this irrelevant to current life and will it be on the test? At Reed, they reject it with a different technique.

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  10. I’ve read about this with some confusion. What do these students actually want to study? I’d suggest they begin with Geography. Can any of them, shown a world map, locate the ancient civilisation of Mesopotamia, where the Gilgamesh story began. Do they know that Egypt is in Africa and was ruled by Nubian i.e. black skinned pharaohs for many centuries. Eurocentric? Actually can they point on a map to where Europe is? Have they ever actually seen a map of anywhere other than the United States?
    If they are so obsessed with the skin colour of the perpetrators and teachers of these stories and mythologies, it makes me wonder who the actual racists are.
    Am I missing something here?

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    • There is a lot of unconfessed and very dark feelings behind what these students and other people like this are doing. If you relish stories of “this is how we abused black people”, adding “oh, how horrible” doesn’t erase the enjoyment. This is why I’m talking about titillation.

      I told this before but this reminds me about these (very feminist) men who would retell in great detail scenes of rape in movies and books, always adding “that’s so sexist! Disgusting!” The relish was evident.

      This is the same thing.

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      • I know what you mean. It’s nothing new, when I was a student – a very long time ago – we demonstrated about a lot of stuff but on the streets, not in the classroom.

        Then there was a group of ‘Maoists’, who had university accommodation, fully paid fees and student grants and took enormous pleasure in disrupting other people’s education and work by waving and throwing little red books and other methods of goading each other to ‘liberate the poor downtrodden masses.’ I bet titillation was involved there too, though it’s too long ago for me to be certain – they were mostly badly dressed men who were very keen on ‘freeing’ women! I wonder how ‘free’ they thought most women in China were at that time.

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        • Yes, absolutely, this never goes out of vogue. And it’s sad that these young people never pause to examine what really drives them to hassle an Iranian prof who is teaching Gilgamesh.

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          • Once, just once, I’d like to see students protest against enormous salaries of football coaches, overpaid administrators, vanishing journal subscription, low resources for libraries, adjunctification, something real. Instead they protest against books. That is beyond pathetic.

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  11. By odd coincidence I happen to have one of the Reed protesters here to answer these questions:

    “If they are so obsessed with the skin colour of the perpetrators and teachers of these stories and mythologies, it makes me wonder who the actual racists are.”

    You are, racist.

    “Am I missing something here?”

    Shut up, racist!

    Well…. I guess that wasn’t as illuminating as I’d hoped it might be….

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  12. I have been in academic exile from the US for a decade now. Looking at this story it looks like it will last the rest of my life.

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