Cultural Anthropology

Acceptable Sexual Abuse of Children during Anthropological Research

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"Acceptable Sexual Abuse of Children during Anthropological Research"
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Abuses of Anthropological Research Methodology resulting from Kenneth Good's Yanomami "study"

Since the time that Ken Good began teaching at New Jersey City University (NJCU) in 1992, I have continuously objected to his having been hired - because it was clear that the sole reason for his having been given employment at NJCU was that a major publishing house (Simon & Schuster) had published Into The Heart, the book that he "co-authored" (written in total?) about his "romance" and "marriage" of a "third-world" child (age undeterminable, marriage was supposedly at the age of first menses, so it could have been anywhere between her ages of nine and twelve; and he was about forty at that time). For Good to require his students to purchase his book, and then require them to spend an entire semester studying the details relating to this "courtship" was abhorrent to me.

Because Ken Good and I had students in common, I was obligated to answer questions in my sociology classes about this "courtship." I stated my opposition to Good's "claim to fame" (National Geographic televised a special about this "affair" on Public Television) and voiced the opinion: "that had Dr. Good "married" an American child, he would have been sent to prison."

I also pointed out: "that just because primitive societies permit middle-aged men to marry children, doesn't mean that anthropologists, who were socialized in the United States, should be permitted to engage in such an activity." I additionally voiced the opinion that it's inexcusable - and racist - that the American Anthropological Association has no formal policy against sexual involvement between its members and third-world children. The American Sociological Association has such prohibitions, and so does the American Psychological Association. And it's a good bet that all of the other professional associations - whose members engage in "participant-observation" research - also prohibit adult-child sexual involvement.

Ken Good arranged, with the NJCU Administration, for me to be censured, by the NJCU Ethics Committee, for my vocal opposition, to what I considered to be, a racist policy in regard to NJCU's tolerance of the sexual exploitation of third-world children (this apparent, or rather obvious assault on my academic freedom might be dealt with in a future article if there's any interest). NJCU had hired, promoted, and designated to be an "exemplary faculty member" an individual whose only apparent "accomplishment" was writing a book about his marriage to a third-world child.

So, from NJCU's handling of this particular case, "third-world" children appear to be sexually exploitable by American anthropologists - as long as such exploitation is done under the guise of research. If this awareness becomes public knowledge, might we anticipate many pedophiles becoming anthropologists?

What the policies of other developed countries are, in this regard, might be the object of further research.

But in Ken Good's United States, for the present time at least, the sexual exploitation of children is a major taboo - to the degree that those sent to prison for engaging in such activity must be placed in protective custody. Why then, it is a fair question to ask, is such sexual exploitation of children permitted in the guise of anthropological research?

The most obvious answer involves "racism."

Fifty or so years ago, the National Geographic magazine was popular, in part, amongst high school and college males, because it often contained photographs of bare-breasted third-world women; yet, during this time, the National Geographic would have been put out of business - had it published photographs of bare-breasted blond haired women. I've labeled this obviously racist policy "the National Geographic syndrome."

In the spring of 2000, I filed a complaint with the NJCU Ethics Committee (the same committee which had previously censored me) against Ken Good because he was violating NJCU's policy against the financial exploitation of students (Good required his students to buy his book) - but no action was forthcoming. By now, Ken Good had even arranged for the NJCU Book Store to refuse to "buy-back" used copies of his book giving his students no other choice than to purchase new copies of Into The Heart - thereby maximizing his royalties.

What this meant, in practice, was that every sociology major (one of NJCU's most popular majors) and every elementary education major (another one of NJCU's most popular majors) had little choice than to purchase Good's book in order to receive a degree. Every sociology and every elementary major was (is) required to take at least one anthropology course, and Good required that his book be purchased in each of the required "Cultural Anthropology" and "Introduction To Anthropology" classes he teaches (taught). Good, until recently (spring 2008) was the only anthropology instructor at NJCU, so avoiding the purchase of his book is not an option for our students.

A good many of NJCU's students, it needs to be pointed out, are struggling financially, which makes Good's exploitative behavior all the more repugnant.

NJCU, interestingly, has a prohibition (in its Faculty Handbook) against current faculty members becoming sexually involved with children; but this prohibition, disturbingly, does not extend to NJCU's hiring practices. Ken Good was initially hired specifically because of his courtship of this primitive child; and NJCU's president, it should be noted, is a member of a minority group - so his ability to overlook the sexual exploitation of a third-world child is additionally alarming.

In 2006, I formally objected to the fact that this anthropologist continued to sell his book about his "love affair" to his students - a direct violation of NJCU and NJ's code of ethics and of New Jersey State law 18A:6-8. Interest of school officers, etc., in sale of textbooks or supplies; royalties No person officially connected with, or employed in, the public school system of this state or in any state educational institution shall be an agent for, or be in any way pecuniarily or beneficially interested in, or receive any compensation or reward of any kind for, the sale of any textbooks"

I complained first to my department; then to the Academic Vice President (an attorney); then to the NJCU President; then to the NJ Ethics Commission (EC).

Initially the EC informed me that it was an ethics violation and that it would have to determine what all the colleges were doing in this regard. Two years later, NJCU hired another attorney to deal with ethics complaints - and when I asked him to look into this, he informed me that the EC would have to do this. Passing-the-buck and doing nothing appears to be the way to handle this issue.

Meanwhile, this "professor" continues to sell his book to his classes, and teach that it is acceptable anthropological research methodology to marry a third-world child.

In conclusion, perhaps the main story here is that the American Anthropological Association still has no prohibition against this type of behavior; and that NJCU will fire someone who engages in the sexual exploitation of a child - while currently employed, but has no prohibition against hiring someone who has sexually exploited a child prior to his or her having been hired. And no one, it still appears, gives a damn about what has happened to Good's former wife or cares what she has gone through because she has been denied access to her children. The National Geographic should be called upon to find out the ansewers to these questions.

More about this author: William Dusenberry

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