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Columbus was not a venture capitalist

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Cultural translation loves a good analogy and metaphor. Similar yet different, when either is thoughtfully deployed, they are great for writing up anthropological research because they are suggestive and help transfer meaning outside of the literal. 


For example, when writing up his research on nationalism in South Asia the anthropologist Benedict Anderson spoke of an “imagined community.” It was a useful translation device. It led readers to insights about being a citizen or member of a nation—like the various objects that helps us imagine this community, like coinage, daily newspapers, flags, anthems, passports, census, maps and much more.


Sometimes a metaphor or analogy is less appropriate. When a student does this it often reveals little more than his world view or intellectual biases and maybe he should read more widely. When a person in power gets it wrong, though, it’s worth looking closer.


This leads us to Central Bank governor Mr Jwala Rambarran and the analogy he used while speaking about the lack of venture capital financing in the Caribbean to a seminar of business executives—people sociologists call “elite” members of society, the ones with capital to invest.


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