Dr. Gibson's methodology is unacceptable

Stabroek News

November 28, 2003

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Dear Editor,

I refer to Ras Dalgetty's letter captioned, "Dr. Gibson recorded spontaneous talk of the people" [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] (18.11.2003).

There are a large number of statements in Dalgetty's letter which are highly debatable. For example, the Stabroek News wrote that "the PPP had been accepted historically as a Marxist party." Ras Dalgetty said that he did not accept that statement and that Stabroek News is wrong.

On this issue, may I remind Ras Dalgetty that all the political parties and politicians of Guyana from the 1950's accept the PPP as a Marxist party. The evidence is overwhelming, but Dalgetty, like Dr. Gibson, seem to think that their subjective view negates overwhelming evidence.

Dalgetty speaks of Leo Despres' book which was written over 30 years ago before most Guyanese were born. Nowhere in Despres' book, absolutely nowhere, did Despres say the PPP encourages caste and I am surprised that Dalgetty would be putting forward this falsehood. Further, Despres' book has long been discredited because he took a few old-time stereotypes of Blacks and Indians and tried to find countrywide justification for them from a very narrow sample. In any case, Despres' stereotypes of Blacks are far more unflattering than those of Indians and I am sure, Dalgetty, or any self-respecting Guyanese, would not wish Despres' Black stereotype to be used to describe Afro-Guyanese.

Dalgetty says that academics acknowledge that there are different ways to do research. That is true, but there are certain defined cannons of research methodology which transcend all research efforts, whatever method is used. No recognised and respected academic has ever claimed that Dr. Gibson's book is a work of worthy research.

Dalgetty says that "Ms. Gibson used a tape recorder to record spontaneous talk by the populace, analysed such talk and made inferences." Dr. Gibson did not say this about her research method or material. She never claimed that she recorded the Hindu populace. Dalgetty is again engaging in fantasy. Indeed Dr. Gibson herself described her methodology on the MFK talk-show of 3rd September, 2003.

In a discussion with MFK, MFK said he visited Hindu temples and was often asked to speak, and there he neither saw nor heard any of the negative things Dr. Gibson is attributing to the Hindu religion. Dr. Gibson then remarked that the congregation at the various Hindu temples at which MFK spoke were putting on an act to fool MFK.

MFK then asked Dr. Gibson how she did her research for the book and she said: "By listening, by talking to Hindus, by reading original texts and by seeing what is done in the community." MFK then asked her what percentage of weighing she gave to each of her four elements. She did not answer MFK's question but merely said she put it all together. MFK implied that if the temple congregations were putting on an act to fool him as Dr. Gibson said, why did the Hindus who spoke in her presence not put on a similar act to fool and mislead her? MFK thus politely exposed the silliness of Dr. Gibson's claim of temple congregations putting on acts to fool MFK and not her.

Dalgetty mentioned that Mr. Ellis said the Jagans shouted "left" but practised "right" and that he accepted Ellis' cursory remark as conclusive proof that the Jagans were "rightists". Dalgetty and Dr. Gibson seem to have the same approach in evaluating evidence, or what is evidence. Ellis wrote many things on many occasions.

Ras Dalgetty gives seven items which he claims are Dr. Gibson's findings. These "findings" are all based on a grotesque misunderstanding of the principles and practice of the Hindu religion in Guyana. She talks about caste: Had she done even cursory research, she would have realised that caste had long disappeared as an element of social organisation, or even consciousness, among Indians. Indeed, it is like saying that the African population are aware of, or even bother about the tribes from which their ancestors descended. Or she talks about Hindu theology or philosophy without having any understanding of them. Her excursion into Hindu "Dualism" is an example. She glibly talks of the Laws of Manu of which most Hindus in Guyana have never heard and which have no more than an antiquarian interest like the laws of Hammurabi of ancient Mesopotamia. It is very incorrect to say that Guyanese Hindus use the Laws of Manu as their guide, when it is universally known here that the Hindu texts pervasively used in Guyana are the Ramayana and the Bhagwad Gita.

The basis of Dr. Gibson's thesis and findings are thus ignorance of the doctrinal and practical aspects of Hinduism in Guyana. Since her basis is lack of accurate knowledge, and probably misinformation, her findings and conclusions are accordingly flawed and lack credibility. Dr. Gibson's book "The Cycle of racial oppression in Guyana" is no more than an old fashioned racist pamphlet reminiscent of those of the Nazi era and is not an effort at serious academic research.

Yours faithfully,

Allahdat Baksh