Dan Jorgensen (dwj@JULIAN.UWO.CA)
Mon, 13 Dec 1993 08:01:06 -0500

Interesting to see that Bell turns up as a pomoid on this thread. A lot
of my sociology friends talk about him (in old/new-left slightly sneering
terms) as either neoconservative or liberal... (But Bell would be
threatening to folks committed to a brand-name ideology, I guess.)

Anyway, mindful of Bill Rodman's request that we name names, there are a
couple to be tossed in the ring.

There is, of course, the Houston-Santa Cruz axis, i.e., Marcus & Clifford
and associated folks. (Clifford may be tough, as will be Haraway, come to
think of it, because these California History of Consciousness folks are
not card-carrying anthropologists, a point possibly worth flagging for
future discussion.) Their most visible organ was the pre-coup version of
*Cultural Anthropology* (i.e., before the change in editorship after the
first few years of operation), a journal which probably conjured *Social
Anthropology* into existence as an attempted counterbalance. The
foundational volume, *Writing Culture*, is probably also responsible for
the appearance of *Recapturing Anthropology* (Fox, now editor of CA).

If this is taken as one of the baselines for one version of anthro-PoMo --
at least the textualist version -- then we can see the variety of
critiques to which it has been subject. Feminists, for example, find less
in this than others might suspect (e.g., Mascia-Lees, et al); left
political economy folks suspect that self-indulgence (self-absorption) may
be a signature of this style of work (cf. Polier & Roseberry below); a
philosopher or two (see Roth) have also raised epistemological questions
worth considering. Others have raised more specifically anthropological
problems, most notably Spencer and Kapferer (who can't help noticing how
unreflectively *American* this work is). So, I would argue, at least one
thread we could tackle is the "anthropology as a kind of writing" variety
of PoMo.

In this I would like to see some attention to the following reductions:
anthropology --> ethnography --> writing. What is particularly striking
is that the last move authorizes the emergence of a growth industry of
"critiques" with a paradoxical character: on the one hand, anthropology
is now primarily ethnography, giving rise to all kinds of representational
jitters; on the other hand, since writing is really the issue, *doing*
ethnography can easily be secondary to unpacking that of others. One
could say, then, that at least this variety of PoMo is a practice that is
parasitic on non-PoMo work for its existence. Here we have the
displacement of author by critic (cf. the arts), and no better example can
be found of the funniness this results in than the exchange between Barth
and Street in the pages of *Man*. Having misread and misrepresented Barth
in print, Street replied to Barth's rebuttal by charging B with asserting
ownership over the text, a typically retrograde move authors consistently
are prey to. Street, being a litcrit type anyway, seemed not in the least
concerned that someplace or another there was something outside the text
worth discussing, while with a straight face maintaining his own ownership
of his text (such as it was). [Makes you want to recommend a reading of
Jacobson's *Reading Ethnography*]

A related but not identical topic would concern certain traces or
signatures in favoured phrases that are meant to signal a kind of hipness,
also indicative of attitudes towards work. Some samples (I am considering
compiling a glossary) would be: interrogate, transgression, desire,
representation, etc. This would be accompanied by certain diacritical
uses of punctuation, including scare-quotes ("scare-quotes"), the oblique
stroke (/), hyphens (-), and parentheses (( )), all generally in the
service of puns ranging from corny to hilarious. While an extended
discussion of all this stuff turns into a parody of its target (textual
critique of textual critique), it is probably not a bad way of registering
another of the issues. This can be put variously as The Great Language
Panic, hyposemia (Foss 1993), Show Biz (Vonnegut, some other year) or
word-magic. One way or another, the point is that language and words are
held to have an efficacy of their own, and that they are accorded an
inordinate amount of power in the world. Not surprisingly, this can
end up producing writing that tries to overpower meaning, sometimes
successfully. (Derrida may have a lot to answer for.)

Enough. Some other time I'd like to catch some of the Taussig discussion:
a subtitle might be *Castaneda meets Foucault, or: Don Juan goes S/M*.

Dan Jorgensen Email: dwj@julian.uwo.ca
Department of Anthropology Voice: (519) 661-3430 x5096
University of Western Ontario FAX: (519) 661-2157
London, Ontario
Canada N6A 5C2