CFP: Postmod ling anth

Cameron Laird (claird@Starbase.NeoSoft.COM)
16 Jan 1995 14:25:37 -0600

The proposal below, which I reproduce with the permission of its authors,
bears on a number of issues that have been raised in these newsgroups.

(Session Proposed for AAA 1995)

In anthropology, "postmodernism" has been identified with
innovative ways of writing and with a radical emphasis on the
discursive construction of social reality. We have seen, as a result an
explosion of reflexive, dialogic representations of ethnographic
research. "Postmodern" anthropology has been criticized however by
feminist and materialist scholars for over-emphasizing issues
of representation and aesthetics to the exclusion of embodied and
material aspects of anthropological practice. Specifically,
postmodern anthropologists have been charged with staging
dialogues between ethnographers and their subjects in
ethnographies without sufficient attention to the politics of the
ethnographic encounter (Abu-Lughod 1993, Gal 1989), for
over-emphasizing writing as anthropologists' most central task to the
exclusion of more significant kinds of political action (Enslin 1994),
and for painting anthropologists as artisans/writers rather than workers
in specific institutional and global-economic contexts (Fox 1991,
Mascia-Lees, Sharpe and Cohen 1989).
Linguistic anthropologists have largely kept their distance from
these debates, even those these debates have given prominent place
given to discussions of
interaction, discourse and cross-cultural (mis)communication. Ironically
enough, linguists may be among the last to participate
in what has been often characterized as a "linguistic turn" in social
theory. But of course linguistic anthropologists have much to offer to
these debates. For example, linguistic anthropologists (cf. Gal 1989,
Irvine 1988, Woolard 1985) have directly addressed the
conceptual/material dichotomy which has so frequently organized debates
about whether postmodernism is "only about writing" and therefore
neglects "real political action." The work of many linguistic
anthropologists bears directly on questions about cultural and
situational variability in the production and reception of oral and
written texts. Debates about "postmodern" writing which oppose
(putatively postmodern) polyvocal and (putatively modernist and
monovocal) narrative texts can be informed by linguistic anthropology's
insights into the dialogic structure of narrative. Linguistic
anthropologists, with their close attention to interactional contexts and
audiences, also have much to contribute to the debate about accessibility
of different forms of writing (Abu-Lughod 1993 and Mascia-Lees, Sharpe
and Cohen 1989 have argued that polyvocal or dialogic texts require
sophisticated reading practices, though in the American context at least
feminist, African-American and/or working-class writers have argued
precisely the opposite--cf. Collins 1994, hooks 1990, hooks and West
1991, Tokarczyk and Fay 1993).
Linguistic anthropology can also benefit from considering the
political and economic implications of its own writing practices.
Linguistic anthropologists have tended to use relatively objectifying,
detached presentational rhetorics that are themselves (as Abu-Lughod
1993, Fairclough 1989, Gal 1989, Gouldner 1979, Smith 1987, Rosaldo 1986
and others have noted) often involved in professional, management and
administrative structures linked to the management of internal social
groups as well as (neo)colonialist/imperialist projects.
We invite contributions to this panel that address such issues
as: the significance of cross-cultural diversity in reading practices;
the crosscultural (in)appropriateness of particular genres of
representation (e.g. autobiography, life histories, polyvocal/dialogic
texts, fictionalized narrative); the place of video and
audio-recording, as well as non-traditional writing practices, in
reaching diverse audiences; and examples of ethnographic texts revised or
edited with communities which they document, as well as
reactions to those texts. Other possibilities include: using evidence
from code- and style-shifting and phonological variation to discuss--and
to contextually ground--postmodern notions of multiple and fragmented
subjectivities; theoretical discussions of the political, economic, and
cultural contexts for the emergence of different ethnographic forms (e.g.
what is the relationship of "postmodern" anthropology to late capitalism,
new social movements, & the structure of today's academic workplace); and
suggestions about how to articulate the linguistic
anthropological focus on "discourse" (instances of language use) and the
postmodern emphasis on "Discourse" (ideological configurations of
communication and experience).

Submit abstracts by FEB. 1 to:

AARON FOX, Department of Anthropology,
Univ. of Washington, Seattle WA 98195. Email:
Phone: 206-685-1811

BONNIE MCELHINNY, Social Thought & Analysis, Box 1112,
1 Brookings Drive, Washington University St. Louis MO 63130. Email: Phone: 314/935-6735. Fax: 314-935-8535.


Cameron Laird +1 713 267 7966 +1 713 996 8546