Re: Beyond pomo

Agnar Sturla Helgason (agnar@RHI.HI.IS)
Tue, 7 Dec 1993 15:05:14 GMT

Greetings from the north.

My comments were not directed towards the way we label societies, although
I found Seeker's comments on the subject interesting. Problems of representation
in the world of 'hyperreality' are open to research and discussion, so long
as anthropologists are willing to recognise and adhere to a common frame of
reference, that is, scientific methodology. And yes, this also applies
to humanistic and interpretive research to a large extent. It simply means
that anthropologists have to be candid and explicitly state their research
methods. Anthropology is literature to the extent that anthropologists draw
conclusions from the air, so to speak.

However, I was addressing the way anthropologists label themselves and other
anthropologists. It seems to me that the label 'postmodern' is more often
than not used to describe anthropologists and their work. It is therefore a
viewpoint from within the anthropological corner of Academia, used
frequently as a vantage point to criticise others, both inside and
outside the discipline. The insights anthropological postmodernists gain
from this viewpoint are sometimes relevant and often stimulating,
especially when used in connection with research. What I find troubling,
however, is when postmodernists play the role of a nihilistic and relativistic
ideological police force, particularly when their vantage point is
from the infamous 'armchair'.

Skepticism is important in science ('all knowledge is socially
constructed'), but so is pragmatism ('computers work!'). Surely,
anthropologists can combine the two approaches without becoming schizophrenic?

I would like to reiterate a few points from my previous posting and add a
few more:

1. Talk is cheap, research is expensive.
2. In anthropology, research funds and traditional research oppotunities are
severely limited.
3. Compared to these restrictions, anthropology is overpopulated.
4. Postmodernism is a cheap way of climbing the ladder to
anthropological fame and influence.
5. The postmodernist approach is not new.

6. The postmodernist vantage point is absurdly overcrowded (see 1-4).

Someone has to give these people some money and something constructive to do.

Finally, I wonder if the label 'avant-garde' is more appropriate to describe
the self-image of a self-confessed postmodernist.

| Agnar Helgason |
| University of Iceland |
| E-mail: |