Danny Yee (danny@ORTHANC.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Wed, 8 Dec 1993 12:42:53 +1100

> Is pomo really nothing new under the sun?

Is pomo really anything at all?

> But there's something new to pomo - something that begins with McLuhan
> and takes off with Baudrillard. The pervasive feeling that all of us are
> living in hyperreality as a result of the new technologies of representation;
> that if it was tough before to figure out the shadows on the cave wall, it's
> really tough when it's your VCR that's putting them up there... that something
> has changed fundamentally in our post-industrial, information-economy,
> post-ideological era - a certain condition of our existence that gives old
> debates a new and heightened importance.

This mailing list is presumably an example of those "new technologies
of representation" you refer to. But is it really qualitatively
different to older forms of communication? Is the bewilderment some
people feel at technological change really any different to the
bewilderment the first telephones caused? Or the first use of fire, for
that matter?

> The big question for pomo anthropologists is that while Western
> industrial societies are moving out of industrialization, other
> preindustrial societies are moving in... do they have to go through
> modernity first to get to the postmodern condition? Or will Western
> commodities and technologies help them get their $200 without passing go
> first, if you get my metaphor... is the whole world now thoroughly enmeshed
> in the postmodern condition, or is it just those passing through "the
> cultural logic of late capitalism?"

What is this "modernity"? I fail to see how reducing the technological,
cultural, artistic, literary and scientific endeavour of a whole era to
one word can possibly be useful, even in summary. (I have the same
problem with "postmodernity".) I certainly wouldn't have thought it was
something anthropologists would be happy with!

> Is 'postmodernity' itself now superseded? I have seen academics say
> with a straight face that we're now in post-post-modernity. IMHO, academia
> has just jumped on a truck that was already underway and turned it into
> an academic papermill. The postmodern condition *is* here, whether academics
> want to acknowledge it or not, because it is firmly entrenched in just about
> every form of popular and folk culture, and won't go away just because we
> want to move on. It may in turn be superseded by something else, but I don't
> have the faintest as to what will do the job. After all, one could argue that
> modernity was only given about 70 years or so (1898-1968) before it was
> chucked. So maybe pomo only gets 25. (1968-1993)

Saying the "postmodern condition is here" means nothing until someone
explains what it is. More to the point, I have yet to see any evidence
that the various things that are labelled as postmodern in different fields
have anything in common, except that they use the same jargon words
and that their promulgators have a similar political/ideological/social
position. As someone else has suggested, it's mostly an academic power

Which is not to say that much that is labelled postmodern isn't useful
and interesting. It's just that (at least in all the cases I have seen)
it would still be useful and interesting if one took all the postmodern
jargon out of it and labelled it something else.

Danny Yee (