Re: hyperreality/overcrowding

Fri, 10 Dec 1993 08:29:25 -0600

There is, clearly, some disjunction between academic and pragmatic goals.
While I find most post-modernist anthropological writing to be little more than
attempts to discover the 'deep structure' and epistemology of relativism
(perhaps 'rediscover' would be a better word), I think that the present thread
also recalls an earlier one concerning theory and practical reality (Steve
Maack might have much to say about this) - RE: Applied vs. Academic anthro.

Along these lines, the topic of overcrowding offers a dialectical tension
between two very different but obviously valid disciplinary goals -
disciplinary (more anthropologists) and personal (less competition) expansion.
The side of the fence which we fall on may have more to do with our
self-confidence, status, and degree of optimism, than it does with any
alledgedly objective truth claim regarding the status of the field.

I, and I suspect several others, choose to ignore the fence and sit somewhere
in the middle. Yes, I agree that what we do is important (although I wonder
about the value of a lot of the theoretical/epistemological gear spinning that
circulates with little reference to empirical data) and I also agree that there
is not enough funding to go around (though I often wonder how 'gear spinning'
will be of enduring practical value). On the other hand, however, I basically
disagree with the notion that most funded anthropological projects have proven
their value in the public sphere. This last opinion leads me to question the
claims that more money will solve all of our problems (and also, BTW, that we
should continue to allow so many new recruits). Finally, I am distressed to
admit that I, at one time, actually believed that the world would be a better
place if more of us thought like anthropologists. Now, I have abandoned that
dogmatic stance since I no longer feel the need to make predictive and causal

Matt Tomaso
Department of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin