Pomo Update

douglass st.christian..... (stchri@MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA)
Tue, 14 Dec 1993 08:55:04 -0500

Since my fevered brow initiated the question, I suppose i should comment
on what has transpired, again filtered through the dual lenses of fever
and too much codeine.

To the query....what is it we talk about when we talk about postmodernism,
a variety of disparate [ or even desperate] responses emerged:

Rodman asked in some critical detail for clarity, insisting that the
'charge' of being pomo, when leveled against someone, be backed up with
some sense of fairness and commonality of meaning. If we are going to
discuss or dismiss someone because of their reputed pomo-crimes, at least
have the commonest of common decency to be clear what exactly the
accusations/discussions/dismissals mean.

Graber responded. In a dream I saw graber, calipers in one hand, test tube
in the other, standing in the dawn chanting ' smelly smelly doggie poo'.
In a more serious moment, i saw graber reacting to what he sees as pomo's
attack on science, which left me with at least one definition of pomo -
that which is not scientific in anthropology. A silly definition but
graber at least offered one.

Seeker1 wants to talk and to shut up and watch the trouble he has started
[please, Seeker1, don't flatter yourself] but in the end he keeps talking.
Recourse to Bell was interesting but jejeune since without more sustained
argument from Seeker1 i can't see the link between bell's notion of
post-industrial capitalism and postmodernist thought in history or
lit-crit or anthropology or architecture. without meaning to tell the
postmodernists what to think, i doubt the likes of Stephen Tyler or Linda
Hutcheon or Baudrillard or Lyotard or David Harvey would accept that the
critical engine of postmodern thought lies in transformations in the
capitalist economy. {Actually Baudrillard just might...i would need to
look at his 'for a critique of the political economy of the sign' again].

Someone mentioned David harvey's book with sufficient enthusiasm that i
want to go back and have a look at it again. A paper by Emily Martin on
fordism and the body, references to which elude me but i think it was in MAQ,
makes liberal use of harvey's book so his spin on the postmodern has
effected at least one anthropologist.

But apart from Rodman's detailed queries, the level of discussion has not
actually changed post-feverish questions from me. Instead, the level of
demonising rhetoric has increased.

A second set of questions perhaps:

why does critical thinking which takes the anthropological project itself
as an object of scrutiny so disturbing to some anthropologists?

in accusing others of postmodern excess, consider this string of questions:

1- is this person postmodern.
2- who gets to ask this question.
3- why is this question asked.
4- who is this question asked about.
5- why do we want to know.
6- what is the consequence once we do know.


douglass st.christian
anthropology - mcmaster u.
hamilton - canada
905 529 4992