Re: On Witch Foot is the Shoe?

douglass st.christian..... (stchri@MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA)
Tue, 14 Dec 1993 16:25:33 -0500

On Tue, 14 Dec 1993, SS51000 wrote:

> I say, "a light-hearted
> rejection of all claims to knowledge." Geertz's "Thick Description"
> essay supports, and is admired by, this trend, regardless of its date of
> publication.
To call it lighthearted is to dismiss it, Bob, which would be fine if the
accusation were not so serious. Geertz certainly does not 'reject" all
claims to knowledge, although he certainly does question how claims to
knowledge are constituted and perpetuated [ neither of which a
postmodernist makes but hell, if you want to call him a pm, go for it].
Linda Hutcheon, a literary critic/historian from whom i have drawn a great
deal of my understanding of postmodernism, certainly does not 'reject' all
claims to knowledge but argues that knowledge is a field of contest and
dispute, not a simple quest for neutral objects. PM takes as one of its
foci the nature of looking and telling and argues that before anthropology
can assert to tell any sort of truth, it must first consider how it, as an
intellectual project, constitutes truth itself.

These are, it would seem to me, important questions and uncomfortable ones
but the need for such questions is amply demonstrated by the reaction even
the word pm elicits in some quarters.

At the same time, pm, by drawing out attention to the way we as
antrhopologists do our business, also draws our attention to the way the
people we study do their business as well. It undermines totalizing
paradigms [Western Samoan political leadership is a classic example of
Polynesian heirarchical systems] but does not replace them with nothing.
Instead, it makes the idea of studying culture a problem in itself, in
order to make the continued critical study of culture possible.

> Postmodern anthropology makes a mockery of the high
> dreams and hard work of many. --Bob Graber

Such as what bob...your complaints about pm...and your, in truth, vague
assertions about Geertz, amount to little more than complaints...let me
take you asking you to give me something serious to take...


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