Postmodernism and Clifford Geertz

Danny Yee (danny@ORTHANC.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Wed, 15 Dec 1993 18:45:52 +1100

> D. Jorgensen's post proves, as usual, well worth reading;but he is too
> kind. He mentions the pomo author who defends ownership of his own text
> even as he attacks another author for doing likewise. Geertz attacks
> others for characterizing culture metaphorically, then, in the very next
> paragraph, straight-facedly begins producing metaphors of his own. This
> is stupidity or hypocrisy; and since the perpetrators appear clever, it
> probably is the latter. These people may manage to keep their faces
> straight in public, but they are laughing inside. Not at science, which
> they fear, but at readers who take them seriously. Those of you who
> think there is more to postmodernism than adolescent nose-thumbing at
> science and reality, please wake up: your "royal" writers are just court
> jesters, and they are making you their fools. --Bob Graber

Since you are prepared to label Geertz as a postmodernist despite the
fact that he doesn't call himself one (I've just finished reading _Local
Knowledge_, and I detected zero references to postmodernism), you must
have a fairly clear idea of what postmodernism is. Could you please
enlighten the rest of us? Saying that postmodernism is all nonsense
doesn't really help as there are (presumably) lots of things that are
nonsense that *aren't* postmodern. Personally I'm not convinced
there is a meaningul concept behind the word, but enough people (here
and elsewhere) have recommended David Harvey's book that I intend
to read it.

Actually I share your feelings about much that is labelled postmodern (I
have no idea how anyone can take Derrida seriously, for example).
However I don't think Geertz has much in common with Derrida or Foucault
or other such. I have no intention of reading any more of the latter,
but I fully intend to read the rest of Geertz' works. So far I've read
_Agricultural Involution_, _The Religion of Java_ and _Local Knowledge_.
Nothing I read struck me as hypocritical, and while his "interpretive
anthropology" is clearly a narrow conception of anthropology, I read
nothing to suggest that he excludes other approaches to the subject.

Danny Yee (