Graber's "Truth": A Request from a Skeptic

William Rodman (rodman@MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA)
Sat, 18 Dec 1993 10:35:29 -0500

detail on Anthro-l during the past week, my understanding of the
applicability of his argument to anthropology has been hindered by the
fact that he has cited very few examples of what he takes to be "truths"
derived from ethnographic studies. In fact, reviewing his messages, I
can find only a single example of what he takes to be a truth derived
from ethnographic fieldwork. On Dec. 15th, he informed us that "The
Yanomamo are aggressive." Well, O.K... but one might ask: was a scientific
investigation really necessary to arrive at this conclusion? Was this
even a key "truth" that Chagnon brought back from his fieldwork?
Frankly, I'm suspicious. Graber's response to my request for
specific examples of postmodern anthropologists merely served to convince
me that he is not well read in literature on postmodernism, either within
or outside anthropology. And his "I know 'em when I smell 'em" approach
to identifying postmodern theorists runs against the very principles of
logic and evidence he propounds with such vigor. As I don't believe that
Bob really *does* know a postmodern theorist when he sees (or smells) one,
I find it hard to take on faith that he knows truth when he sees it. So,
Bob, could you give me a few specific examples of the kinds of truths
derived from ethnographic studies that you have in mind? I would be most
interested in examples of what you consider to be "significant" truths,
insights into the human condition or even meaningful conclusions that you
have reached on the basis of studying other cultures or perhaps our own.
While I do not doubt for a moment that you *can* provide me with specific
examples, I want to see the color of your money, the sort of truths you
have in mind.

Bill Rodman

William &/or Margaret Rodman (email:
Dept of Anthropology
McMaster University & York University, respectively
tel. (McMaster) 905-525-9140 ext 23909 (York) 416-736-2100 ext 40142