What's it all about? Could it be persistence?

John L. McCreery (jlm@TANUKI.TWICS.CO.JP)
Thu, 27 Jan 1994 17:31:28 JST

Jim Carrier writes,

>It helps if you think anthropologically about what you are seeing,
>rather than deciding that it is just a bunch of idiots out there
>mouthing to themselves and each other. What else do you think
>anthropological fieldwork is?

Touch! But...is it fieldwork we're doing here?

For the record let me say that I, for one, have immensely enjoyed our
discussions here and plan to continue doing so. My personal fantasy is
finding some congenial colleagues who put me on to things I mightn't
otherwise know about and will challenge my confusions in ways that
move me toward the light. From this perspective I was particularly
pleased, when joining the list last December, I found myself in the
midst of the "postmodernism" debate. It was serious enough to learn
something; and the slash and banter made it a lot of fun, too. If I'm
feeling grumpy, it's only because it petered out just when to me it was
starting to get interesting. On reflection, I wonder if this isn't a small-
scale replication of the history of anthropology? Is no one else
frustrated with a field in which each new generation abandons its
predecessors paradigms before we've even begun to answer the
questions they've posed? So that a smattering of trait distribution
studies give way to a smattering of culture and personality studies or
functionalist ethnographies, followed by a smattering of ethnoscience,
structuralist decodings, hermeneutical musings or (I can't help myself!)
pomponderous deconstructions: all of which wind up seeming more
than a little half-assed? Not because the ideas in question were
necessarily bad, but instead because too few people put in enough plain
hard work in enough different places to see how far we could push
them? Mmmmmnnnn....