Postmodern Results?

John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Thu, 5 Oct 1995 17:00:35 +0900

Warms writes,

"As to post-modernism's contribution to anthropology, I suggest
that it has been pretty profound. It has made it almost
impossible to write ethnography without in some way addressing
issues of voice, power, and positioning. I think that it is difficult
to find ethnography done in the last 10 years that does not
discuss, at least minimally, who the researcher is, their motives,
their assumptions, and the nature of their experiences. It is true
that this is not wholly new - nor is anything - but it is also true
that it is now considered essential. "

This seems to me quite a reasonable statement. Let us take it as
given. Then, let us ask again for particular instances of greater
understanding paroduced by "addressing issues of voice, power,
and positioning."

As a demonstration that I think the question is answerable, allow
me to mention again the work of Dorinne Kondo. In _Crafting
Selves_, Kondo's concern for precisely these issues leads to
recognition of three distinct genres of talk about Japanese selves:
(1) the ideology taught by the Ethics School, (2) the coherent
narrative by which the master craftsman Ohara describes his life,
and (3) the fragments of gossip by which the female part-timers
at the bakery describe their work experience. Here,
postmodernism has led to fresh observations and insights and a
genuine deepening of the ways in which anthropologists talk
about Japanese selves.

Allow me to note, however, how "scientific" Kondo is. Her results
are not formulated mathematically, nor are they offered in the
form of "laws." Kondo points, however, to clearly described and
empirically repeatable observations, then explains the differences
between them in terms of exogenous social factors. It is possible
given the care with which she presents her observations to check
and, if necessary, challenge them based on more extensive data.
That's as close to "science" as social anthropology usually gets.

John McCreery