Re: Post-modern Pre-modernism

Matthew S. Tomaso (Tomaso@MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU)
Thu, 5 Oct 1995 09:38:43 -0500

I would like to register my general agrement with Warms and Taborsky on all
counts regarding the value of postmodern approaches to writing and
ethnography. Mainly, by the way, I think the contribution has been in
writing. I did not mean to criticize postmodernism because of its roots in
modernism, because I think it's modern roots are what gives it life. I
wanted to express a view that I am begining to think of as useful.
Boas, of course, also expressed a desire for multivocal text and
appreciation of subjection, though neither he nor his students experimented
much in their writing (actually, I guess Kroeber did some pretty
experimental stuff). As far as reflexivism in ethnography goes, that is -
expressing the author's voice personally, clearly, and consistently - I
should note that this is basically what the modernist would call 'being
explicit about your biases, influences and background.' I agree that fewer
modernists (especially in anthropology) have been concerned with that and I
agree that the newish emphasis on reflexion is indeed valuable. It's not
really new, though, and I'm not sure why it's 'post'.

While I'm picking nits, there is one thing about Edwina's post which I found
hard to contextualize - and I find this difficult every time it comes up -
and it comes up over and over again - just who is it who thinks they can
find some sort of unmediated truth? Few self-conscious modernists in
anthropology since Boas fit this category, right?

While I'm on the subject:

What is the purpose of anachronistic language like post and premodern?

I have my own answer. What's your's?

Matt Tomaso.
Anthropology. University of Texas at Austin.
Phone/Fax 512-453-6256