Re: pomo/mashpee

Matthew S. Tomaso (Tomaso@MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU)
Tue, 10 Oct 1995 13:41:10 -0500

At 08:30 AM 10/10/95 EWT, Thomas Kavanagh, Curator wrote:
>Matt Tomasso mentions clifford's exegisis on the Mashpee case as "marginally
>post modern". My own take on that article is that it is so marginal as to be
>useless even as eyewitness. Clifford does not understand the basic literature
>on the "problem of tribe" and so misunderstands Bill Sturtevant's testimony.

While I basically agree with what Thomas says here. I don't think Clifford
was trying to to get at any kind of academic understanding of the problem
and I think that the structure of the piece (three histories, not just one)
shows that he intentionally misunderstood Sturtevant (who I also happen to
like a lot). In the effects of the court case, Sturtevant was, in the end,
rather inneffective. The main message that I got out of it was that the
court system, a social fact which has more of an effect on most peoples'
lives than the objectified propositions of the ivory tower, doesn't give a
damn about what academics think tribes or ethnicities are, especially where
academics can not agree on the very basis of their discipline (i.e.
culture). The valuable question Clifford raised for me is -
how has anthropology become so completely useless in terms of effectively
operating within its own socio-cultural context (i.e. - outside of the ivory
tower, in the courts, etc.)? And even more, can we regain our ability to
be effective witnesses adn testifiers? and is that desireable (I thinks so)?
Should we be ideologists? Praxis philosophers? Advocates? Of course,
it's been a while since I last read this piece also - so maybe I;ve inflated
its significance.
Matt Tomaso.
Anthropology. University of Texas at Austin.
Phone/Fax 512-453-6256