Re: Back to history

Matthew S. Tomaso (Tomaso@MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU)
Fri, 8 Sep 1995 12:58:17 -0500

life experiences, nicely tied up several interesting themes:

>To my mind, this ties in w/ questions about whether we are "scientists"
>too. What I am is a sort of translator for people who can't or won't
>understand one another directly. .<SNIP>... I see translation as an art,
>wordsmithing on a tightrope between over-exoticizing & over-trivializing,
>to somehow bring out the points that you, or some collaboration between
>you & some representatives of either the subject or the audience,
>consider to be important at this point in time. I do not pretend that my
>choice of topic or the details emphasized is unmotivated by present
>concerns. I do try to be thorough and fair in some sense, though.

1. ' TRANSLATION' I also have often thought of the subject-oriented aspect
of anthropology as a practice of translation (regardless of which
subdiscipline). Perhaps this relates to my experience of blatantly textual
media, such as "ethno"history (I'd rather just call it history, hence the
""s). Sativa considers translation an 'art' and I would agree to the extent
that a certain empathetic (even Weberian) creativity is necessary in its
practice, as well as a great deal of editing, re-emphasis and imaginative
contextualization. However, I am not convinced (based on my experience of
doing science) that this is not identical to the process of scientific
analysis and interpretation. Perhaps, without going all the way back to
Vico and his decidedly silly arguments, somebody can explain why 'science'
can not encompass such endeavors.

2. PRESENTISM and THOROUGHNESS: I am intrigued by the idea that presentism
(ie - concern for that which exists in the present) is somehow counter to
comprehensiveness (last two sentenses of the post quoted above). Certainly,
historicism is not counter to presentism since in order to understand the
historical context of the construction of a concept as well as its
structural changes, for example, we must understand the particular history
surrounding its origination (the same can be said, of course, for
textualized assemblages of concepts and cultural categories such as artifact
collections, myths, etc) to understand where it has been going and why. A
more specific example - In order to understand capitalism in the present, it
is necessary to understand something about the development of modernity (or
vice versa if you please), its arbitrarinesses, etc.

peace, and thanks for the interesting note
Matt Tomaso.
Anthropology. University of Texas at Austin.
Phone/Fax 512-453-6256