New post Postmodernism

From: Making Anthropology Public [donotreply@wordpress.com]
Sent: Saturday, April 14, 2012 2:28 PM
Subject: [New post] Postmodernism

New post on Making Anthropology Public


by TheAnthroGeek

A fellow blogger write a great description of the importance of this piece of art here:

Rene Magritte‘s piece, which translates to, “This is not a pipe.” No, in fact, it is a picture of a pipe. It’s not the actual thing. Magritte’s piece (which was actually done decades before Warhol) illustrates what I believe Warhol was trying to convey with nearly all of his art. Warhol was trying to tell us that we were not looking at whatever was the subject of his pieces, but rather, a representation of them. It’s almost as if Warhol was channeling Magritte through his art, though until I made that realization, I had never heard of a connection between the two artists before.


The Postmodern movement in anthropology started in the 1960s. The main issue Postmodernist anthropologist have with ethnographies are that they are open to bias and subjectivity. They argue that ethnographies are not actually science and shouldn’t be. Postmodernists want to emphasize the opinions of those people being studied and believe that anthropologists should take part in cultural activities to gain a sense of how those cultures operate. Also Postmodernists want ethnographies to be available to everyone, specifically those being studied.

“anthropological writings are themselves interpretations, and second and third ones to boot” -Clifford Geertz

Putting a stop to the scientific method.

Vincent Crapanzano – Hermes Dilemma: The Masking of Subversion in Ethnographic Description

Vincent Crapanzano argues that there are problems with being an ethnographer and writing ethnographies. Problem number one is that the moment you start a study as an ethnographer you have already created boundaries you cannot pass in your ethnography simply because you ARE an outsider. Problem number two is that the ethnographer must make what is foreign to him/her known and yet still keep it foreign. Problem number three the ethnographer must be able to not lie and at times it not divulge the whole truth.

Renato Rosaldo – Grief and a Headhunter

Renato Rosaldo and his wife Michelle spent 30 months studying the Ilongots in Manila, Philippines, whose people numbered 3,500 and covered an area of 90 miles in the northeast uplands. While studying these people he came across a ritual known as headhunting (a ritual in which following the loss of a close family member, a man becomes enraged and cannot find relief from said rage until he has fulfilled the ritual of cutting off a head and discarding it, as to discard his rage), for which he could not really grasp the concept as to why one would partake in such a ritual. When he asked the Ilongots they replied in a brief statement,

“rage born in grief, impels him to kill his fellow human beings.”

It wasn’t until the author himself was faced with the loss of a close loved one that he able to begin understanding the feelings of bereavement that the Ilongots were faced with. Only then was he able to truly understand their ritual of headhunting.

The focus of ethnographies tend to be purely on ritual and completely miss context and texture because too often the observer is trying to be completely unbiased and in return they miss the significance of the cultural event.

“Even when knowledgeable, sensitive, fluent in the language, and able to move easily in an alien culture, good ethnographers still have their limits, and their analysis are incomplete.”

Rosaldo, only through his experience with bereavement, was able to adequately explain the headhunter’s ritual in an understandable manor.

“My use of personal experience serves as a vehicle for making the quality and intensity of the rage in Ilongot grief more readily accessible to readers than certain more detached models of composition.”

Roy D’Andrade – Moral Models in Anthropology

Moral Models speaks on the attacks on the anthropological standpoints through time. By discussing the differing views within the profession it seeks to find the appropriate way to approach the topic of ethnographies. The agenda be

“that anthropology be transformed from a discipline based upon an objective model of the world to a discipline based upon a moral model of the world” where “model” means “a set of cognitive elements used to understand and reason about something” and “Moral” refers to “primary purpose of this model, which is to identify what is good and what is bad and to allocate reward and punishment.”

TheAnthroGeek | April 14, 2012 at 11:28 am | Categories: Post-Modernism | URL: http://wp.me/pb2eT-cr

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One thought on “New post Postmodernism

  1. juliakathleenadair says:

    Certainly, it is impossible to truly ‘know’ another human’s heart and mind but I fail to understand the practical use of stating we can not possibly fully understand or portray this other person’s or group’s worldview so we should not even try to understand them, especially from the item of trying to be impartial and non-judgmental.

    Naturally your own life experiences and views color, temper, and hopefully aid in your abilities to understand another person.

    I like the idea of allowing very open access to the research done by Anthropologists.

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