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Postmodernism and Anthropology

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Introduction

Postmodernism With the end of colonialism and the emergence of a seemingly new world order, there raised a demand that research be useful and relevant, indicating that knowledge for its own sake was insufficient. As a result of this, what emerged was a new focus on 'development' and 'modernization' in the form of postmodernism. In these changing times, anthropology has come into contact with a variety of evolving concepts, including hybridists, montage, fluidity, and deconstruction. The question remains, how these concepts reflect the social, cultural and political changes that are occurring in study of anthropology today. Postmodernism is an intellectual movement that promotes itself as the 'antithesis' of modernism, resulting from the intensification, radicalisation, or transformation of the processes of modernity. (Barfield, 368) The term was introduced in the late 1940's, however, the turn towards, if not the origin of postmodernism in anthropology, can be traced to a single publication: Writing Culture (1986). It consisted of contributions from nine scholars, edited by Clifford and Marcus, and attempted to sketch out the basic premise of the post-modern perspective. (Harris, 153) Anthropologists are forced to contend with the changes created by postmodernism in a variety of ways, beginning with the challenge to anthropological authority. It is felt by many that it is incredibly arrogant for anthropologists to assume that they have both the capacity and mandate to dissect, interpret and describe the lives of people in other cultures, given the power and wealth imbalance of the colonial past, leaving the 'other' unable to speak for him/herself. ...read more.

Middle

academics, with little connection to people's lives. (Barrett, 154) Though this argument has stood the test of time in regards to most theories and theorists, this is not the case with postmodernism. Paralleling the development of postmodernism in anthropological thought has been extensive, revolutionary changes in the empirical world. (Barrett, 154) Postmodernism changed the way in which anthropologists conduct research and compile studies by changing the environments in which they work. It created new expectations and standards which in many ways were radically different from those introduced by traditional and modern anthropologists. Although postmodernism has undeniably had a significant impact on anthropology, the wise spread acceptance and application has been hesitant. In general, it does maintain some fundamental applications that are essential to the development of anthropological thought, but is so different from what has been traditional been taught that it may take awhile for the concepts to be accepted. With the end of colonialism and the emergence of a seemingly new world order, there raised a demand that research be useful and relevant, indicating that knowledge for its own sake was insufficient. As a result of this, what emerged was a new focus on 'development' and 'modernization' in the form of postmodernism. In these changing times, anthropology has come into contact with a variety of evolving concepts, including hybridists, montage, fluidity, and deconstruction. The question remains, how these concepts reflect the social, cultural and political changes that are occurring in study of anthropology today. ...read more.

Conclusion

Traditional ethnologies were quantitatively based, and in many cases for the purpose of research. Now, there is more of a concern towards entertainment and to a certain extent, telling the tale of a people to the reader, as such, the author must engage in the lives of the 'other' as to make it appealing to his reader, and pay the bills. Finally, a great deal of debate in the field of anthropology between those attracted and repelled by the postmodernists perspective, is the feasibility and fluidity of the postmodern perspective and it's influence. The implication is that postmodernism is merely another theoretical perspective dreamed up by jaded (or perhaps mischievous) academics, with little connection to people's lives. (Barrett, 154) Though this argument has stood the test of time in regards to most theories and theorists, this is not the case with postmodernism. Paralleling the development of postmodernism in anthropological thought, has been extensive, revolutionary changes in the empirical world. (Barrett, 154) Postmodernism changed the way in which anthropologists conduct research and compile studies by changing the environments in which they work. It created new expectations and standards which in many ways were radically different from those introduced by traditional and modern anthropologists. Although postmodernism has undeniably had a significant impact on anthropology, the wise spread acceptance and application has been hesitant. In general, it does maintain some fundamental applications that are essential to the development of anthropological thought, but is so different from what has been traditional been taught that it may take awhile for the concepts to be accepted. ...read more.

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