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POSTMODERNISM And ANTHROPOLOGY DR. S. LOURDUNATHAN Head, Dept of Philosophy, AAC Dr. S. Lourdunathan Postmodernism Student Friendly Guide to

 Contents :

Contents Basic Premises Key Works Accomplishments Sources and Bibliography Points of Reaction Principal concepts Criticisms Websites Leading Figures Methodologies Comments & References Dr. S. Lourdunathan

  1. Basic Premises:

1. Basic Premises Postmodernism is highly debated even among postmodernists themselves Postmodernism as a Critique Science The postmodernist critique of science consists of two interrelated arguments: (a) epistemological and (b) ideological. But both are based on subjectivity. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Epistemological and Ideological arguments:

Epistemological and Ideological arguments Human subjectivity hinders any objective discovery of truth. First, in any event the subjectivity of the human subject precludes the possibility of science discovering objective truth. Therefore the modernist’s claim that scientific truth is beyond human subjectivity is questionable . E.g.: Objectivity is a Myth and it is Constructed Secondly, according to the ideological argument, since objectivity is an illusion, modernity and its science subverting those of oppressed groups, females, ethnics, third-world peoples purports to serve the profit interests of the oppressors ( Melford Spiro 1996 ) Dr. S. Lourdunathan

2. What is Modernity?:

2. What is Modernity? Modernity came into being with the renaissance. The term modernity was developed along with the development of Capitalism and Capitalist State. It implies, “the progressive economic and administrative rationalization and differentiation of the social world,” (Sarup 1993). Its world is view is: The Rational is superior and therefore has the right to administer, re-order the non-rational world. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

What is Postmodernity?:

What is Postmodernity? Post + Modernity: Logically in keeping with the idea of (post) this term literally means “after modernity. It refers to the incipient or actual dissolution of those social forms associated with modernity (Sarup 1993). By nature of definition postmodern means in its Latin origin “modo” which means “just now”. Postmodern then literally means “after just know” (Appignanesi and Garratt 1995). Postmodernism are associated with other “posts”: postcolonialism and poststructuralism. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

What is Modernization? :

What is Modernization? This term is often used to refer to the stages of social development which are based upon industrialization. Modernization is a diverse unity of socio-economic changes generated by scientific and technological discoveries and innovations . E.g. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

What is Modernism:

What is Modernism Modernism is the positioning of the culture of modernity epistemic and ideological terms. It is the world view of Modern culture e.g. Positivism, Pragmatism in philosophy It can be characterized by self-consciousness and reflexiveness as against Otherness and Praxis. views the social reality in quantified terms, disrespecting the ‘personal’ integrity. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

What is Postmodernism?:

What is Postmodernism? Postmodernism is the philosophical expression of culture of postmodernity It is the Second Revolution ( Baudrillard 1984 ) It is the warning signal - of the restlessness of modern overloaded individuals, desperately trying to maintain centeredness, rootedness and integrity but ultimately proved to be meaningless. It is critique of the meaning and values of modernity --“Whoever lives by meaning dies by meaning (Ashley 1990). Dr. S. Lourdunathan


Postmodernism… Postmodernism is defined as an eclectic movement, originating in aesthetics, architecture and philosophy (Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology (1996)) Postmodernism espouses a systematic skepticism of grounded theoretical perspective . Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Postmodernism in Anthropology :

Postmodernism in Anthropology Applied to anthropology, this skepticism has focused from the observation of a particular society to the observation of the very observer It is an invitation to become conscious of the Observer, his prejudices, his choices, his interpretations, his subjectivity etc Dr. S. Lourdunathan


Postmodernism… Postmodernity concentrates on the tensions of difference and similarity erupting from the globalization processes such as: circulation via people, cross-cultural interaction, interaction of local and global knowledge. Postmodernism manifests historical perspective of modernism and modernity. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Postmodernists are those…:

Postmodernists are those… Postmodernists are suspicious of authoritative definitions and singular narratives of any trajectory of events. Post-modern attacks of ethnography are based on the belief that there is no true objectivity. For Postmodernists Scientific method is not possible. Essence \ Centrality is a void. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Difference between Modern and Postmodern thoughts :

Difference between Modern and Postmodern thoughts Please Refer this Source: Dr. S. Lourdunathan

What is Postcolonialism?:

What is Postcolonialism? Postcolonialism has been defined as: 1. A description of institutional conditions in formerly colonial societies. 2. An abstract condition of the global condition after the colonial period. 3. A description of discourses informed by psychological and epistemological orientations. Such writings as Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism (1993) discuss discourse analysis and postcolonial theory as tools for rethinking forms of knowledge and the social identities of colonial systems. As a result these tools can be applied to the recognition of modernism and modernity as part of may be called the colonial project of domination. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

What is Postcolonialism?:

What is Postcolonialism? Debates on Postcolonialism are unresolved, It is a critique of western colonialism because colonialism as a discourse is based on the ability of Western to enter, examine another culture, produce knowledge, and use that power against those countries. (These issues of Postcolonialism are relevant to present day historical, anthropological and cultural studies) Dr. S. Lourdunathan

What is Poststructuralism? :

What is Poststructuralism? Poststructuralists are against any abstraction of cultural data characteristic of model building. As it hinders understanding of thought and action. Pierre Bourdieu (1972) a poststructuralist asserts that people and their cultures must not be objectified or standardized with reference to any constructed universal meaning by the observer. The observer needs to become conscious of his subjectivity in his\her observations Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Who is a postmodern? :

Who is a postmodern? “The Postmodern would be that which in the modern invokes the unpresentable in presentation itself, that which refuses the consolation of correct forms, refuses the consensus of taste permitting a common experience of nostalgia for the impossible, and inquires into new presentations--not to take pleasure in them, but to better produce the feeling that there is something unpresentable.” Jean-Francois Lyotard Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Post modern Attack on the “Grand narrative” :

Post modern Attack on the “Grand narrative ” Lyotard (1984) attacks many of the modern age traditions, such as the "Grand" Narrative or what Lyotard termed the Meta(master) narrative. In contrast to the ethnographies written by anthropologists in the first half of the 20th Century, Lyotard is stating that an all encompassing account of a culture cannot be done. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Jean Baudrillard:

Jean Baudrillard Jean Baudrillard is a sociologist who began his work researching the, “Marxist critique of capitalism. During this phase of his work he argues that, “consumer objects constitute a system of signs that differentiate the population,”. To Baudrillard an individual seeks order within a society from objects. After sometime, however, Baudrillard felt that Marxists tenets were not effectively evaluating commodities so he turned to postmodernism. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Jean Baudrillard:

Jean Baudrillard Baudrillard is labeled as a skeptic postmodernist for statements like, “everything has already happened....nothing new can occur, “ or “there is no real world” (Rosenau 1992: 64, 110). Baudrillard breaks down modernity and postmodernity in an effort to explain the world as a set of models. He identifies early modernity as the period between the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, modernity as the period at the start of the Industrial Revolution, and postmodernity as the period of mass media (cinema and photography). Baudrillard states that we live in a world of images but only simulations. Baudrillard implies that many people fail to understand this concept that, “we have now moved into an epoch...where truth is entirely a product of consensus values, and where ‘science’ itself is just the name we attach to certain modes of explanation,” (Norris 1990: 169). Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Jacques Derrida:

Jacques Derrida Jacques Derrida (1930-) Derrida is identified as a poststructuralist and a skeptical postmodernist. He is concerned with the deconstruction of texts and the relationship of meaning between texts. He states, “a text employs its own strategems against it producing a force of dislocation that spreads itself through an entire system.” (Rosenau 1993: 120). Derrida attacks Western philosophy in its understanding of reason. He sees reason as dominated by, “a metaphysics of presence.” Derrida agrees with structuralisms insight, that meaning is not inherent in signs, but he proposes that it is incorrect to infer that anything reasoned can be used as a stable and timeless model (Appignanesi 1995: 77). “He tries to problematize the grounds of reason, truth, and knowledge...he questions the highest point by demanding reasoning for reasoning itself,” (Norris 1990: 199). Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Michel Foucault (1926- 1984) :

Michel Foucault (1926- 1984) Foucault was a French philosopher who attempted to show that basic ideas about how people think of permanent truths of human nature and society change throughout the course of history. While challenging the influences of Marx and Freud, Foucault postulated that everyday practices enabled people to define their identities and systemize knowledge. Foucault’s study of power and its shifting patterns is a fundamental concept of postmodernism. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Michel Foucault…:

Michel Foucault… Foucault is considered a postmodern theorist because his work upsets the conventional understanding of history as a chronology of inevitable facts and replaces it with under layers of suppressed and unconscious knowledge in and throughout history. These under layers are the codes and assumptions of order, the structures of exclusion that legitimate the epistemes , by which societies achieve identities (Appignanesi 1995: 83, ). Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Nancy Scheper-Hughes (1944-):

Nancy Scheper-Hughes (1944-) She is a professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. In her work "Primacy of the Ethical" Scheper -Hughes argues that, "If we cannot begin to think about social institutions and practices in moral or ethical terms, then anthropology strikes me as quite weak and useless." (1995: 410). She feels that ethnographies can be used as tools for critical reflection and human liberation because she feels that "ethics" make culture possible. Since culture is preceded by ethics, therefore ethics cannot be culturally bound as argued by anthropologists in the past. These philosophies\ideas are evident in her other works such as, "Death Without Weeping." Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Nancy Scheper-Hughes:

Nancy Scheper-Hughes The crux of her post-modern perspective is that, "Anthropologists, no less than any other professionals, should be held accountable for how we have used and how we have failed to use anthropology as a critical tool at crucial historical moments. It is the act of "witnessing" that lends our word its moral, at times almost theological, character." (1995: 419) Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Assignment – 1 :

Assignment – 1 What are the Key Works in Postmodernism? Identify and briefly characterize the seminal works (i.e., articles, books, monographs, serials, etc.) of the approach of postmodernism. What are the key concepts in Postmodernism? Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Assignment – 2 Principal Concepts:

Assignment – 2 Principal Concepts What are the principal concepts in Postmodernism? Identify and define the principal concepts which constitute the intellectual building blocks of postmodernism. Discuss any ambiguities or competing definitions . Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Postmodern War against concepts: Realism:

Postmodern War against concepts: Realism Realism “ the platonic doctrine that universals or abstract have being independently of mind” (Gellner 1980: 60). “Realism is a mode of writing that seeks to represent the reality of the whole world or form of life. Realist ethnographies are written to allude to a whole by means of parts or foci of analytical attention which can constantly evoke a social and cultural totality. (Marcus and Fischer 1986, p.23). Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Postmodern War against concepts: Self -Reflexivity:

Postmodern War against concepts: Self -Reflexivity Self-Reflexivity Reflexivity can be defined as “The scientific observers objectification of structure as well as strategy was seen as placing the actors in a framework not of their own making but one produced by the observer, “ (ECA 1996: 1270). Self-Reflexivity leads to a consciousness of the process of knowledge creation (ECA 1996: 995). It emphasizes the point of theoretical and practical questioning changing the ethnographers view of themselves and their work. There is an increased awareness of the collection of data and the limitation of methodological systems. This idea becomes inherent in the postmodernists study of the culture of the anthropologist/ethnographer. Dr. S. Lourdunathan


….Relativism Relativism Gellner writes to the relativistic-functionalist view of thought that goes back to the Enlightment: "The (unresolved) dilemma, which the thought of the Enlightenment faced, was between a relativistic-functionalist view of thought, and the absolutist claims of enlightened Reason. Viewing man as part of nature...requires to see cognitive and evaluative activities as part of nature too, and hence varying from organism to organism and context to context.(This is the relativistic-functionalistic view) (Clifford & Marcus (eds), 1986, p.147). Dr. S. Lourdunathan


….Relativism Influenced by postmodern turn, Anthropological theory of the 1960's may be best understood as the offshoot of relativism. Relativism is critical of interpretative anthropology and insists on fundamental respect among human societies. Contemporary interpretative anthropology is the essence of relativism as a mode of inquiry about communication in and between cultures (Marcus & Fischer, 1986, p.32). Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Postmodern Methodologies:

Postmodern Methodologies In several sources it is indicated that one of the essential elements of Postmodernism is that it is an attack against theory and methodology . In a sense postmodernists claim to relinquish all attempts to create new knowledge in a systematic fashion, but instead an “anti-rules” fashion (Rosenau p.117). Dr. S. Lourdunathan


Methodologies… However, there are two methodologies characteristic of Postmodernism. These methodologies are interdependent in that Interpretation is inherent in Deconstruction. “Post-modern methodology is post-positivist or anti-positivist. As substitutes for the scientific method the postmodern affirmatives look to feelings and personal experience..…(whereas) the skeptical post modernists most of the substitutes for method because they argue we can never really know anything,” (Rosenau 1993, p.117). Dr. S. Lourdunathan

. Methodologies: DECONSTRUCTION :

. Methodologies: DECONSTRUCTION Deconstruction involves demystifying a text to reveal internal arbitrary hierarchies and presuppositions. By examining the margins of a text, the effort of deconstruction examines what it represses, what it does not say, and its incongruities. It does not solely unmask error, but redefines the text by undoing and reversing polar opposites. Deconstruction does not resolve inconsistencies, but rather exposes hierarchies involved for distillation of information. Deconstruction emphasizes negative critical capacity Describe the standards for research design adopted by the school under consideration. Discuss the methods, techniques,and models advanced. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Methodologies: Deconstruction:

Methodologies: Deconstruction Guidelines for Deconstruction Characteristics: Intuitive Interpretation “Postmodern interpretation is introspective and anti-objectivist which is a form of individualized understanding. It is more a vision than data observation. In Anthropology interpretation gravitates toward narrative and centers on listening to and talking with the other, “(Rosenau 1993, p.119). Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Methodologies: Multiple Interpretations :

Methodologies: Multiple Interpretations For postmodernists there are an endless number of interpretations. Foucault argues that everything is interpretation (Dreyfus and Rabinow 1983: 106). “There is no final meaning for any particular sign, no notion of unitary sense of text, no interpretation can be regarded as superior to any other (Latour 1988: 182-3). Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Methodologies: Multiple Interpretations … :

Methodologies: Multiple Interpretations … Anti-positivist or skeptical postmodernists defend the notion that every interpretation is false. “Interpretative anthropology is a covering label for a diverse set of reflections upon the practice of ethnography and the concept of culture,” (Marcus and Fisher 1986: 60) Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Postmodern Accomplishments:

Postmodern Accomplishments Demystification: Perhaps the greatest accomplishments of postmodernism is the focus upon epistemological and ideological motivations in the social sciences. Critical Examination of Ethnographic Explanation: Re-examination of the nature of ethnography leads to a questioning of ethnography itself as a mode of cultural analysis. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Postmodern Accomplishments…:

Postmodern Accomplishments… Postmodernism adamantly insists that anthropologists must consider the role of their own culture in the explanation of cultures being studied. Post modernist theory has led to a heightened sensitivity within anthropology to the collection of data. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Criticisms on Postmodernism :

Criticisms on Postmodernism Roy D’Andrade (1931-) in the article Moral Models in Anthropology critiques postmodernist’s definition of objectivity and subjectivity by looking at the concept behind moral models. He argues that these moral models are purely subjective. That although value free objectivity is impossible, it is the goal of the anthropologist to get as close as possible. He argues that there must be a separation between moral and objective models because, “they are counterproductive in discovering how the world works.” (D’Andrade 1995: 402). Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Criticisms on Postmodernism…:

Criticisms on Postmodernism… From there Roy D’Andrade takes issue with the postmodernist attack of objectivity. He states that objectivity is in no way dehumanizing nor is objectivity impossible. He states, “Science works not because it produces unbiased accounts but because its accounts are objective enough to be proved or disproved no matter what anyone wants to be true.” ( D’Andrade 1995: 404). Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Criticisms on Postmodernism::

Criticisms on Postmodernism : Seven contradictions in postmodernism Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Seven contradictions in postmodernism:

Seven contradictions in postmodernism Rosenau gives her interpretation of seven contradictions in Postmodernism, they are: 1. Anti-theory which is essentially a theoretical stand. 2. Postmodernism stresses the irrational, instruments of reason are freely employed within the perspective. 3. Postmodern prescription to focus on the marginal is a evaluative emphasis. 4. Postmodernist stress intertextuality but often treat text in isolation. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Seven contradictions in postmodernism…:

Seven contradictions in postmodernism… 5. By rejecting modern criteria for assessing theory, Postmodernist cannot argue that there are no valid criteria for judging. 6. Postmodernist criticize the inconsistency of modernism, but refuse to be held in consistency norms themselves. 7. Postmodernist contradict themselves by relinquishing truth claims in their own writing. (Rosenau 1993) Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Criticisms on Postmodernism….:

Criticisms on Postmodernism…. Melford Spiro argues that postmodern anthropologists can not dismiss the scientific method , if anthropology turns away from the scientific method then anthropology will become the study of meanings not the discovering of causes which shape what it is to be human. He further states that “the causal account of culture refers to ecological niches, modes of production, subsistence techniques, and so forth, just as a causal account of mind refers to the firing of neurons, the secretions of hormones, the action of neurotransmitters... .” Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Criticisms on Postmodernism….:

Criticisms on Postmodernism…. Spiro specifically addresses six interrelated propositions from John Searle’s 1993 work, “Rationality and Realism “, in which Searle repudiated the epistemological and metaphysical postulates of the “Western Rationalist Tradition”: They are: 1. Reality exists independently of human representations. If this is true then, contrary to postmodernism, this postulate supports the existence of “mind-independent external reality” which is called “metaphysical realism”. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Criticisms on Postmodernism….:

Criticisms on Postmodernism…. 2. Language communicates meanings but also reference to objects and situations in the world which exist independently of language. Contrary of postmodernism, this postulate supports the concept of language to have communicative and referential functions. 3. Statements are true or false depending on whether the objects and situations to which they refer correspond to a greater or lesser degree of the statements. This “correspondence theory” of truth is to some extent the theory of truth for postmodernists, but this concept is rejected by many postmodernists as “essentialist”. “Essentialist is a sharp contrast from the “coherence or narrative” theory. Criticisms on Postmodernism…. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Criticisms on Postmodernism…:

Criticisms on Postmodernism… 4. Knowledge is objective. This signifies that the truth of knowledge claim is independent of the motive, culture, or gender of the person who makes the claim. Knowledge depends on empirical support. 5. Logic and rationality provide a set of procedures and methods, which contrary to postmodernism, enables a researcher to assess competing knowledge claims through proof, validity, and reason. 6. Objective and intersubjective criteria judge the merit of statements, theories, interpretations, and all accounts. According to this postulate, Creationism is as true as Darwinism... Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Criticisms on Postmodernism…:

Criticisms on Postmodernism… All these postulates are based on the assumption that human sciences cannot be a science; And because of subjectivity it is impossible to discover truth. Spiro agrees with postmodernists that the social sciences require very different techniques for the study of humanity than do the natural sciences, but “while insight and empathy are critical in the study of mind and culture...intellectual responsibility requires objective (scientific methods) in the social sciences. Without objective procedures ethnography is empirically dubious and intellectually irresponsible (Spiro 1996).” Dr. S. Lourdunathan

Criticisms on Postmodernism…:

Criticisms on Postmodernism… “ The Postmodernist genre of ethnography has been criticized for fostering a self-indulgent subjectivity, and for exaggerating the esoteric and unique aspects of a culture at the expense of more prosaic but significant questions.” (ECA 1996: 58) Christopher Norris believes that Lyotard, Foucault, and Baudrillard are too caught up in the idea of the primacy of moral judgments (Norris p.50). Also in reaction to the Post-modern movement Marshall Sahlins addresses several post-modern issues which includes the definition of power. "The current Foucauldian-Gramscian-Nietzschean obsession with power is the lastest incarnation of anthropology's incurable functionalism...Now 'power' is the intellectual black hole into which all kinds of cultural contents get sucked, if before it was social solidarity or material advantage." (Sahlins, 1993, p.15). Dr. S. Lourdunathan

References …:

References … Schematic Differences between Modernism and Postmodernism you may refer (Hassan "The Culture of Postmodernism" Theory, Culture, and Society, V 2 1985, 123-4.) For more information on the foundational theories of Postmodernism, Phenomenology, Existentialism, and Marxism, you may wish to reference such philosophers as Heidegger, Hegel, Marx, and Kant. Refer ‘Premier to Postmodernism’ There are number of Websites available to engage your study on Postmodernism and its methodologies. E.g.. Web site: http://www.connect/net/ron Spend some time in the internet avenue. Dr. S. Lourdunathan

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