Into each life, it is said, some rain must fall. Some people have bad horoscopes, others take tips on the stock market. . . . But Indians have been cursed above all other people in history. Indians have anthropologists.
—VINE DELORIA, JR.
It wasn't that long ago, you know, that the average Cheyenne family had five people in it: the mother, the father, two kids, and an anthropologist.
Ethnography and Literature:
A History of Their Convergence
"For the first time in the long and fruitful relationship between literature and science," David Porush writes, "literature actually has the means to meet science on its own territory in a contest concerning which epistemological activity does a better job of telling the truth" (373). The context for this "contest" is "postmodernism." For Porush, "literary postmodernism and scientific postmodernism [are best seen as] two aspects of a single enterprise" (376–7), an "enterprise," moreover, in which currently the balance has tipped in literature's direction. This is because, as Porush continues,
First, postmodernism places the self-conscious activities of the human observer/scientist/teller—and consequently the making of narratives—in the center of things. Second, postmodernism stresses the paradoxical power of structures of information and codes. That is, while the postmodern position states that codes create reality , postmodernism does not trust codes to tell the whole truth. . . . they do a good job of delivering information, but they are less successful at capturing an underlying inexpressible, inchoate, silent realm where meaning resides. (377)
As Rorty and others have cheerfully submitted philosophy to literature, finding it advantageous for one reason or another to abandon the hopes—as I have said above—of a variety of logics and dialectics to the situation of an all-pervasive person- and occasion-governed rhetoric—so, now, Porush will bring science into (what he understands as) literature's empire. I will only a little worry the question of what "truth" can possibly mean in comments like these. For if one really does believe that "codes create reality ," it is difficult to see how "truth" would be an operative term at all. How could such a view establish criteria for determining "which epistemological activity does a better job of telling the truth" (373, my emphasis), or for distinguishing "the whole truth" (377, my emphasis) from what James Clifford calls "partial [truths]—committed and incomplete?" (1986 7) "Truth" for Porush predictably elides to "meaning," but even so, it may be worth noting that, so far as literary aspirations in these regards are concerned, secular literature has only occasionally (and mostly from the latter eighteenth century forward) been interested in incursions into "underlying inexpressible, inchoate, silent realm[s]," in the interest of "capturing"—but I must here remark the belligerently imperial nature of Porush's discourse—the transcodal, as it were—for all that literature's capacity successfully to colonize such "realm[s]"—may currently be more attractive to "scientists" than it has heretofore been.
Porush does not question the premise that "meaning resides" in the "underlying . . . silent realm" he posits, sim-
ply taking it as axiomatic that whatever we may mean by meaning does, in point of fact, live there . But his assumption, which I would characterize as a turn to mystico-religious and away from secular perspectives, is no doubt shared by many today in the context of postmodernism. Porush's reference to "literature and science" as "epistemological activit[ies]" (my emphasis) goes a ways toward explaining why it is that many of the social scientific workers called ethnographers have, of late, become particularly interested in literature. (Literary people have become interested in what the ethnographers do, as well—but less so.)
An obvious starting point for the current convergence is Clifford Geertz's self-interrogation of 1973. Asking, what does the ethnographer do? Geertz answered, he writes. (I assume she does, too.) If it is indeed writing that is the ethnographer's central or preeminent activity, then clearly it is to the practice and product of that activity that we must attend, to its "signature" or individual author-specific nature, as Geertz would further state, and its "discourse" or style-specific nature (1988 9). Thus in 1982 we have the publication of an essay by Dick Cushman and George Marcus called "Ethnographies as Texts." Here, Cushman and Marcus, with all the excitement of Molière's bourgeois gentilhomme discovering that he has been speaking prose all his life, recognized that ethnographies were, indeed, texts, and that therefore "rhetorical analysis is prior to an evaluation of truth claims [the ostensible priority of "science"] because explanation and theory building cannot escape the rhetoric of the language in which they are expressed" (56n).
This implicit acknowledgment of a necessary attention to literary matters came more then fifteen years after Roland
Barthes, Jacques Derrida, and Jacques Lacan, among others, at a Johns Hopkins University conference, had announced to the Americans that just about everything was texte . And it came nine years after Hayden White's Metahistory had denied the possibility of any "truth claims" in the writing of history, so far as these might be evaluated according to more or less agreed-upon standards of verifiability or falsifiability. For White, there simply could be no objectively valid "truth claims" in a discipline like history, or, for that matter, in a discipline like ethnography "not yet reduced (or elevated) to the status of a genuine science [e.g., with agreed upon definitions and quantifiable data, where] . . . truth remains the captive of the linguistic mode in which it seeks to grasp the outline of objects inhabiting its field of perception" (1973 xi). This subordination of logical and empirical operations to the rhetorical, for White, meant that we were constrained to base our acceptance or rejection of any social scientific account whatever on strictly esthetic or moral grounds, for "there are no apodictically certain theoretical grounds on which one can legitimately claim an authority for any one of the [possible modes of historiography] . . . over the others as being more 'realistic"' (1973 xii), that is to say, more scientific. As White puts it in the epigraph (from Roland Barthes) to his most recent book, "Le fait n'a jamais qu'une existence linguistique" : a fact never has anything but linguistic existence (1987 n.p.). It should be noted here that the epistemology of science all these writers use—perhaps unconsciously, or perhaps strictly for polemical purposes—is essentially a Newtonian or "realistic"/positivistic one. The relativistic
paradigms of Einsteinian/Heisenbergian science of the 1920s, the response to relativist science in the cybernetic revolution of the 1940s, and the various ongoing projects of postmodernist science, all go unmentioned.
Fully aware of the radical, or as the poststructural theorists of the period would (cheerfully enough) say, the abysmal implications of White's confinement of history to the "prison house of language"—a full-blown postmodernist move—Cushman and Marcus referred their readers to "sources of literary criticism that might be useful to a perspective on ethnographic writing," among these the work of Barthes, Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Raymond Williams. (But Williams's insights, it seems to me, would not easily be consistent with those of his cited French contemporaries.) And Cushman and Marcus briefly surveyed what they called "Ethnographic Writing Experiments" (58) as these seemed to mark a dissatisfaction with what they called "realist ethnography."
In 1986, Marcus, now with James Clifford, used the etymology of the word ethnography itself for the title of their coedited book of essays titled Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography . Although the tone of the introduction and in some of the contributor's essays tends to be one of dismissing or, at least, of passing beyond Geertz, still, the editors and contributors essentially develop and expand upon the implications of Geertz's determination that what is central to ethnographic practice is ultimately the textualization of interpretations deriving from particular experiences/encounters. In 1987, we have the publication of Anthropology as Cultural Critique by Marcus, once again, and Michael Fischer, which, among its many inadequately theorized assertions and recommendations, turns to the Russian Formalist critics of literature of the early part
of this century, and takes their central concept, ostranenie , translated usually as defamiliarization or, simply, making strange , as authorizing experimentation and innovation in the writing of ethnography—a practice that might or might not (Marcus and Fischer are curiously timid radicals, in these regards, as Marcus and Cushman were earlier) turn ethnographic writing from its traditional status as a "document of the occult" to an "occult document." I have referred once again, here, to the title of Stephen Tyler's essay in Writing Culture , one that defines the postmodern project of ethnography as indeed a shift from the production of documents of the occult to the production of occult documents.
Such documents—they would be conformable to Porush's enthusiasms—would subsume all claims to "scientific" realism or "truth" to an essentially "literary" evocativeness. In Tyler's words, a postmodernist ethnography "describes no knowledge and produces no action," instead transcending these "by evoking what cannot be known discursively or performed perfectly." This "Evocation," for Tyler, "is neither presentation nor representation;" it is "beyond truth and immune to the judgment of performance" (123). Occult document to be sure: for if one is to take Tyler seriously, ethnography's postmodern move beyond science (again, a science that is a straw man, one whose positivistic paradigm has long since been abandoned in theory, if not always in practice) here passes beyond all literature except that which specifically attempts to give voice to the mystico-religious "silent realm" of the inexpressible, and inchoate—which, indeed, in David Porush's account, the postmodernist scientist also values.
Of course, by 1973 and 1982, my points of beginning for this subject, a great many other developments had already
occurred to prepare the current convergence of ethnographic and literary concerns. No account of this subject ought leave out the extraordinary conference held at Indiana University in 1958, which brought together anthropologists like the young Dell Hymes and Conrad Voegelin, literary critics of international reputation like René Wellek, I. A. Richards, and William Wimsatt, and, of course, linguists like Roman Jackobson, and Thomas Sebeok of Indiana's Research Center in Anthropology, Folklore, and Linguistics. The volume of papers from the conference edited by Sebeok and published in 1960 contained the influential "Concluding Statement" by Jakobson titled "Linguistics and Poetics." In it, Jakobson called for collaboration between the linguist and the literary critic, a call not for the estheticization of science, but, to the contrary, for certain scientization of literature. Only two years later, Jakobson would collaborate with an old friend, none other than Claude Lévi-Strauss, on an analysis of Charles Baudelaire's sonnet, "Les Chats." The essay was published in the French journal, L'Homme . In introducing their essay, the authors acknowledged that
It will perhaps be found surprising that a review of anthropology should publish a study devoted to a French poem of the XIXth century. Yet the explanation is simple. A linguist and an ethnologist decided to combine their efforts in an attempt to understand the creation of a Baudelairian sonnet, because they had found themselves independently confronted by complementary problems. (In DeGeorge and DeGeorge 125)
These "problems," of course, seemed amenable to solution by the methods of what was called structuralism, methods that, at least for a time, appeared useful equally to linguists,
literary critics, and ethnologists. Lévi-Strauss's use of these methods for the study of myth, and, as well, his apparent willingness to intermix such seemingly disparate genres as autobiography and ethnography in texts like Tristes Tropiques , appealed for obvious enough reasons to literary critics. One reason for the appeal of linguistic and ethnographic structuralism, such as it was, to American literary critics was a certain fatigue with New Critical textual explication, the dominant critical paradigm from the latter twenties into the fifties.
There is no doubt that the New Criticism, whatever else it did or didn't do, taught generations of American students of literature to read carefully, and to find citable bases in the language of a poem (more rarely of a story or novel) for what E. D. Hirsch, by 1960, was calling its "meaning." It did little, however, to help the critic determine the "significance"—I again cite Hirsch, who attributes his understanding of the distinction between "meaning" and "significance" to Husserl—of that meaning. For help in that regard, prior to the appearance of structuralism (which, indeed, offered no help at all in these regards), the alternatives to New Critical close reading were Northrop Frye's version of myth criticism, announced in The Anatomy of Criticism , in 1957, and a variety of contextualist, historicist approaches, either Leavisite or more homegrown. (I am thinking of the work of Roy Harvey Pearce and a number of Americanists, particularly.) The first of these seemed to lead directly to religion, the second to sociology, or even—dreaded fate—to politics . (This is, recall, the late fifties and
earlier sixties.) No wonder, then, that imported linguistic and anthropological structuralism might be appealing.
So appealing that Susan Sontag, in 1966, could call her essay examining Lévi-Strauss's early work, "The Anthropologist as Hero." What Sontag did not like about Lévi-Strauss's work, interestingly enough, was its refusal to relinquish claims to some kind of scientific status—a status Frye's own system most certainly courted. Throughout the fifties and sixties, I would suggest, there was an ambivalence—reactions, that is, of attraction and repulsion—on the part of literary people to science, but a clearly growing attraction to literature (with a concomitant rejection of science) on the part of social scientists.
Thus, for the student of literature in the sixties there were a number of anthropologist heroes—or at least ethnographers who worked in ways that (themselves influenced by literary study) appeared congenial to literary critics. I will mention only Victor Turner's dramatistic and performative studies of ritual, and Clifford Geertz's exposition, essay by essay, of an interpretive ethnography, anthropology as "thick description," in the phrase Geertz took from the philosopher Gilbert Ryle. By 1973, in "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture," Geertz could explicitly announce, "The concept of culture I espouse . . . is essentially a semiotic one . . . and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning. It is explication I am after" (5). It is one of the ironies of anthropology's recent history in America, I suppose, that Geertz should specifically criticize, for his espousal of an "ethnoscience, componential analysis, or cognitive anthropology" (1973 11) still "in search of law," none other than
Stephen Tyler, whose attraction to a transcendent and evocative ethnography has all the passion of a recent conversion.
Of course Tyler, in his earlier enthusiasm for truth and law in anthropology, along with a number of other ethnoscientists or philosophers of the social sciences such as May Brodbeck, was only carrying forward a call to make anthropology a bona fide science that was little more than a half-century old. And as these people did so, in the fifties, they encountered what I have remarked in Geertz, a strong reaction against claims to science and law in anthropology and a turn to semiotics, hermeneutics, and interpretation. This, to repeat, occurred at exactly the moment when literary people themselves became fascinated by semiotics, hermeneutics, and interpretation, most particularly of a structuralist sort—which, paradoxically enough, they partly valued for the scientific authority or at least the scientific aura structuralist methods appeared to bestow on literary studies. To employ Raymond Williams's useful terms once more, we have a curious mix of "residual," "emergent," and "dominant" values, where "science," as I believe, is the dominant disciplinary value of the period, and where (vaguely defined) esthetic values—"thickness" in description serving to indicate what once (as we shall see just below) had been called "atmosphere," and which would in our time be called evocativeness—have both a residual and emergent function. This would help explain the appeal of the Canadian Frye and the Frenchman Lévi-Strauss to Americans, inasmuch as both of them invoke scientific categories (for literary criticism and ethnographic explanation) while privileging the study of myth. It would help explain as well the
attraction to semiotics on the part of literary people, for whom this study appears to be far more scientific in its methodology than anything they are used to, while for social scientists, it seems to open the door to interpretive/explicative rather than explanatory results.
I will only add that these disciplinary developments occur in the context of independence movements in the colonized worlds of Africa and Southeast Asia, movements which present the most direct sorts of challenges to "scientific" models of knower and known as epistemological justification for the maintenance of differential power relations, and in the context of American post-Sputnik anxiety, spurring aggressive hard-scientism in the most traditional mode. More needs to be said about both of these, apparently contradictory, developments. Nonetheless, I will, with all necessary, if inadequate, apologies, turn to a more distant history—and an essentially cultural rather than materiopolitical history.
Inasmuch as the term literature, from Latin, littera , letter, for years in the West referred to whatever information a given culture wished to preserve and transmit by the technology of writing, it might be said that ethno-graph -y in its earliest manifestations was inevitably a part of literature. Thus, there was a time when all who were literate, who knew their letters, knew also the Latin of Caesar's account of the tripartite nature of Gaul and his descriptions of the Gauls themselves. It seems reasonable to say that in one form or another, ethnography most certainly existed in the classical period. Indeed, Tacitus's De Germania , a study of Teuton people appearing in the year 98 of the Common Era was, as one writer has called it, a political ethnography, for
Tacitus was concerned about the threat that restlessness among the Germans might pose to the Empire's borders. If one wished to show anthropology's relation—perhaps an inevitable, most certainly a very longstanding relation—to imperialism, one could easily begin with Tacitus. (But Tacitus, like Thucydides, was also in some measure offering a criticism of the direction his own society was taking; so if his name may signal an early instance of imperial anthropology it may also signal an early instance of "anthropology as cultural critique.")
Although all writing, almost until the latter eighteenth century, was, as I have said, nominally literature, there did nonetheless exist a distinction between what was then called poetry—or poesie —the term for imaginative and affective writing (literature) and the discourses, most particularly, of history and philosophy. That epistemological distinctions among these types of writing were, or ought to be, clear and well-defined does not seem to have been nearly so important to ancient thought as it was to become later. In Foucault's useful terms, it was not so much whether statements were true ("scientific"), vrai , but whether they were dans le vrai , whether they met the appropriate conditions, epistemologically but also socially—"discursively"—to be taken seriously as making "truth claims." The operative distinction was not between truth (e.g., real, scientific, actual, empirically verifiable, etc.) and fiction (made up, invented, wished, dreamed, imagined, etc.) but, rather, between truth and error; rudely, to mix Foucault with Lévi-Strauss, between what was thinkable or "good to think" as opposed to impensable . At least until the late Renaissance, the blurring of genres that Geertz has remarked upon as particularly a development of our time was more nearly the rule than the exception.
Thus the "voyage narratives" of the sixteenth century recounting European explorations of the New World, are an extraordinary mix of "ethnography" and "literature," of what probably appears to the modern reader as careful observation and description—the truth—on the one hand, and of the wildest assertions, which, from our present perspective, couldn't possibly be true. Yet what strikes us as inevitably "poetical" or fantastic imaginings in these texts—encounters with people ten feet tall, with four arms, or breathing fire—are also offered on the "ethnographic authority," in James Clifford's justly celebrated phrase, of the author's own experience, an experience which, for all our conviction that it "couldn't really have been that way," by conforming to the epistemic assumptions of its age, may perfectly well present "truth claims." (Hence the logic of the Church's rejection of Galileo's "discovery" of sun spots, and the refusal to accept an invitation to look through the glass and "see for oneself" as in any way relevant to the subject at hand.) There were enough of these narratives by the latter sixteenth century to spur the Reverend Richard Hakluyt—for purposes, it should be noted, that were not strictly those of a disinterested curiosity—to begin editing and collating them, a task taken up, after Hakluyt's death, by the Reverend Samuel Purchas, who published his massive Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas His Pilgrimes in 1625. As Mary Louise Pratt has recently shown (1986), the mix of personal "narration" and cultural "description" established in these narratives continues to shape the presentational strategies of ethnographies from early in the twentieth century up to the present, for all that they operate with different epistemic premises than their predecessors;
for all that, at least until the current postmodern reaction, they might claim to see things "as they really were," scientifically, realistically, and so on.
Responses to the seventeenth-century voyage narratives prompted what may be the earliest, or at least they are the best known, enunciations of what we would now call positions of cultural relativism and cultural absolutism or evolutionism, and both are by authors firmly established as "literary." I refer, first, to Michel de Montaigne, whose celebrated essay on the cannibals rhetorically asks how a people who punish by use of the rack and execute by drawing and quartering (this latter practice seized upon by Foucault for the beginning of his Discipline and Punish ) can denounce as "primitive" those who merely eat their slain enemies. And I refer to William Shakespeare, whose play The Tempest , known to have been performed in 1611, anagrammatizes the term cannibal for the character of Caliban, who is presented as man in the state of nature, a filthy, lustful brute, far inferior to the cultivated human products of civilization.
Perhaps the first self-conscious attempts to separate literature and ethnography, rigorously to distinguish between art and science, the imagined and the real, fact and fiction occur in the eighteenth century. Broadly speaking, these define science in the ways we continue to know it best, in terms of its commitment to sequential ratiocinative steps, quantitative and methodological documentation, and to procedures that are at least theoretically replicable. This is to say that although the observer's unique personal experience could convey upon her account a certain ontological
authority—the être là , or simple fact of her "being there"—its scientific (epistemological) authority would depend precisely upon the absence of its uniqueness; had others been there, they would have seen and concluded the same. To offer a single, well-known American example, I will mention Thomas Jefferson's celebrated reply, in his notes on the State of Virginia , published in the latter 1780s, to the Comte de Buffon, concerning the "productions mineral, vegetable, and animal" of the New World. In this text, Jefferson refuses to speak of anything he has not seen himself—and he invites other interested parties to come and see for themselves. It is not the richness of his deductive powers that is to be celebrated but, as it were, the richness of the material itself—material, he is proud to imply, that is peculiar to America.
This is hardly an adequate account of Jefferson as naturalist-scientist. I mean my few words to indicate the way in which, from Jefferson forward, America will stand as one of the world's foremost laboratories for anthropological science, a science Americans proceed to establish upon the basis of detailed first-hand study of the Indian. Through the nineteenth century, in the researches of Cadwallader Colden, and, particularly, of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, a massive amount of information (some of it accurate, some of it not) on the languages and cultures of Native peoples began to be assembled, culminating, from the middle of the nineteenth century forward, in the work of Lewis Henry Morgan.
Morgan was an amateur or freelancer, a retired lawyer inspired by enthusiasm and a growing curiosity; he was not, that is, like the older voyager, or missionary, or entrepreneurial writer, an ethnographer only as an accident of his employment by a church or government, a land sale or fur-
trading company. Morgan might, therefore, claim for his work the sort of disinterestedness that was to become one of the cornerstones of the new commitment to objectivity and science in American ethnography toward the end of the nineteenth century. Thus, those like James Mooney who did work for interested parties—government agencies or the great museums—still could demonstrate their commitment to science by the suppression of subjective commentary of an ethical or esthetic nature, by the assemblage of massive quantities of detail observed firsthand, and by a tone or rhetorical stance in their published texts that confirmed the distance between themselves and the subjects of their researches. It seems to me that it is a failure or a refusal to respect most of these criteria that still makes Frank Hamilton Cushing, for example, a rather enigmatic figure in the history of American ethnography. (David Murray's Forked Tongues has much to say about this—as it does about translation, autobiography, and other matters I discuss. Murray's fine book appeared while this one was in press so that, except for this parenthesis, I do not make reference to it.)
A fuller account of these matters than I can give here is to be found in such volumes as the 1974 Proceedings of the American Ethnological Society edited by John Murra and called American Anthropology: The Early Years ; in the studies of Regna Darnell; in Robert Bieder's Science Encounters the Indian ; and in George Stocking's masterful Victorian Anthropology .  What cannot be left out, of course, is the advent of Franz Boas, whose name—probably more accurately than not (for all that I interrogate the nature of
Boas's contribution to anthropology as a science in the chapter that follows)—is synonymous with the scientization of anthropology, according to a largely positivistic model intended to parallel if not quite mirror the meaning of science in pre-Einsteinian physics. Of course, in the years of Boas's mature production, Einsteinian relativism (if not Heisenbergian uncertainty) was very much part of the intellectual climate, and cultural relativism was from the first a cornerstone of the Boasian program. But I see not so much as a hint of epistemological relativism among the Boasians. This is yet another subject I can only glance at here. Suffice it to say that Boas's privileging of fieldwork over library work; his insistence upon some fair degree of competence in the language of his or her "people" on the part of the ethnographer; his rejection of the broadly deductive generalizations indulged in by the evolutionist practitioners of the so-called "comparative method," in favor of an inductive, particularist, and rigorously relativist method: all of these were linked to attaching to ethnographic work the authority of the hard sciences.
The scientization of ethnography under Boas paralleled its professionalization as this was directly linked to its academicization, its institutionalization, in the University. Boas, to be sure, began his career with the Berlin museum and had associations in this country with the Field and the American museums, but his enormous influence is directly associated with his almost half-century-long tenure (1896–1942) at Columbia University—during which time the government ethologists (particularly in the Bureau of American Ethnology under Major John Wesley Powell) and the museum ethnologists declined in influence. Only Clark Wissler, so far as I know, was both a Boasian and a "museum
man." By 1926, as George Stocking has noted, every academic department of anthropology in the United States was headed by one of Boas's students.
Now, for all that was gained by the linkage of anthropological professionalism and anthropological academism in the name, to be sure, of anthropological science, there was one important loss, the consideration of which will bring us back to literature. I mean to point to the fact that the professionalization and academicization of anthropology were achieved at some cost to what I will simply call its public significance and utility. Most of the collections made by the museum anthropologists were, after all, available for public viewing; the ethnographic data gathered by the anthropologists attached to the government bureaus were available for use in making public policy. And, with whatever qualifications we might want to add, Americans did actually go to the museums, did actually feel the government was in some substantial measure "theirs." But to whom did the data gathered by the Columbia University anthropology department belong? Of what use was it to anyone but the academic anthropologist and his or her students, a number of whom would themselves perhaps become anthropologists, and study and teach, turn and turn again. It is exactly the success of anthropological science in achieving the status of disinterested professionalism that threatens to render it trivial or irrelevant. The issue to be addressed here is not epistemological so much as sociopolitical. Boasian social scientists, as I shall have further occasion to explain in the following essay, are secure, or, at the least, highly optimistic
about the anthropologist's ability to arrive at the scientific truth; what they decently wonder about is the social uses of such truth.
Two sorts of response to the problem of academic anthropology and social significance seem to have developed. One was given in Boas's own citizenly practice. For although Boas pretty thoroughly avoided the statement of theoretical implications or the suggestion of practical applications in the vast majority of his published work, some of that work vigorously deployed scientific findings to combat, for example, racism and anti-Semitism in American society. Boas believed in the public role of the academic, professional scientist; he wrote letters to editors, and spoke out on behalf of his beliefs and principles, never as a scientist—for Boas took for granted, in a way I think we cannot any longer, the value-free nature of science—but always as a citizen informed by science. Academic anthropology, then, could show the way toward a more clear-sighted society, founded upon the best modern scientific information rather than upon ancient prejudice. The career of Margaret Mead, Boas's student, may, in the future, remain most interesting to us precisely as developing this line of response; that is to say, whatever the academic-scientific status of Mead's data from Samoa, the social force of her prescriptions ostensibly based upon that data was substantial.
Another sort of response to the separation of academic science from public significance came in the attempt on the part of some anthropologists to engage the interest of an audience not strictly professional by attempting literary forms of writing, couching some of their observations about Native people and cultures in autobiographies elicited from them, and, most particularly, in fictional narratives about those cultures and people. Whatever the philosophical in-
fluences on Boas's thought and on that of his students, I believe that the view of literature they had would have inclined them toward the traditional capacity of literature to provoke the reader to moral imagination, and thence to moral action. They would not, if I am at all correct, have seen the function of literature as merely to entertain or amuse, not even to put one transcendentally in touch with the "beautiful." If this is so, then the esthetic of the Boasian milieu would have been as old-fashioned as its epistemology, for—as I shall have further occasion to note—it would be based upon romantic-realistic perspectives at just the moment when these were being abandoned for modernist perspectives. To say this, I hope it is clear, is not to say that either the esthetic or the epistemology was hopelessly mistaken. Fuller biographical work on Boas, Radin, and Kroeber is necessary to determine whether the speculative intuitions I have offered are more accurate than not.
As early as 1913, Paul Radin, of the first generation of Boas's students, had published "The Personal Reminiscences of a Winnebago Indian"; this was followed by "The Autobiography of a Winnebago Indian" in 1920. In the introduction to that text, Radin noted that "For a long time most ethnologists have realized that the lack of 'atmosphere' in their descriptions is a very serious and fundamental defect," a defect, according to Radin, that "could only be properly remedied by having a native himself give an account of his particular culture" (1920 1)—which account, to be sure, would be edited and actually published by the anthropologist. But Radin had published both "The Personal Reminiscences" and "The Autobiography" in scholarly journals, not the best way to reach a broad audience. Accordingly, he revised and expanded the 1920 "Autobiography," composed an introduction which began with the acknowledgment that
"the common-sense man, the man in the street, has always been good-naturedly skeptical of the academically trained scholar" (xv), and published it as Crashing Thunder: The Autobiography of an American Indian in 1926 with the commercial publisher D. Appleton and Company of New York. Although Boas himself, late in his life, was to deny the scientific usefulness of Indian autobiographies, noting them as good only for documenting "the perversion of truth by memory" (1943 335), a great many anthropological life histories continued to be recorded.
The other important linkage of ethnography and literature I want to mention comes through what I will call ethnographic fiction, a literary genre with ostensibly wider public appeal than the (developing) genres of professional ethnography. Here the example of Adolph Bandelier's novel The Delight Makers , published in 1890, serves as an important precursor. In his preface, Bandelier wrote that he
was prompted to perform the work by a conviction that however scientific works may tell the truth about the Indian, they exercise always a limited influence upon the general public; and to that public, in our country as well as abroad, the Indian has remained as good as unknown. By clothing sober facts in the garb of romance I have hoped to make the "Truth about the Pueblo Indians" more accessible to the public in general. (xxi)
We may compare this statement to that of Boas's student Elsie Clews Parsons, in her preface to a volume she edited in 1922 called American Indian Life . In that book, Parsons offered no less than twenty-seven short fictional pieces by professional anthropologists focused on the cultures about which they had formerly published scientific papers. The final text is by Boas himself, his unique attempt, so far as I am aware, at writing fiction. Parsons asks:
Between these forbidding monographs [by the scientific anthropologists] and the legends of James Fenimore Cooper, what is there to read for a girl . . . or, in fact, for anyone who just wants to know more about Indians? (1)
It was "From these considerations," Parsons explains, that "this book was conceived." Like Bandelier before her, Parsons, like Boas's students generally, firmly adhered to a rigorous separation of literary "legends" from ethnographic "science," while being attracted to the possibility that science might use the novel's (apparently predictable and foreknown!) form and manner for its own purposes, purposes which might, indeed, be "just . . . to know more," for all that I would again propose that knowing more implies doing better. The important thing, as Alfred Kroeber, the first to take a Ph.D. in anthropology with Boas at Columbia, remarked in his introduction to Parsons's book, is to adopt "The method of . . . the historical novel, with emphasis on the history rather than the romance" (Parsons 13). In that introduction, Kroeber went on to praise Bandelier's Delight Makers —for all that Bandelier himself referred to his book not as a "historical novel" but as a romance.
What may be interesting to note from the point of view of literary history is that the anthropologists in their ele-
vation of the novel over the "romance" or "legend" as the literary genre most congenial to—although still quite clearly distinguishable from—the realism of their science, are taking positions in a battle that long ago had been won. From somewhere around the time of Henry James's brief study called Hawthorne , in 1879, the realistic novel in this country began to take on an authority vastly superior to the romance in American literature. Bandelier's accommodation of his text to the romance is, in this regard, similarly belated; by 1890, romance means Cooper and Longfellow, if not necessarily Hawthorne, as they represent a tradition thoroughly out of fashion in an age ready to admire William Dean Howells, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. And by 1922, when Kroeber indicates his own approbation of the novel over the romance in his introduction to Parsons's book, even the realistic novel is in eclipse; 1922 is the year James Joyce's Ulysses , that masterpiece of a modernism bent on subverting the pretensions of realist fiction, was published. But it is also the year Bronislaw Malinowski's Argonauts of the Western Pacific was published, a text which has been said to instantiate a "modernist" anthropology, which, here, means a "scientific" anthropology, in line with a largely abandoned realism in the novel (not to say a realist/positivist science that atomic physics with its relativist findings also eclipses). To complicate matters further, we may note that 1922 is also the year T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" was published. Eliot's poem owed much to the work of Sir James Frazer—whose particular sort of "armchair anthropology" Malinowskian anthropology supposedly superseded.
This "out-of-phaseness," as the anthropologist Edwin Ardener has called it, between literature and ethnography,
even as literature and ethnography importantly influenced one another all through the twentieth century, currently continues in Marcus and Fischer's turn to the Russian Formalists and to their encouragement of what they (Marcus and Fischer) call modernist experimentation in contemporary ethnographic writing. To call for modernism today is quite as belated as Bandelier's turn to the literary romance or Kroeber's to the historical novel, inasmuch as the experiments of modernism have themselves, for many, become old hat, monumentalized and stultified, so that the genuinely new appears to take form in a postmodernism that is itself already more than two decades old—a postmodernism that may be the continuator of a modernism whose revolutionary potential has been more nearly occluded than ended, for all that most of the present-day ethnographers—Tyler, and others—interested in it have embraced only the postmodern break with modernism (see chapter 2).
Not only Parsons, but Ruth Underhill and Ella Cara Deloria, among anthropologists in the Boasian milieu, wrote ethnographic novels, always marking these off, as Boas insisted they could and should be marked, from their truly "scientific" work. Thus in 1939, Underhill published a scientifically proper Papago ethnography, the Social Organization of Papago Indians , and followed it, in 1940, with a novel about these people, Hawk Over Whirlpools . Deloria, a Dakota from the Yankton Reservation, who had worked with Boas in 1915 and 1928, after a great many years devoted to the scientific study of Dakota language and culture, sometime in the 1940s set to work on the novel that would be called Waterlily (1988). According to Raymond DeMallie, in his afterword to the book, it was Boas and Ruth Benedict who suggested she attempt the work. Other of Boas's students, in particular Ruth Benedict and Edward Sapir, also had a strong penchant for literary work, both of
them writing and exchanging poetry (some of which Benedict published under the name of Anne Singleton). Sapir's book of poems, Dreams and Gibes , appeared in 1917.
All of those I have named, whatever their attraction to literary pursuits, did keep their art distinct from their scientific pursuits, pursuits which, for the most part, defined their working lives. Nor is it clear whether—or how much—the injunction to keep literature and ethnography, art and science apart caused these second-generation Boasians pain. This is not the case with the last of Boas's students I must mention here, Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston studied with Boas and with Benedict at Barnard College, from which she graduated in 1928. Although she admired "Papa Franz," whom she referred to as the greatest anthropologist alive, Hurston's major was English, not anthropology; and her major achievement came in the writing of literature, not ethnography. Thus a text like Hurston's novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God , for all that it is rich in ethnographic detail, could not fairly be categorized strictly as ethnographic fiction—an appropriate enough appellative for The Delight Makers, Hawk Over Whirlpools , or Waterlily , all of which, to be sure, are books I admire. Unlike these latter, Hurston's novel is more nearly modernist in its esthetic—its commitment to verbal and linguistic richness and ingenuity, and a "poetics" very different from realist poetics or prosaics—and in its intentionality, at least partly animated by the concern of her friends associated with the Harlem Renaissance, to show that the "negro" may be the subject of "high" literary culture.
To call Their Eyes Were Watching God a "masterpiece" rather than a "mere" example of "ethnographic fiction" would require an excursus on evaluative standards that would take us too far afield just here. Perhaps it may be all right, if not quite adequate, to say that the range of its
possible interest to the reader—its portrait of Florida's rural black culture, its version of a highly elaborated vernacular speech with a determinedly poetic narrative style privileging the spoken over the written, and, of course, its questioning of accepted gender relations—qualify it for comparison to the most interesting American novels, and make a strong claim for its inclusion in the canon of American literature.
Even in the ethnography she published, Hurston regularly threatened to collapse what was still seen as the hard-won distinction between science and art. Her Mules and Men , a study of southern black folklore published in 1935, was legitimated as "science" thanks to a single-page preface provided by Boas—after he had authenticated all the facts. Hurston's Tell My Horse , of 1938, an account of visits to Jamaica and Haiti (where she wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God ), received no such legitimation—indeed, its manner of proceeding did not permit that—and as a result, as late as 1977, Robert Hemenway, Hurston's first (and, to date, her only) biographer could call Tell My Horse Hurston's poorest book. It is exactly this book, however, that seems to me likely to be of special interest to ethnographic and literary theorists. Hurston's persistent discomfort with the stance of detached, scientific, professionally disinterested observation, a stance upon which Boas insisted, now may be seen as contributing to a redefinition of ethnography, one that places it more comfortably in our present moment of ethnographic and literary convergence than in its actual historical moment.
The most recent convergence of ethnographic and literary concerns, to return to the point from which I began, does
indeed take place within the context of postmodernism. Scientific claims to truth are threatened not only by rhetoric and ideology but by indeterminacy and interconnectedness, these latter two terms reminding us of David Porush's description of the milieu of postmodern science. The Heisenberg indeterminacy principle, it would seem, operates not only at the subatomic levels of physics, but everywhere, with the consequence that even as would-be disinterested observers we inevitably enter into relation with and have effect upon whatever it is that we observe. And now, beyond Heisenberg, there is Bell's Interconnectedness Theorem implying that—I know this only in Porush's account—local operations have nonlocal effects: everything we do and say, perhaps everything we think, alters the universe, an exhilarating or a frightening prospect.
The postmodern perception of a world organized in terms of signal/noise or figure/ground relations that are constantly shifting doesn't only blur genres, as Geertz might have it; rather, as I have several times noted, it blurs epistemological distinctions, asserting a kind of cognitive egalitarianism on the part of literature, ethnography, and even—at least at the highest theoretical level—the physical sciences. This particular sort of equivalence between truth and beauty is not at all of the sort apparently sanctioned by Keats's great lines, "'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,'—that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." For Keats, as indeed for Shelley in his Defence of Poetry , the identity of truth and beauty resided not in an equivalence
in the type of knowledge/experience each produced, but in a potential equivalence of function ; both truth and beauty were, each in its own way, conducive to the achievement of that more capaciously informed consciousness which—so it was hoped—might result in more just and generous living.
David Porush observes that the postmodern privileging of literary discourse comes as the result of literature's traditional ability to express "a vision of the beauty not only of order but of disorder" (388), something that is more difficult for the physical or social scientist. Porush further notes as "cybernetic laws" that humans 1) find it compulsory to interpret or disambiguate uncertainty—uncertainty I take as synonymous with a perception of disorder—and that 2) one man's noise is another man's signal, as, indeed, one person's figure is another's ground (396). But this latter observation makes problematic Porush's earlier claim: if anyone's figure may be ground for anyone else, how, then, to establish a distinction between "order" and "disorder" stable enough to support "a vision" of one or the other? How to determine that that vision does indeed express the "beauty" of order or disorder, inasmuch as "beauty" would have to be defined differentially in contradistinction to something that could be called ugliness, or some such? In the same way, Porush's overexcited suggestion that "any exchange of information creates a narrative" (379) seems to me also mistaken. For the term "narrative," like "beauty," or "order" represents a determination as to what counts as signal or figure; narrative, beauty, and order are sociolinguistic constructs, which is to say that only those exchanges of information we take as fulfilling the conditions we posit for narrativity can be taken to constitute a narrative.
I say all this by way of instantiating the importance of human agency. This is not, as I have had occasion to remark
earlier, to reinvoke humanistic claims to autonomous individualism or a fully self-present subjectivity. Rather, it is to centralize the observation that inasmuch as figure and ground, signal and noise may, indeed, be constantly shifting; inasmuch as no "apodictically certain grounds exist" (H. White 1973 xii) for our determinations as to which is which, that each of us must bear the responsibility at any given moment for our choices in these matters. (The influence of an older and currently largely disregarded existentialism should be obvious here.) In the same way, although it is no longer possible to believe that we can literally represent "reality," "history," or "truth," it still makes a difference whether one chooses or refuses to take it as axiomatic that there is, nonetheless, an aprioristic material reality, of whose history we can more or less speak, in a manner positing truth as a value.
I will here only repeat what I have said earlier, with reference, however, to anthropological theorists particularly. I believe, that is, with the anthropologist Jacques Macquet, that if we cannot be objective, we can still be scientific in ways that allow that word coherent meaningfulness—by specifying the methods and procedures we have followed, by indicating the empirical as well as logical components of our arguments, and so on. I believe with Marvin Harris in "the struggle for a science of culture," whether that science is defined solely in Harris's terms or not. No one can doubt that such a science will be more modest and very different from what science has heretofore been in the West—but that strikes me as a good thing. I am reluctantly convinced, mostly by the work of Hayden White, that at
the highest levels of interpretation there are no secure epistemological grounds for preferring one account of sociocultural phenomena as more "realistic," hence more nearly "true" or "scientific," than another. For White, therefore, our preferences have the authority only of choices, truth becoming now not a matter of proof but of value, of our own sense of the beautiful or the good. While this may be the case at some ultimate theoretical horizon of these matters, where rhetoric rules with totalized effectivity, and the linguistic circle has no break in its circumference, I return, again and again, to Raymond Williams's sense of the way in which the very nature of cultural hegemony is such that it cannot help but permit breaks, blanks, holes, areas weakly (or un-) colonized, with room, thus, for "residual" and "emergent" elements to have a certain play. I suggest, at least by way of analogy, that a similar situation prevails in the epistemological realm, with the result that there may indeed be a good deal of practically occupiable space—short of the absolute theoretical horizon of cognitive and esthetic equivalences—space in which probabilistic and tentative statements that offer themselves as more nearly true than others, if not absolutely true, might yet be made effectively.
Curiously, even Porush admits that at a practical, day-to-
day level, scientists operate and, indeed, achieve results in spite of the constraints imposed by the highest theoretical findings about an increasingly slippery and "undecidable" physical universe. In the same way, authors and readers achieve the communication of more or less "decidable" meanings, for all the poststructuralist insistence on the infinite semantic possibilities of the signifier's free play. In all these instances we have—and Anthony Wilden's work of twenty years ago is absolutely essential to an understanding of this matter—an unfortunate but typical Western capitalist insistence on digitalizing what is in fact a matter of the analog.
Let me return, by way of closing, to what I only passingly mentioned at the outset, that it is among the ethnographers more than among the literary people that some of these issues are most hotly being debated. No doubt this is because it matters immediately and materially to ethnographic work whether one believes that—I return to the quotation from David Porush—"meaning resides" in some "underlying [realm of] the inexpressible, inchoate, [and] silent" (377), and wishes to evoke that meaning in one's ethnographic writing; or whether one believes, however tentatively—and here I return to Nancy Hartsock—in "the goal of accurate and systematic knowledge about the world" (205), attempting, by whatever moves or means, to approximate to such knowledge. That these things do matter more to the ethnographer, to offer at least one bit of empirical evidence, I'd mention that the number of sessions devoted to literary theory and practice at the American Anthropological Association Convention of 1988 (the last I attended) was proportionally much greater than the number of sessions devoted to anthropological theory and practice at the 1988 Modern Language Association Convention. "New his-
toricist" literary critics, to judge from a recent collection of essays, have only gotten as far as Geertz; they seem not yet to have discovered Clifford, Marcus, Tyler, Fischer, Rabinow, and others—although it is the case that these just-named students of anthropology, all of whom are fascinated by postmodern developments, seem (more or less) up on the latest in literary theory. Now that literary studies are enjoying a certain return to history, a return by no means limited to "new historicism," it remains to be seen what the anthropologists will do. As the literary canon opens itself and expands, and critics see the necessity of attending to multiple canons, most particularly what I have referred to elsewhere as local, national, and cosmopolitan canons of literature, they—we—will need the expertise of ethnographers, not so much, to my mind, as colleagues in the decipherment of, and meditation upon, codes, but as providers of data for the understanding of other worlds.
Modernism, Irony, Anthropology:
The Work of Franz Boas
That ethnographic and literary concerns currently converge strikes me, as I have tried to indicate in the preceding chapter, as an encouraging development—but not at all because, to pick up David Porush's capitalist metaphorics in a gently satiric vein, as a specialist in literature, I rejoice that my literary stock, in a postmodern epistemological (and disciplinary) market, has appreciated in value. Rather, I am pleased to have the anthropologists closely attending to what the literary specialists are doing because, as I have just said, I believe we literature professors increasingly need them to help us achieve varieties of "multicultural literacy." This is to say that we will need to become more sophisticated in understanding how the cultural concerns of Others, formerly marginalized, inform a proliferating number of new texts, and, additionally, how those concerns bear upon and can illuminate the canonical texts we may now have to reread in a new light.
So far as this is the case, it becomes natural enough for the would-be practitioner of ethnocriticism to study not only the general history of anthropology, but, on occasion, the careers of particular anthropologists. And I think it is reasonable to say that, in the twentieth century, the pre-
eminent anthropologist in America was Franz Boas. If the basic foundation of American anthropology was laid by Morgan, and its edifice initially raised by the likes of Mooney and Cushing, among others, it was elaborated by such powerful figures as Kroeber, Sapir, Radin, Benedict, Lowie, and Mead—all of whom were Boas's students. From the last years of the nineteenth century until almost the mid-part of the present century it is virtually impossible to discuss American anthropology without reference to the work of Franz Boas.
Boas began his academic career with interests in physics and geography. After an arduous field trip to Alaska as a young man (with a manservant—whose story remains to be told!), Boas came to America and to anthropology as a profession. I have already indicated aspects of his contribution and will comment further on this later. His work, as Thomas Jefferson foresaw would be true for any American anthropologist, would focus on the peoples indigenous to this continent, and the data he gathered are simply mind-boggling in their quantitative richness. But what has always seemed difficult to understand was the potential use and theoretical implications of that data, both in terms of their sheer quantity, and, as well, in the "raw," uninterpreted quality of them. How does Boas's work fit into the history of anthropology as a science , and how does it fit into the intellectual context of literary and critical modernism in which it developed?
Born in Minden, Westphalia, in 1858, Franz Boas was clearly an extraordinary figure, not only a teacher, but a maître in the grand sense, whose students often became disciples, and, in several cases (Kroeber, Mead, Sapir, Benedict, Radin), virtual masters themselves. Boas published extensively on linguistics, folklore, art, race and, of course, ethnography, a fabled "five-foot shelf" of materials on the Kwakiutl. Yet, Boas did not, like his contemporaries Sigmund Freud and Ferdinand de Saussure, found what Foucault refers to as a field of discursivity, a written discourse which gives rise to the endless possibility of further discourse, or a discipline, like psychoanalysis or structural linguistics. The exact nature of Boas's achievement yet remains to be specified.
In 1888, Boas went to Clark University where he taught anthropology until 1892. He held positions with the World's Columbian exposition in Chicago and at the American Museum of Natural History in New York before moving, in 1896, to Columbia University as a lecturer in physical anthropology. He received promotion to a professorship in 1899, a position he held until his retirement in 1936. Boas died in public—in the arms of Lévi-Strauss—in 1942. From his academic base at Columbia, Boas's influence was enormous. By 1926, for example, as I noted earlier, every academic department of anthropology in the United States was headed by one of Boas's students. That the Winnebago were studied by Paul Radin or the Pawnee much later by Gene Weltfish, that Edward Sapir and, after, Melville Jacobs gathered Native texts is largely due to Boas.
Both Boas's admirers, who are many, and his detractors—
they have been fewer—have agreed only on the issue central to their disagreement, the question of Boas's contribution to a science of culture. No one can doubt that Boas did much of worth. But can what he did properly be summed up as serving to found anthropology as a scientific discipline—moving it, as it were, from impressionism to realism, as Alfred Kroeber, Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, and others have insisted? Or is it, rather, as Leslie White and Marvin Harris, foremost, have claimed, that Boas's practice was, finally, no more "scientific" or "realistic" than that of his predecessors, the accidental "men on the spot," and the so-called "armchair anthropologists"; no more "scientific" than his contemporaries, the "museum men," and the fieldworkers of the government bureaus? Moreover, what is one to think when one considers Boas in the context of that cultural development broadly called "modernism," a literary development for the most part. Is modernism in literature or in anthropology consistent with that "realism" generally taken as consistent with claims to scienticity, or, rather, a break with a realist/scientist past?
I read Boas, as I do literary modernists, against the backdrop provided by what has been called the epistemological
crisis of the late nineteenth century, the shift away from apparently absolute certainties—in religion, linguistics, mathematics, physics, and so on—in the direction of relativity. "In the twenty years between 1895 and 1915 the whole picture of the physical universe, which had appeared not only the most impressive but also the most secure achievement of scientific thought," as Alan Bullock has observed, "was brought into question" (34). To recall some well-known contextual markers, I note that these are the years of work in the direction of Godel's proof that certain mathematical problems cannot be solved in terms of the system in which they are formulated; of the Heisenberg Indeterminacy Principle; and finally, of Einstein's relativity equations. These are the years when more than once Freud would speak of psychoanalysis as the third wound to human narcissism, for its demonstration, after the Copernican and Darwinian wounds (e.g., that we are not only not the center of the universe, nor only a little lower than the angels), that we are also not even masters of our own minds. No wonder that de Saussure could look back upon the nineteenth century's solid accumulation of philological data and conclude that in language there are no positive quantities but only differences.
This is also the period in which Thomas Hardy's sense of the haphazardness of fate would be most fully developed (the last novel dates from 1896, but what is ostensibly Hardy's masterwork, The Dynasts , was issued from 1903 to 1908). It is the time when Nietzsche's scorn for the unfounded pretenses of religion, logic, or history is felt; the time of fictional experiments with point of view in Conrad, James, and Ford Madox Ford. Consider as a telling image Stephen Crane's "open boat" bobbing precariously in an
infinity of ocean, its weary passengers trying to survive and to be good, as all the past had instructed them to do, but as the present made most difficult.
Now, the anglophone writers I have named were almost surely not direct influences on Boas (if they were at all), as, indeed, Nietzsche was probably not. It seems reasonable, however, to suggest that the epistemological and discursive climate in which Boas's work took shape was one in which there was a strong sense of the relative rather than the absolute; of an absence of fixity, of all in flux; of certainty nowhere, uncertainty everywhere. What attitude other than one of scepticism could claim to be appropriate to such a worldview? Irony is the trope identified by the West for the expression of scepticism as a response to uncertainty, and one may imagine either that Boas (1) somehow founded a science entirely against the grain of the ironic temper of his time, (2) founded a science in the ironic mode, or (3) operated according to an ironic paradigm of a sort that was inconsistent with the establishment of any kind of science whatsoever. These latter two possibilities (I reject the first of these as theoretically unlikely and in practice untrue) are what I shall explore in the remainder of this chapter.
I take irony to be the central trope of modernism. But just as "modernism" is no monolith, neither is irony; there are many modernisms and many ironies to consider as well. Among ironic figures, let me name four: antiphrasis or negation, aporia or doubt, oxymoron or paradox, and catachresis or misuse. The figure of aporia (it was not invented by Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, or J. Hillis Miller, but was well known to classical and Renaissance rhetoricians)
is, as I have said, the ironic figure of doubt; the aporitical text, then, is one filled with "doubts and objections" (OED). Antiphrasis is the ironic trope of negation, the central trope, for example, of satirical writing in which prior assertions are denied in the interest of promoting opposite or alternative assertions. The figure of the oxymoron presents apparently absurd or incongruous linkages, but oxymoronic figures may be distinguished from catachrestical figures in that the absurdity or incongruity of the oxymoron is only apparent, not real; however paradoxical the statement on the face of it may be, a fully coherent, rational point may be extracted—e.g., in such phrases as coarse gentleman, or noble savage. The figure of catachresis is one whose force is particularly difficult to convey. The OED defines it as "misuse with a sense of perversion." According to Henry Peacham in his 1593 Garden of Eloquence , "Catachresis in Latine is called Abusio," and Peacham gives as one of his examples of catachresis the "water runnes," the abuse consisting in attributing animate capacity to something which does not have life. For us this figure seems, I believe, purely metaphorical. Curiously, the OED describes, but does not provide examples of, catachresis. Would Milton's "blind mouths," or Dylan Thomas's "the long friends" resonate as indicating perverse or abusive misuse? Or perhaps we must turn to something from popular culture, a phrase such as "jumbo shrimp" (some would add "military intelligence")—which might have more catachrestical than oxymoronic force—might present, in Spivak's sense, a metaphor with no adequate referent.
The first three of these figures (antiphrasis, aporia, oxymoron), I suggest, are tropes for the sort of scepticism which founds the "realist"/"modernist" work of writers like Hardy and Stephen Crane, of the early Pound and Eliot,
of Joyce at least through some of Ulysses . And these tropes may also be found nonfictional writing of a sort that may generally be considered "scientific." The fourth one of these figures (catachresis) I see as the central trope of "modernist" work of a more radical nature, work such as Nietzsche's, perhaps of Henry Adams's Education , of Henry James's The Sacred Fount , possibly of Joyce's Finnegans Wake , and of Virginia Woolf's The Waves . The catachrestical text cannot be considered "scientific" according to any of the usual understandings of the term to the extent that it seeks to sustain and amplify the disparity between metaphor and adequate referent (not the case, as I have said, with ethnocriticism which, perhaps impossibly, seeks to close the gap). It is catachrestical modernism of this gap-sustaining type, I believe, which most current forms of postmodernism (as I understand them) may be taken to continue or extend, while it is aporitic (to choose one of the terms possible here to stand for all others) modernism that postmodernism rejects and rebels against, constituting itself by means of a break.
It is my contention that Boas's work is rich in irony, but it remains unclear which type of irony—the doubtful, paradoxical, and negational, consistent with some sense of realism and of science, or the perverse-absurd, subversive of any sense of science—dominates in it. On the one hand, essay after essay may be cited as instantiating just the sort of hearty scepticism that clears the field for more securely founded hypotheses; on the other hand, the work as a whole either perversely insists upon conditions for scienticity that are in no way attainable, or asserts positions that so thoroughly contradict one another as abusively to cancel each other out, moving beyond the oxymoronic to the catachres-
tic, and thus subverting the conditions of possibility for any scientific hypotheses whatsoever.
The case for Boasian anthropology as constituted by the kind of aporitic irony that founds what I will call a modernist realism consistent with science, might focus on the meaning and function of the new relativism in Boas's work. Unlike the late-nineteenth-century historians who, in Hayden White's account, saw the specter of relativism as serving to "undermine confidence in history's claim to 'objectivity', 'scienticity', and 'realism'" (White 1973 33), Boas and his students seemed to find the new relativity not the foreclosure but the promise of "objectivity," "scienticity," and "realism." Relativism, for Boas, was understood primarily to mean cultural relativism, and a stance of cultural relativism (which was not taken, as I have noted, to imply a general epistemological relativism) as enabling a satiric method by which to expose the abundant undocumented generalizations indulged in by practitioners of "the comparative method in anthropology." In page after page of his writing both early and late, Boas shows a real delight in his ability to expose or deconstruct, as we might now say, generalizations that could not stand up to his aggressive ironic scepticism. In its historical moment, this aspect of Boas's intervention most certainly seems to have advanced the project of a scientific anthropology.
But then there is the famous Boasian hostility to theory and to laws. For there are, indeed, many passages in Boas's writing where he warns against the dangers of interposing aprioristic theory between the putatively innocent eye of
the observer and the facts or data in themselves (his view of these matters seems positivist in a largely discredited manner). Boas also seems to have given many of his students and readers a strong impression that he was implacably opposed not only to theory but to all statements of phenomenal lawfulness, that for him anthropology was the sort of inquiry that best limits its view to the singularity or particularity of cultural phenomena. Nonetheless, as I shall try to show in only a moment more, one can also cite essays in which Boas asserts that the statement of general laws is, indeed, the ultimate aim of anthropology, as of any science. These latter assertions permit one to wonder whether there is not, at a deep level of Boas's thought, a commitment to sustaining contradiction, a refusal of closure as somehow a violation of the way things "really" are: a refusal, of course, that denies the possibility of science. This seems all the more likely when one considers that even in Boas's explicit remarks approving the possibility of scientific generalization, he insists again and again on impossible conditions for such generalization, for his contention is that laws will legitimately be "discovered" only when "all the 'facts' are in."
So far as there was to be a Boasian science of anthropology, then, its achievement required the collection of "facts" in the interest of the "discovery" of "laws." Facts, for Boas, are not conceptual constructs or even choices on the part of the researcher, but simply out there. And laws, for Boas, in the generalization of his understanding of facts, do not
either have to be formulated or constructed; rather, once all the facts are in, laws will simply announce or dis-cover themselves to the assiduous observer. Boas would not abandon the goal of stating laws because that would be to abandon the project of a scientific anthropology in the strong sense; but he also would not abandon his adherence to impossible conditions for the actual achievement of a strongly scientific anthropology. Inasmuch as it is obvious that all the "facts" never will be in, it is not possible ever to satisfy Boas's ironic scepticism, not possible ever to achieve exactly the science he is after. Such a position, I suggest, is not aporitic, but is best figured by the trope of catachresis. But it is surely time to do some reading.
In an 1887 text called "The Study of Geography," Boas distinguished between sciences as they derive from one or the other of two apparently invariant tendencies in the mind—or at least the Western mind. The natural sciences, like physics, Boas claimed, spring from what he calls the "aesthetic" impulse, while those like "cosmography," or history, what we would term the social sciences, are the expression of what he calls the "affective" impulse. The first, a sort of "rage for order," is concerned with stating the general laws governing the phenomena under consideration, while the second is more particularistically concerned with the individual phenomenon itself. For the cosmographer, the historian, or, as Boas spent most of his life insisting, the anthropologist, "The mere occurrence of an event claims the full attention of our mind, because we are affected by it, and it is studied without any regard to its place in a system" (644). As opposed to the physicist, who seeks to generalize from "mere occurrences," the cosmographer, Boas writes,
"holds to the phenomenon which is the object of his study, . . . and lovingly tries to penetrate into its secrets until every feature is plain and clear. This occupation with the object of his affection affords him a delight not inferior to that which the physicist enjoys in his systematical arrangement of the world" (645). It is hard to resist noticing the erotic dimension of Boas's description of the cosmographical romance. But can such a conception be compatible with an anthropological science ? Boas characteristically answers yes—and no. "Physicists," he writes, "will acknowledge that the study of the history of many phenomena is a work of scientific value" (642), and, near the end of his essay, Boas pronounces both cosmographical and physical inquiry to be—and it would seem equivalently—"two branches of science" (646).
What Boas says here of history and cosmography he would say again and again of anthropology, that it was to study its object of affection "without any regard to its place in a system." But he would also say again and again that anthropology, in this regard now quite like physical science ("aesthetic" as distinguished from "affective" science), must, indeed, search out systematic laws. Just a year after the publication of "The Study of Geography," in an 1888 text called "The Aims of Ethnology," we find Boas writing that "the human mind develops everywhere according to the same laws," and that "the discovery of these [laws] is the greatest aim of our science" (RLC 637). As I have noted, to the end of his life, Boas continued to insist upon the necessity of reducing the multitudinous phenomenal data of culture to some kind of lawfulness—to a commitment to finding its "place in a system"—while appending the condition that more and ever more data would first have to be
examined before the formulation of explanatory generalizations might legitimately begin. Anthropology must ultimately discover general laws of some sort, just as any proper science must, but such laws cannot be discovered until all the evidence is in. Since all the evidence never will be in, the anthropologist, now a kind of "connoisseur of chaos," had best stick to particularities and defer concern for pattern or for general lawfulness—although the discovery of laws is, indeed, the goal of ethnology. It is a simple matter to quote Boas on both sides of what seem to me antithetical and—in the form in which they are stated—irreconcilable positions. But further quotation would not be especially helpful—nor, indeed, is it necessary, once we note that Boas himself chose just these two essays—"The Aims of Ethnology" and "The Study of Geography"—with their conflicting positions, to conclude the last major book of his lifetime, Race, Language, and Culture , published in 1940.
Writing when he was more than eighty years old, Boas announced that these two papers, composed some fifty years earlier, were chosen to conclude his book "because they indicate the general attitude underlying [his] later work" (vi). Boas's "attitude" is such as to offer firm support for both sides of a great many questions, and such an attitude, I suggest, goes beyond the aporitic ironic scepticism compatible with science to the catachrestical irony that would subvert any pretense to science.
Now, Race, Language, and Culture is a volume of six hundred forty-seven pages, comprising sixty-three essays written over a period of forty-nine years. It is a wartime book, and Boas's preface states his intention that the essays to come may show anthropology's bearing "upon problems that confront us" (v). A section called "Race," consisting of
twenty essays, is the first in the book; "Language," with five, is the second; the third section, "Culture," the category of Boas's most substantial contribution, has thirty-five essays.
One might well expect that Boas chose these divisions, representing the three main areas of his work over a long lifetime, and arranged the essays in them in some kind of ascending or progressive order; one might expect, that is, that this large book was organized in such a way as to permit some sort of climactic or at least clear statement of Boas's position. But any such expectation is undercut by the presence of a fourth section, one, that in its structural and thematic effect, is decidedly anticlimactic. For Boas does not end the book called Race, Language, and Culture with the section on "Culture" (or, for that matter, with an afterword or conclusion), but instead follows it with something called simply "Miscellaneous." And it is in "Miscellaneous" that Boas places the texts that are indicative, as he states in his preface, of his final position on matters central to his understanding of anthropology. The texts in "Miscellaneous" are not recent writing, but, instead, three nineteenth-century essays that work backward, from 1898 and "Advances in Methods of Teaching," to 1888 and "The Aims of Ethnology" (in which there was a call for the discovery of laws), to "The Study of Geography" of 1887 (in which the discovery of laws was announced as not the aim of social science at all).
To conclude his final book this way is to reveal a deeply ironic sense of structure (which irony, again, remains to be seen). For what is true of irony thematically, as an "attitude," is true of irony structurally, as a form, as well: ironic structures achieve their effects by frustrating conventional expectations for climax and closure. Ironic texts may seem to work according to the familiar Western patterns of trag-
edy, comedy, and romance, but in the end they always subvert them. Rather than the revelation and resignation of tragedy, the reconciliation and reintegration of comedy, or the idealistic transcendence of romance, the ironic ending suggests that things just happen as they happen, to no special point, or at least to no clear one. Think of a play like Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot , with its last lines, "Well? Shall we go?" "Yes, let's go," and its final stage direction, "They don't move." Nothing moves for the ironist; plus ça change, plus ça reste le même . Even more radically, moving again from aporitic to catachrestic irony, there is the suggestion that the very idea of an ending is an absurdity or paradox; no text can ever end . Think of Kafka's Castle , or of Finnegans Wake whose final words lead back to its first words. Does the apparently contradictory juxtaposition of "The Aims . . . " and "The Study . . ." really have its oxymoronic point? Or is it Boas's ultimate instantiation of the catachrestical figure of perverse misuse, abusio that has the last word?
At this point, I can well imagine that the scientist reader, if not so hotly the literary reader, may well be asking, what, after all, do the essays themselves have to say ? Speaking from outside the disciplinary borders of anthropology, I would repeat that the essays on "Race" seem ironic only insofar as they are sceptical of entirely undocumented, unscientific, and self-serving statements about race. Throughout his long career, as I remarked earlier, Boas insisted on the cultural explanation of cultural differences and profoundly intervened against German racist theories directed against Jews, and American racist theories directed against blacks, and these essays lend themselves more readily than usual in Boas's work to rather direct application and use.
I am not sure what to make of the few (five) essays on
language, although it seems difficult to read them without the double sense of, first, Boas's clear insistence on the importance for the ethnographer of learning Native languages, and, second, of the uncertainty surrounding Boas's own knowledge of Kwakw'ala, the language of the Kwakiutal: of Helen Codere's statements, for example, that Kwakiutl people she interviewed in 1951 remembered Boas speaking their language, and Ronald Rohner's conclusion in 1969 that Boas had learned Chinook jargon but not Kwakw'ala, nor any other "indigenous Northwest Coast language" (xxiv). In a recent essay, Judith Berman accepts Codere's estimate that Boas did, indeed, speak the language of the Kwakiutl—while demonstrating that his translation of at least one story he was told in Kwakw'ala, while it "may not be the worst conceivable, . . . is still a very bad one" (in press).
The many essays on "Culture" divide into more nearly general, theoretical pieces and specific ethnographic pieces. I will look briefly at the major theoretical piece in just a moment. As for the ethnographic work, it seems mostly an immense, even celebratory record of randomness: Boas was there when he was there, he saw what he saw, he left us whatever he happened to leave us. Even Helen Codere, for all her enormous respect for Boas, acknowledged that "it is not possible to present a synthesized account of Kwakiutl culture based upon Boas's works" (in Harris 1968 314–5). Whether Boas purposely worked in such a way as to forestall what he would have considered an inevitably premature "synthesis," or, rather, worked in such
a way as to obstruct any synthesis whatsoever, must remain, I believe, undecidable.
Ronald Rohner, who found his own attempt to work in the field with Boas's Kwakiutl materials beset with difficulties, has noted that even when Boas "was aware" that some of his texts and ethnographic "materials over time contain[ed] many inaccuracies and inconsistencies . . . he never corrected them in print" (1969 xiii), an observation that reaffirms Alfred Kroeber's statement of 1959 that Boas knew he was wrong in his account of how the Kwakiutl potlatch functioned "but that he never took the time to re-explain the system" (L. White 1963 56). Here, too, it might be that he just "never took the time"; but it also might be that this lack of concern to reconcile conflicting views was a consequence of a radically ironic, catachrestical set of mind.
I turn now to the essay Boas placed first in the section on "Culture," his presidential address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1932, called "The Aims of Anthropological Research." Both the occasion of its original delivery and its placement in this book are such as to suggest it may fairly be taken as representative of Boas's mature thought. What we find all through this text is irony's ability to doubt and deny; the question for science is whether the doubt and denial are, once again, in the interest of alternative affirmations or whether they go so far as to deny affirmative statements of any kind.
Boas begins with a sketch of anthropology's beginnings from a variety of sources; next, he defines "our objective as the attempt to understand the steps by which man has come to be what he is, biologically, psychologically and culturally" (RLC 244). It appears, Boas says, that "our material must necessarily be historical material, historical in the widest
sense of the term" (244). Having announced the need for historical data, however, Boas then goes on to show how unlikely it is that sufficient data will ever be forthcoming, and to list the errors and dangers of a variety of positions. He next passes from considerations of race and psychology to those of "cultural anthropology." I will catalog some of his negational figures, without, to be sure, providing sufficient context to understand each of his remarks in itself. My claim is that the sheer number of these figures does the work of establishing Boas's commitment to ironic scepticism. Boas writes: "The material needed for the reconstruction of the biological history of mankind is insufficient on account of the paucity of remains" (250); "Even this information is insufficient" (251); "For these reasons it is well nigh impossible" (252); "This method cannot be generalized" (252); "It may be admitted that it is exceedingly difficult to give absolutely indisputable proof" (252); it "hardly admits of the argument that . . ." (252); "this view is not admissible without proof that . . ." (253); "It is not a safe method to assume that . . ." (254); "Even the fullest knowledge of the history of language does not help us to understand" (255); "The phenomena of our science are so individualized, so exposed to outer accident that no set of laws could explain them" (257); and so on and on.
For all that aporia and antiphrasis structure Boas's text, still, the doubts and negations may yet imply some positive recommendations. Nonetheless, even if this first essay on "Culture" is useful for the project of an anthropological science, Race, Language, and Culture will still present us, as its conclusion, the "miscellaneously" juxtaposed and contradictory final essays of the book.
And it does indeed seem to me that Boas's writing, taken as a whole, has a kind of abusive perversity that, as with
Nietzsche, undermines the foundations for any claims to scienticity. At the furthest horizon, I believe Boas was rather anxiously fascinated by cultural and epistemological chaos of the sort with which Richard Rorty, Jean-François Lyotard, and Stephen Tyler, among other postmodernist and poststructuralist thinkers today, are quite comfortable. If I am at all correct, he did, indeed, engage a kind of abysmal ironic vision, which I have tried to link to the figure of catachresis. And it is the figure of catachresis, as I have said, which marks postmodernist subsumptions of logic to rhetoric, science to narrative or conversation, as it marks a sense of the constant inconstancy of figure/ground, signal/noise relations.
If this is so, then, to the extent Boas may have become "unreadable" in the present moment, he might well be recuperated as a sort of precursor of postmodernism. But if I seem here to have conducted Boas to just the place Marilyn Strathern, in a recent essay, brought Boas's English contemporary, Sir James Frazer, I want to warn even more strongly than she against any attempt actually to reread these complex figures as postmodernists.
For all that I have claimed to find a powerful attraction to the chaotic possibilities of freeplay and undecidability (to use more or less current terms) at some deep level of Boas's work, nonetheless, it seems to me that for the most part Boas was attracted to the study of phenomena which he probably felt to be more orderly (whatever their order) than chaotic, phenomena which, looked at particularly and carefully, at least were probably coherent in themselves. This sense of cultural things was tropologically figured in varieties of what I have called aportic irony, the central trope,
to repeat, of a sort of realist/scientist modernism: distanced and distancing, sceptical, tough-minded, sensitive to paradox, self-conscious, and so on.
Like a number of writers of the modernist period—and I think this is true in a historically specific way of writers of the modernist period and not just of writers in general—Boas's work is difficult to characterize as a whole, the whole not at all comprehensible as the strict sum of its parts. In somewhat similar fashion, the Eliot of the "Preludes" or "Prufrock" is not fully consistent with the Eliot of the "Four Quartets," or, to cite an author not always considered as a modernist in manner, the D. H. Lawrence of The Rainbow may not be fully consistent with the Lawrence of Aaron's Rod, The Plumed Serpent , or the Studies in Classic American Literature . The same, as I have noted, is true of Henry James, whose Sacred Fount of 1901 cannot be understood as simply the "mature" work of the author of the Portrait of a Lady (1881).
Yet I will say that for all the powerful contradictions a careful reading of his work may discern, I think Boas today, in our moment, as indeed in his own, is much more useful for the project of a scientific anthropology (however modest and circumscribed current claims for scienticity must be) than for either Geertzian semiotic anthropologies or Tylerian postmodern anthropologies. I, at any rate, would like to see him recuperated for such a project, for all that we must allow to his work its catachrestical component.
The Work of James Clifford
If we are to break out of the nonhistorical fixity of postmodernism, then we must search out and counterpose an alternative tradition which may address itself not to this by now exploitable because quite inhuman rewriting of the past, but, for all our sakes, to a modern future in which community may be imagined again .
In his jacket blurb for James Clifford's The Predicament of Culture (1988), Clifford Geertz describes Clifford as "one of the few persons" writing today "who connects history, literature, and anthropology." "He's had an enormous impact," Geertz continues, "because he provides a new perspective on the study of culture that would almost certainly never have been generated from within anthropology itself." The "connections" Clifford makes are, of course, important to my own ethnocritical project (which, I should say, is much indebted to Clifford's work). What I want to examine in this chapter is the nature of this "new perspective" of his.
In his introduction to Writing Culture , a collection of essays on "The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography" he
coedited with George Marcus in 1986, Clifford called for a "plural poesis " (1986 17), noting that "Ethnographic truths are . . . inherently partial —committed and incomplete" (1986 7). Most recently, Clifford has written on behalf of "A modern 'ethnography' of conjunctures"—what I have taken the liberty of calling ethnographic conjuncturalism—"constantly moving between cultures" (1988 9). Such a "perspective" would seem to have affinities with the perspective I have been calling ethnocriticism. And yet, as I hope to show, for all the similarities between ethnocriticism and ethnographic conjuncturalism, there are some major differences, not the least of which, perhaps, concerns the nature of critical "movement." This chapter consists mostly of a close reading of the introduction to Clifford's The Predicament of Culture , a complex and insightful text called "The Pure Products Go Crazy." I will, of course, make reference to other of Clifford's texts, for all that "The Pure Products Go Crazy," as I think, offers the most recent and the most developed theoretical statement of Clifford's "perspective."
"The Pure Products Go Crazy" begins with a commentary on a poem by William Carlos Williams. Clifford quotes Williams's poem in its entirety, and it is probably most convenient for the reader that I take the space to do so as well:
The pure products of America
mountain folk from Kentucky
or the ribbed north end of
with its isolate lakes and
valleys, its deaf-mutes, thieves
and promiscuity between
devil-may-care men who have taken
out of sheer lust for adventure—
and young slatterns, bathed
from Monday to Saturday
to be tricked out that night
from imaginations which have no
peasant traditions to give them
but flutter and flaunt
sheer rages—succumbing without
save numbed terror
under some hedge of choke-cherry
which they cannot express—
Unless it be that marriage
with a dash of Indian blood
will throw up a girl so desolate
so hemmed round
with disease or murder
that she'll be rescued by an
reared by the state and
sent out at fifteen to work in
some hard pressed
house in the suburbs
some doctor's family, some Elsie—
expressing with broken
brain the truth about us—
ungainly hips and flopping breasts
addressed to cheap
and rich young men with fine eyes
as if the earth under our feet
an excrement of some sky
and we degraded prisoners
to hunger until we eat filth
while the imagination strains
going by fields of goldenrod in
the stifling heat of September
it seems to destroy us
It is only in isolate flecks that
is given off
and adjust, no one to drive the car
The first nine of Williams's twenty-two triplet stanzas provide a context for the particular example of Elsie, who shares in and, finally, comes to epitomize the craziness of "the pure products of America." Elsie herself, however, is not quite one of those "pure products" by virtue, or defect, of her "dash of Indian blood"—"perhaps."
That is, to say what should be obvious, Williams's "pure products of America" are not the Indians—although, strictly speaking, who but they might better claim that title? Rather, Williams's American "pure products" are "devil-may-care men" and "young slatterns," inhabitants of Kentucky and north Jersey and anywhere along the railroad lines, transplanted Europeans with congenital historical amnesia; all they know is their present American restlessness and malaise. Nonetheless, thinking of American "pure products," and the absence here of "peasant traditions," Williams also thinks of Indians—"perhaps." This is not so
surprising because, for one thing, although Native American people have typically been represented in American discourse as possessing hunting rather than (counter to a good deal of evidence) agricultural traditions, still, from the seventeenth century forward, Americans nonetheless managed to think about Indians as remnants, as it were, of America's feudal past, substituting, in Francis Jennings's phrase, "Savage Form for Peasant Function." For another thing, it is worth noting that about the time Williams wrote the "Elsie" poem, he was working on In the American Grain (1925), a book of prose meditations on America and American history, in which he seems to have thought of Indians a good number of times.
In In the American Grain , Williams wrote, "I do believe the average American to be an Indian, but an Indian robbed of his world" (1925 128). Of course, it is the "real" Indian, the indigenous American, not the "average American," who was robbed—of his lands, at least—for all that he seemed still to be in possession of his "world." "Nowhere [in America]," Williams would further assert, "the open, free assertion save in the Indian" (1925 155).
This is not, of course, the "agent's" view, at least not of Elsie, who, like many a breed or mixedblood before and after her, is perceived as even more "desolate" than her untainted "pure" American coevals, crazy or not. And so she is "rescued . . . reared by the state," and placed in the quite traditional position not of the peasant but of the ser-
vant to an upper middle-class, suburban, professional family, "some doctor's family." Dr. Williams, at this point, as he moves to the cultural commentary in which Elsie expresses "with broken / brain the truth about us," refers to Elsie as "voluptuous water," attending not only to her "broken / brain" but to "her great / ungainly hips and flopping breasts" and their "address" to "cheap / jewelry / and rich young men with fine eyes." Here, Clifford writes, "suddenly the angry description veers" (3).
So it does—to a vision of the "earth under our feet" as "an excrement of some sky." But what is it that Williams is angry about? Obviously the degeneration of the "pure products of America," the lack of character in the "imaginations" of slatterns and "devil-may-care men," while "the imagination" (my emphasis) "strains" for—something else. Yet the brunt of Williams's anger is quite specifically directed at the sloppy and dirty yet clearly unsettling sexuality of working-class women (although "devil-may-care men" are promiscuous with these women, they "lust for adventure"). For if Elsie and her broken brain can come to express the truth about "us" only by way of her ungainly voluptuousness, it has earlier been the "young slatterns, bathed / in filth / from Monday to Saturday" who have specifically led Williams to his observation about the absence of those "peasant traditions" which might "give them / character." Working in the doctor's house, Elsie, like the "slatterns," is also probably bathed in filth a good part of her six-day week. Like the "slatterns" "tricked out . . . with gauds," Elsie also "addresses" herself to "cheap jewelry."
Clifford misses none of this and generously reads Williams's "anger" as an "angry, bleak sympathy " (5 my emphasis), claiming that Williams turns Elsie's "personal story
toward the general," "turns it all into modern history" (5), in which, seen "in the late twentieth century" (7), "a female, possibly colored body serves as a site of attraction, repulsion, symbolic appropriation" (5)—serves possibly as a representation of "groups marginalized or silenced in the bourgeois West" (5). Of course, to perpetuate a well-documented imperial tradition in which Indians, women, or the "colored body" serve as symbols, and symbolically to appropriate such persons for the purposes of generalizations useful to "us," is to practice a form of "sympathy" these people might well reject. "To Williams," Clifford writes, Elsie's "story is inescapably his, everyone's" (1988 4). But, here, too, one may wonder about the degree to which Elsie's story is "everyone's, "for neither Dr. Williams, nor Clifford, nor I can quite claim ourselves to be "silenced in the bourgeois West," even if our poetic and academic discourse is, indeed, "marginalized."
Still, so far as Clifford's observations are accurate—and in the main I think they are—what we have here is the early, post—World War I Williams in an apparent "revulsion from Americanism," in F. H. Matthews's phrase, "quarrying the national past in search of lost virtue" (14): for there is not
much pure or sane in the modern, American world he sees around him. "In the 1920s," the period of this poem and of In the American Grain , Matthews writes,
the revulsion from Americanism and the search for a viable cultural community intensified into a major quest. Intellectuals in a position to assert their identity with some minority now fanned the embers of recently-declining traditions. . . . Writers who lacked a vital region or ethnic minority with which to identify turned instead, like Sherwood Anderson and William Carlos William[s], to quarrying the national past in search of lost virtue. (14)
Consistent with Matthews's account, Clifford takes Williams's lines as presenting a "feeling of lost authenticity, of 'modernity' ruining some essence or source . . . authentic traditions, the pure products, are everywhere yielding to promiscuity and aimlessness" (1988 4). Thus Elsie's story, whether it can be generalized as "everyone's" or not, is, nonetheless, an apparently tragic tale of loss, decline, and fall. As against this tragic vision, Clifford himself "proposes a different historical vision" (1988 5 my emphasis), one that "does not see the world as populated by endangered authenticities—pure products always going crazy" (1988 5). Clifford's "different . . . vision" is, it would seem, of a more nearly comic narrative, one that raises, as he puts it, "the political issue of history as emergence " (1988 7 my emphasis) to contest the politics of history as decline.
But in Clifford's subtly nuanced reading, it turns out that Williams's story is not strictly tragic—just as, indeed, Clifford's will not be strictly comic. Clifford discerns a certain
contrapuntal line at work in the "Elsie" poem, so that Williams does not only
resign himself sadly to the loss of local traditions in an entropic modernity—a vision common among prophets of cultural homogenization, lamenters of the ruined tropics . . . [but instead he] claims that "something" is still being "given off"—if only in "isolate flecks." (Clifford 1988 5)
Clifford discovers, then, that Williams also believes, as he himself does, in cultural "invention" (cf. Clifford 1988 17) and not only decline. This hesitancy before either tragic or comic narratives parallels what Clifford calls Williams's "perpetual veering between local attachments and general possibilities" (1988 4). Under conditions of "ethnographic modernity" (1988 3), the culture critic must "veer," or as Clifford will say later "oscillate" (17), between narrative paradigms—as he must "tack," in Geertz's well-known term, between local/Western and general/global visions, moving back and forth between tragic and comic stories. For "there is no master narrative that can reconcile the tragic and comic plots of global cultural history" (1988 15).
But this veering and oscillating, as I will have further occasion to remark, while it avoids the "pervasive dichotomy" by which "[s]tories of cultural contact and change have been structured" (Clifford 1988 344), for all its proper doubts about the adequacy of strictly tragic or comic emplotments both locally and globally, and its disbelief in the
possibility of any metanarrative aufhebung or synthesis of the two dichotomous poles, turns out to be not an "invention" at all, but, rather, simply the choice of a third Western form of emplotment, of—to borrow the words of Hayden White—"an ironic mode of representation" (1989 30). In the most recent formulation of a point he has forcefully made on a number of occasions, White says, "A mode of representation such as irony is a content of the discourse in which it is used, not merely a form" (1989 30). And it is irony that is the content and form, newly "invented" or anciently recovered, of James Clifford's discourse about culture.
Thus it seems to me that Clifford provides for the story of culture in history the kind of negative critique that post-structuralism provides for narrativity in general. In a manner typical of the deconstructive mode, Clifford documents the unacknowledged contradictions and the ideological implications of narratives that would commit themselves wholly to tragic or comic emplotments, while largely exempting the equivalently ideological implications (for all that they are equivocal implications) of his own narrative's ironic stance. Clifford "contest[s] the prevailing narratives of Western identity," so far as these have been constructed as narratives of loss by raising, as I have noted, "the political issue of history as emergence" (7). He can show, that is, the comic possibilities always subverting ostensibly tragic narratives—as, indeed, he can show the tragic possibilities at work in ostensibly comic narratives. This is the standard methodology of ironists from Socrates to Boas to Paul de Man.
Clifford writes that
modern ethnographic histories are perhaps condemned to oscillate between two metanarratives: one of homogenization, the
other of emergence; one of loss, the other of invention. In most specific conjunctures both narratives are relevant, each undermining the other's claim to tell "the whole story," each denying to the other a privileged Hegelian vision. (1988 17)
It is all too easy, no doubt, to wonder why and how some narratives apparently escape the bivalence of "most [but apparently not all] specific conjunctures" (my emphasis)—although, it would seem, some do. In any case, this likely necessity to "oscillate," as I have said, is not so much a contestation of the modes of Western narrative representation as an unacknowledged choice of one of them—a choice not of comedy or tragedy, but of irony.
And this is why Clifford's instantiation of the likely necessity of critical veering or oscillating, although it might seem to be a parallel perspective to ethnocriticism's frontier orientation to border and boundary crossings is, in fact, quite different from it. For the ethnographic conjuncturalist is committed to perpetual ironic free play, or undecidability; to the constant and unending rhetorical subversion of logic and dialectic; to continual rebellion, as it were, with no hope of revolution. And this oscillation without end, this perpetual shuttling back and forth between the privileged Western narrative paradigms of tragedy and comedy, on the one hand, for all that it refuses their allegorization as reified oppositions, and on the other, while it correctly recognizes that they "prevail [. . .]" in "narratives of Western identity" (7, my emphasis), nonetheless seeks to extend both their privileged status and the subversion of that status as relevant to the narrativization of "global cultural history " (1988 15, my emphasis).
Geertz's "tacking," at least in theory if not always in practice, is indeed between the local and global—which is to
say, between specifically Western ways of knowing and telling and other ways of knowing and telling, in the interest of providing descriptions/interpretations of cultural practice and transformation that, if "thick" enough, might alter, or at the very least, ambiguate Western narrative and explanatory categories. To alter or ambiguate Western narrative and explanatory categories is, of course, the project of ethnocriticism, for all that it is (I readily admit) still a project easier to expound theoretically than to carry out in practice. To practice ethnocriticism, at any rate, will require real engagement with the epistemological and explanatory categories of Others, most particularly as these animate and impel Other narratives. The necessary sorts of movement, therefore, are not only those between dominant Western paradigms but also those between Western paradigms and the as-yet-to-be-named paradigms of the Rest. (And even then, the deconstructive paradox of a "no" to that which founds one's discourse still stands.)
Perhaps this is the place to note that the sort of movements Clifford valorizes are not of this kind. He concludes "The Pure Products Go Crazy" by affirming that "Westerners are not the only ones going places in the modern world" (17), noting, "But have not travelers always encountered worldly 'natives'? Strange anticipation: the English Pilgrims arrive at Plymouth Rock in The New World only to find Squanto, a Patuxet, just back from Europe" (17). This is generous, but a bit too breezy, inasmuch as it makes it seem as though Squanto had just decided to take off and see a bit of the Old World rather than having been carried forcibly to England; that he had just had time to unpack before hurrying down to the shore to complicate the Pilgrims' vision of the New World.
Indeed, to speak now only of Indians, there is no doubt
that today, as yesterday, many—not all—tribal people are fond of traveling, using their cars and pickups as their ancestors used horses, to go around and visit. But this sort of traveling and visiting is very different from what a phrase like "going places," with its implications of progress and advance, connotes. As William Bevis in an important essay has shown, the typical pattern of Native American fiction is what Bevis calls "homing in" rather than—the pattern typical of Euramerican fiction—moving out, breaking away, searching, seeking, transcending, and so forth. Indians, that is to say, travel a good deal, but they don't "go places." The sense of rootedness seems extraordinarily persistent in Native American peoples today, so there's really no place to go, no matter where one travels for one purpose or another.
Raising the question of place in regard to politics, Willard Gingerich in an essay on "The Southwest as Spiritual Geography" asks, "South of what, and west of whom?" Beginning with a reading of "Blue, the Sacred Lake" by the New Mexican poet Leroy Quintana, and proceeding to an analysis of "Back into the Womb, the Center," a section of Simon Ortiz's "Between Albuquerque and Santa Fe," Gingerich comments that
It is decisively not regionalist issues that Ortiz wants to raise, but larger, national and historical interests and forces which he sees as the context of those regional issues.
Gingerich concludes his discussion by answering his own question—"South of what, and west of whom?"—as follows:
By incorporating the images of these centers into his work, Ortiz lays the foundation for a revisionist history, geography, and politics by attacking the east-west axis of manifest destiny at the very roots of its New World, new Adam, new West mythology. South of nothing, west of no one.
This resonates closely with Kirkpatrick Sale's recent sweeping statement that
The only political vision that offers any hope of salvation is one based on an understanding of, a rootedness in, a deep commitment to, and a resacralization of, place . (446)
I would not want unequivocally to endorse the whole of this. Still, to come at these issues from an awareness of Native American perspectives is to be uncomfortable with at least some of the political implications of even a generously intended recognition that "Westerners are not the only ones going places in the modern world" (Clifford 1988 17). I hardly mean to bludgeon Clifford with his phrase; however, as both Gingerich and Sale remark, given the extraordinary persistence of the sense of home among Native American people today, there's really no place to go, no matter how many miles one may drive or fly. Thus it may be that the politics of placement, rather than the politics of travel, are what's needed for the most radical social (re-)inventions.
Ethnocritical movement is, obviously, a form of criticism and criticism is a form of movement. If "civilization," that is, is the product of neurosis (see Freud), then criticism may be considered the product of restlessness; centered peoples don't produce it in forms recognizable to the West (see chapter 5). Thus ethnocriticism cannot strictly be based on the rootedness and sacralized sense of place that the indig-
enous people of this continent had and continue to have. Its decentered center is indeed the "West," but its movement is not in the interest of going places; rather, it is a tentative feeling-around to encounters with Others who—for whatever reasons, less securely centered than some of their contemporaries or their ancestors—are also feeling their way around.
The movement Clifford recommends, however, as I have tried to show, is pretty exclusively a movement between Western narrative paradigms (so, too, in my view, was any movement Williams might be taken to recommend, his modernist irony here overlapping Clifford's postmodern irony), between narratives that are quite specific to Western culture, and which, even in dialogized form, may have little use as providing paradigms for the understanding of the variegated narratives of identity of other cultures. I see no sign, that is, that one culture's—"our" culture's—prevailing narratives of identity are in any way being contested by another's. Thus what I miss in Clifford's analysis (I can only slightly offer it in my own) is some developed awareness, if not a detailed description, of the very different narrative structures used by other cultures as explanatory emplotments and narratives of identity; those , I think, might provide examples that could more fully "contest the prevailing narratives of Western identity."
Consider, for example, the final chapter of The Predicament of Culture , "Identity in Mashpee." This lengthy essay treats the 1976 trial to decide a suit brought by the Mashpee Indians of Cape Cod for official recognition as an Indian tribe . The trial, Clifford writes,
seemed to reveal people who were sometimes separate and "Indian," sometimes assimilated and "American." Their history
was a series of cultural and political transactions, not all-or-nothing conversions or resistances. (1988 342)
With his usual acumen, Clifford sees that the story of Mashpee identity cannot adequately be told as a tragic or comic story, however much "Stories of cultural contact and change have been structured by a pervasive dichotomy" (344). Of course, to the Mashpee's misfortune, the law requires choice between these dichotomous terms, "Indian" or "American," a tribe or not a tribe, "all-or-nothing." (It should be noted, however, that in 1978, for better or worse, the Bureau of Indian Affairs promulgated new administrative procedures for tribal "recognition." These might prescribe somewhat different narratives of identity. Although the Mashpee trial was in 1976, Clifford's write-up of it did not appear until 1988, ample time for him to make reference to the change—if only in parentheses like this one.) But for those of us not bound by legal convention, those who with Clifford can recognize that "all-or-nothing," tragic or comic stories will not do, is there then no single story appropriate to Mashpee transactional or relational identity? Can one do nothing but oscillate and veer perpetually to do justice, at least representationally, to the Mashpee?
While it is altogether likely that the Mashpee Clifford encountered at the trial in Boston were probably a good deal more familiar with the stories of Western literature and American popular culture than with traditional Wampanoag story forms, I would be very surprised if some among them had not internalized various modalities typical of those forms. The paradigmatic structures of Wampanoag narrative—or, for that matter, of Navajo, Iroquois, Apache, Okanagan, Osage, or Pomo narrative—need to be considered as a pole against which to test those of Western nar-
rative. Clifford's "oscillations" between the tragic and comic poles of Western narrative structure can, as I have said, usefully dialogize Western tales of "cultural history," or identity, and that is all to the good. But they cannot, in my view, very well speak to the possible stories of "global cultural history" or to whatever concepts of identity exist among the present-day Mashpee.
Gerald Vizenor's insistence, for example, on a postmodern fluidity and "trickster"-like freedom for the individual is conjoined to a decidedly premodern allegiance to tribal identities as more nearly collectively constituted in terms of mutual responsibilities. Vizenor abhors the "tragic" and speaks, in general, for the "comic"; but it seems to me that the trickster narratives Vizenor recommends, and in his fiction produces, for all that they tend mostly toward (what I see as a recognizably Western) ironic structuration, still seem replete with possibilities that have yet to be explored fully.I need to explore them more fully, at any rate, for an ethnocritical practice—and I think Clifford needs to explore them, or any practices at all like them, as well.
Otherwise, to amplify a point I made before, Clifford's practice can only continue Julia Kristeva's version of "feminist practice": it can, that is, "only be negative, at odds with what already exists so that we may say 'that's not it,' and 'that's still not it'" (in Alcoff 418). Thus, for Kristeva, in an essay called "Oscillation between Power and Denial" (my emphasis), anything like what Clifford raises as the "political issue of history as emergence" (1988 7, my emphasis), or indeed any politics, can only have a "negative function" (Alcoff 418). These are the problems with any
rigorously textualist position, poststructuralist or postmodernist, as I have remarked in the introduction; and those critics concerned to move to a politics outside the text will need to propose ways—as Nancy Hartsock, from whom I have earlier quoted, and Linda Alcoff do—to tell a more stable tale, even if it is only subjunctively constituted. One might, that is, in consideration of tribal narratives old or new, say: what if we told the story this way, or spoke conditionally of it that way, where these "ways" are neither tragic nor comic, not romantic or ironic, but, to adopt Gerald Vizenor's term, mixedblood narrative forms. From this perspective, the Mashpee "identities," so openly represented by Clifford, might, indeed, from a Western perspective, look like "a series of cultural and political transactions, not all-or-nothing conversions or resistances" (1988 342), but they might also, from an Indian perspective, look like—I don't know, perhaps some particular Wampanoag type that remains to be specified.
On the last page of "The Pure Products Go Crazy," the page on which he affirms that "modern ethnographic histories are perhaps condemned to oscillate between" (17) tragic and comic narrative structures, Clifford claims that his own book—certainly one of these "histories"—"surveys several hybrid and subversive forms of cultural representation, forms that prefigure an inventive future" (17, my emphasis). This seems to me an odd assertion: that hybrid forms are, indeed, potentially subversive forms is something I have most particularly learned from such writers as Gerald Vizenor, Gloria Anzaldúa, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, and, consistently, from Clifford himself. But if that is the case, how can these hybrid forms "prefigure" an exclusively "inventive future"? By the logic of everything that has come before, the future could not exclusively be "prefigured" as
a story of invention, because any strictly comic narrative could never tell the whole story; it would need some form of the story of the future as tragic loss to—what? Dialogize, complicate, ironically subvert its claim to adequacy?
For Clifford has very strongly presented the case that—to take Edward Said's triad of world, text, and critic—whatever the world may be like, the critic in her text must tell its story inevitably as one of homogenization as well as invention, etc., himself perpetually veering and oscillating between these two perspectives. In regard to what, then, might we posit a purely "inventive future"? So far as I can tell, Clifford's permission of an apparently unqualified, comically inventive future here applies neither to the world, the text as product, nor to the critic as producer of the text, but, rather, to writing alone.
So far as this is true, I might note, too, that Clifford's admirable essay, "On Ethnographic Authority," both in its original version (1983) and in its slightly revised appearance in The Predicament of Culture (1988), also turned to writing as its ultimate horizon. In the final paragraph of that essay—I will quote its first and last sentences—a strictly inventive future for writing is endorsed, but, in this instance, nonetheless inevitably problematized. Clifford says,
Experiential, interpretive, dialogical, and polyphonic processes are at work, discordantly, in any ethnography. . . . If ethnographic writing is alive, as I believe it is, it is struggling within and against these possibilities. (1983 142; 1988 54)
While it might be thought that some of the "processes. . . at work" in ethnographic writing could possibly be concordant with one another, as Clifford describes them they are
"struggling" discordantly. And so, here, at least, it is ultimately for writing as it is for the world, the text, and the critic. The choice of verb here, "struggling," recalls the choice of verbs to describe the condition of "modern ethnographic histories" and of the writer of those histories. The histories were said to be ("perhaps") "condemned to oscillate " between two paradigmatic stories or "metanarratives," and, inasmuch as "modern ethnographic histories" (17) don't actually write themselves—as, indeed, "writing" doesn't quite write itself—the one who writes them must also be condemned to oscillation or struggle—"caught ," to cite an earlier formulation, "between cultures" (9, my emphasis).
If Clifford's ethnographic conjuncturalist "moving" between cultures (9) is, in his movement, "caught" between cultures (9), "condemned" (11) to oscillate between cultures, then even his writing can't, for more than a moment, be taken as exclusively comic and inventive. Writing, like the world, the text, and the critic, must also be implicated inevitably in a story of decline—a story which, to be sure, like Clifford's ending to "The Pure Products Go Crazy," will still swing back to an upbeat rhetoric of representational aliveness and inventiveness, to the belief in strenuous yet hopeful struggle, and to a whole world emergently "going places."
The content of Clifford's form, the emplotment of his story, is, then, as I have said, ironic through and through. The predicament of culture is the same as the predicament of the writer of culture, as it is, too, of cultural writing. No one narrative will do; stories of homogenization and decline must interact and intersect with stories of invention and emergence, and equivalently for the world, the text, and
the critic. Still, as also noted, for writing, the impulse to ground an unsubverted comic inventiveness is allowed at least a momentary play.
In the same way, it seems to me that there is an impulse to see the predicament of the writer of culture—for all that this impulse is not indulged in any explicit way—in a distinctly tragic fashion. What I am laboring to say here is that I read Clifford's strongest leanings as oriented toward narrating cultural change in inventive, emergent, and politically progressive modes; for all that he regularly insists upon a radical relativization of these leanings, it nonetheless seems to me that he does, indeed, want to propose a "different" vision from that of William Carlos Williams, a comic vision. In regard to the situation of the writer of culture, however, I read Clifford as leaning strongly toward more nearly tragic descriptions (for all that, here, too, he regularly qualifies any description offered). Consider the following self-characterization. Clifford says,
my topic is a pervasive condition of offcenteredness in a world of distinct meaning systems. . . . A modern "ethnography" of conjunctures, constantly moving between cultures, does not . . . aspire to survey the full range of human diversity or development. It is perpetually displaced. (9)
And notice that the practitioner of ethnographic conjuncturalism is not only "perpetually displaced," but—to cite more fully the words I quoted above—that "Intervening in an interconnected world, [he or she] is always, to varying degrees, 'inauthentic': caught between cultures" (11). Clifford risks, here, reinstantiating the oppositional categories or "pervasive dichotomy" (344) he has been at pains to deconstruct, for one can only be "offcenter" if "centeredness"
is taken seriously as a meaningful, positive term; the quotation marks around "inauthentic," to be sure, qualify the invocation of the set authentic/inauthentic: but in relation to what other than a sense of authenticity would "inauthenticity" have semantic and affective force? It is the same with Clifford's use of the verb "displaced." Displacement, as the continuation of his sentence has it, means "both regionally focused and broadly comparative, a form both of dwelling and of travel in a world where the two experiences are less and less distinct" (9). Thus the ethnographic conjuncturalist today must be a dweller in culture and a traveler among cultures. This seems altogether unexceptional—for all that, as I have remarked above, Clifford's comparativity does not seem to me very broadly traveled outside the West. But I hardly see how the both/and of local/global, or regional/"broadly comparative" need add up to a sense of being "perpetually displaced "—unless, to repeat, placement is something one believes in and only very painfully gives up.
This is to say that although Clifford's conclusion to his introduction promises a bright and inventive future for modern ethnographic writing, still, the language at this juncture suggests a decided nostalgia in regard to the critical writer, not for cultural "purity," but, rather, for that fuller empowerment, that greater "ethnographic authority," of an earlier generation. I am far from superior to such nostalgia: how many of us, after all—we academics who attempt to write culture and its history in one form or another—can honestly claim to be free of any longing for a time when one might actually have "aspire[d] to survey the full range of human diversity or development" (1988 9), to have done so with a clear conscience, and with the hope of telling the "whole" or "true" story?
With Clifford, I believe, of course, that between cultures
is where critics must situate themselves, but I see that position as not off the center, but, instead, on the borders. The difference is that the border intellectual, or, in my specific terminology, the ethnocritic, ideally, and I trust, in actual material practice, is not engaged in writing or in acting out a tragic or a comic destiny or identity but, rather, with recognizing, accommodating, mediating, or, indeed, even bowing under the weight of sheer difference. This is not, of course, the way in which the metropolitan critic, securely draped in the mantle of full competence and authority, went about his business in the past. But surely those who write to produce—I return again to Said—noncoercive knowledge in the interest of social justice cannot mourn the passing of that type of authority; if that is what has been displaced, well, all to the good.
My guess, for what it may be worth, is that Clifford would not disagree. And yet he seems uncomfortable accepting even a provisionally stable commitment to a comically emplotted politics of emergence and invention, in the interest of what Allon White has called a cosmopolitan "unity-in-difference" (233), while trying bravely to speak up for what is nonetheless correctly named as displacement. Thus for all the upbeat conclusion to "The Pure Products Go Crazy," with its apparently unqualified endorsement of multiculturalism and "an inventive future"; with its distinct recognition "that Westerners are not the only ones going places in the modern world" (17); there is still the odd Foucauldian determinism constraining, condemning us to "oscillate" or "veer" to the pole of homogenization and loss, however much we may attempt to choose other forms of positionality.
Is it inappropriate to suggest that it is mostly for persons who had, in whatever degree consciously or unconsciously,
expected to occupy positions of epistemological and discursive centrality, that an acknowledged loss of that centrality must be deeply disconcerting and productive of a sense of being displaced, offcenter, caught, or condemned? But—and I remind the reader here of the quotation from Nancy Hartsock earlier (p. 24)—for those persons who formerly never could expect to occupy such positions, the possibility the modern world opens is to perform in neither a tragic nor a comic plot, but, regardless of the form their story takes, simply to be visible and to be heard. Betweenness for them—I might offer bits of autobiography here in the interest of justifying the pronoun "us"—betweenness for those who have hitherto been marginalized for reasons of race, class, or gender first and foremost means nonperipherality: not centrality, nor an "'alterity,' which understands itself as an internal exclusion" (Alcoff 418). Such people—and the historical probability is that they (here, I could not say "we") will for the most part be persons of color, and women, Elsie in New Jersey and globally—such people are not likely to think, speak, and write from a sense of lost authenticity or centrality. As they increasingly have the opportunity not necessarily to be "going places," but in whatever ways only to present themselves as not entirely Other nor yet the Same, they will not, I think, feel themselves caught, or describe their betweenness as a condemnation.
Let me cite the words of Gloria Anzaldúa in this regard. She writes, in the preface to her Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza ,
Living on borders and in margins, keeping intact one's shifting and multiple identity and integrity, is like trying to swim in a new element, an "alien" element. There is an exhilaration in
being a participant in the further evolution of humankind, in being "worked" on. I have the sense that certain "faculties"—not just in me but in every border resident, colored or noncolored—and dormant areas of consciousness are being activated, awakened.
It is along these lines that ethnocriticism wishes to constitute itself as a critical practice in no way condemned to ironic oscillations between Western narratives, but, rather, as freely choosing a commitment to the production of whatever narratives—and it is impossible to predict with any accuracy the forms these will take—may serve to tell the emerging story of culture change today and in the future. Anzaldúa's willingness to be "worked" on in the margins and on the borders is very different, I think, from Clifford's being caught between. And the difference makes a difference, for all that the "work" that must go forward needs both Clifford and Anzaldúa.