Dear Professor (you big naysayer),
You sit there in your precious professor seat and tell me that you think postmodernism is useless. It needlessly complicates issues. Postmodernists use intentionally complicated language. Postmodernists haven’t said anything new, instead they just take old ideas (that were said better then) and dress them up in words no one understands. Oh, and you complain about postmodernists injecting their own narratives into anthropological texts. You say you don’t need to have a chapter about what happened in their childhood, that you don’t care about what made them the people they are today, because if their research is good it’ll stand on it’s own.
And I say that you’re wrong.
Reason #1: Postmodernism needlessly complicates things, does it? First off, since it’s theory, and not science, let’s stop trying to apply your Occam’s razor methodology to the world. The simplest answer is NOT the right one, not in social discourse. You yourself maintain that Japanese religion has been pigeonholed into this either/or binary because of our Western perspective on religion (that there can be only ONE) and then you go on to tell me complicating things isn’t a good idea? Complications are what the world is made of. It’s a messy, passionate, freaky and sometimes unexplainable process, this thing we call life. And when describing social structures, religious practices, literary productions, is it really useful to distill something down to just one theory? Hell no. That doesn’t give anyone a proper picture of society. Describing how things work is only one of the possible narratives. And postmodernists are the one who push for the wider perspective, that incorporates a lot more possibilities, than your standard modern, hegemonic, tautological grip on things.
Reason #2: Postmodernists use intentionally complicated language, do they? Oh please. First, good postmodernists use the language they do because it means something. And they define their terms, so you know how they’re using something. In fact, most of them are more informed about the meaning of words, where they come from, and why they’re used the way they are than you think. Oh, sure, there are some bad seeds – but seriously, you cannot tell me every work by a non-postmodernist is perfect either. Besides, what’s wrong with saying what you mean with language that’s as precise as possible? What’s wrong with using words that allude to an entire methodology, when that’s what you want to do?
Reason #3: Postmodernists haven’t said anything new. Gee, really? Part of the idea of postmodernist practice is to incorporate multiple discourses, even those that are historically useful! And frankly, we’re damn well informed about what came before us. Most of the things I’ve learned about historical criticism have COME from taking postmodernist classes, because they make sure to actually tell you where things come from! And they value all kinds of theory, even those that were once brilliant, but that didn’t get any recognition. The newness of the idea is that, prior to postmodernism, everyone had their little narrow categories, their little ivory towers with lots of walls, and what the postmodernists did (and do) is to take notice of how even the most well constructed wall requires a foundation. Ok, my metaphor is getting a little haywire there – but basically, the idea is that if you don’t recognize where you come from, your work suffers.
Reason #4: If you don’t talk about where you came from, if you don’t make an effort to recognize the preconceptions you’re born with, then any critical observations that you make will always include your own personal vision, and will also cloud your judgment. Isn’t it far better to make an attempt to recognize your own preconceptions? Isn’t it far better to discuss those things you know you’re biased about, because then people reading you won’t take your work as gospel? Or are you too invested in this whole teacher = god system to accept that we’re all fallible? It’s a much more grievous sin to put your work forward as totally unbiased when it’s not!
Shall I go on? Maybe someday...if you're lucky.