The literature
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Writing Culture (Clifford and Marcus 1986) was a benchmark publication indicating several possible trajectories for a postmodernist (or critical) anthropology. A major theme in the collection is that anthropology has moved (or should move) from the espousal of scientific ethnography to the study of ethnographic texts themselves. According to Marcus and Fischer (1986) this shift is not only in accord with general tendencies toward a ‘reassessment of dominant ideas across the human sciences’ (1986:7) (the so-called ‘postparadigm’), but in the specific case of anthropology, the shift marks an increasing preoccupation with issues of contextualization and reflexivity in the face of the declining coherence of †metanarrative and grand theory. Where anthropological approaches significantly part company with the general tendencies of ‘postparadigm’ cultural criticism is in the continued affiliation with peoples and traditions outside the ‘Western’ nexus. The tension generated by anthropology’s dual allegiance has thwarted a hegemonic postmodern outlook: if the field were to relinquish ‘the other’ in the name of a Baudrillardian ‘implosion of the the hyperreal’ it would have little role to play, except as provider of ethnographic detail.