Re: transdance II

Johannes H. Birringer (
Mon, 05 May 1997 00:14:56 -0500

Post II/Ethnography Series


Context 2


Evocation is neither presentation nor representation. It presents no objects
and represents none, yet it makes available through absence what can be
conceived but not presented.

It is thus beyond truth and immune to the judgement of performance. It
overcomes the separation of the sensible and the conceivable, of form and
content, of self and other, of language and the world.


Evocation - that is to say, "ethnography" - is the discourse of the
postmodern world, for the world that made science, and that science made,
has disappeared, and scientific
thought is now an archaic mode of consciousness surviving for a while yet in
form without the ethnographic context that created and sustained it.

Scientific thought succumbed because it violated the first law of culture,
which says that "the more man controls anything, the more uncontrollable
both become." In the totalizing rhetoric of its mythology, science purported
to be its own justification and sought to control and autonomize its
discourse. Yet its only justification was proof, for which there could be no
justification within its own discourse, and the more it controlled its
discourse by subjecting it to the criterion of proof, the more
uncontrollable its discourse became. Its own activity constantly fragmented
the unity of knowledge it sought to project. The more it knew, the more
there was to know.


Science depended on the descriptive adequacy of language as a representation
of the
world, but in order to move from individual percept to agreed-upon
perception, it also
needed a language of communicative adequacy that could enable consensus in the
community of scientists. Its textual strategies (its method) depended on a
prior and
critical disjunction of language and the world. It made language the means
by which
knowledge about the world appeared in descriptions.

In the end, science failed because it could not reconcile the competing
demands of
representation and communication. Every move to enhance representation
communication and every agreement in communication was the sign of a new
failure in

[to be continued]

["Post-Modern Ethnography: From Document of the Occult to Occult Document"
(adapted, 1986, Stephen Tyler]