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Saturday, July 29, 2006

To 'Sum Up ' Postmodernism

To Sum up Postmodernism ……

According to Lyotard Postmodernism has to do with scepticism about Grand Narrative; it is about heterogeneity.

According to Jameson, it must involve a way of mapping the new and confusing contours of our late capitalistic times.

According to Baudrillard, postmodernism is a flow of ultra-technological images in a consumerist hyperreality across a mediascape or mindscreen to which we can only passively surrender.

According to cyberpunk it is a world dominated by multinational corporations and the data they control. Yet cyberpunks advocate a hacker ethic, tapping into and using such data for personal ends.

According to Charles Jencks all these thinkers are describing late capitalism or late modernism. According to him authentic postmodernism involves double coding the artistic representation of modernism with something else, some Other.

All postmodern thinkers agree the world is shrinking. There is no one dominant worldview. Pluralism rules: traditional, modern, late modern and postmodern all rub elbows in the same culture.

Encroachment by the other upon what had once been our private space is central here.: The Other may be individuals, Other groups, Other species, Other races, the Other of “male,” the Other of “the West,” the Other of “Europe,” the Other of the conscious mind, the Other of the rational mind, the Other of modernism, the Other of modernisms, the Other of “ourselves” or in “ourselves”.

Through double coding, postmodern architecture, art and literature represent the other and thus present heterogeneity; by looking backward to the past, or sideways to a local culture. Thus while using modernist techniques they include the Other, humorously, ironically and playfully, rather than excluding it.

Post-modern (with hyphen) for Jencks, because postmodern has hybrid identities. Some supermyth or messiah uniting everybody under one umbrella no more exists.

Postmodern people resist grand narratives. That god is Yahweh or Allah or the goddess, that moon is made of such and such mass, that western medicine better than oriental herbal, that feminine equals sugar and spice and everything nice or that the Caucasian race is the master race – all these are man-made notions. They are social constructs / inventions. There is no one way of explaining things.

The grand narratives are replaced by hodge-podge of little narratives. Postmodern people therefore instead of believing that world will be united one day under Marxism or Christianity or Science are more interested in seeing the world as a kind of carnival of cultures- a tribal gathering.

The shining sun of universal truth and meaning is eclipsed by the colourful display of little dances, little stories, that don’t project a utopia.

Postmodern audience don’t demand that all the heterogeneous stories add up to some grand global, universal total sense, instead they celebrate the fact that it’s ok to stop making so much sense. Because of explosion of cultural messages we are beginning to understand that not only through stories but also our rituals, religious dogmas, myths, gender roles, self concepts, beliefs histories, and theories are cultural, social inventions.

We enjoy the man-made symbols but don’t want to be its slaves. We are quasi fundamentalist Christian, Muslim. We go to temples, mosques despite the doubts.

We may participate in more than one grand narrative- Buddhist Christian
It has liberated the concerns of the other. E.g. unlike Conrad who thought you could speak for the other.

Postmodernisms emphasis on the other has allowed formerly silenced Others such as women, gays, blacks, Orientals, etc to express their own stories in their own voices.

Just as postmodern societies reject grand narratives there is also an attempt to create them through cults and sects.

As the grand narratives of Christianity, Islam and Judaism have a difficult time dealing with differences, there are two major traditions-Buddhism and Hinduism. Buddhism is democratic, cool, practical, inexpensive, and also politically correct. (Because Chinese occupation of Tibet).

Vedic tradition of India- Hinduism- also accommodates differences, which tolerates a great variety of forms of worship and ways of attaining enlightenment.

Powell, Jim. Postmodernism for Beginners. Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 1998.
Anil Pinto, Dept of Media Studies;

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