Reply to Moffatt

Essay Excerpt

What Moffatt cannot see is that the dichotomy between authenticity and inauthenticity has been superseded. Mass-produced commercial culture and the production of subjective culture in everyday life are not rigidly separable but dialectically related activities. There is no separate, autonomous, authentic cultural expression, no pure class culture or youth culture that is not inextricably enmeshed in culture produced in commodity form. As Michael Denning (1990) sums up a provocative account of the future for cultural studies:

There is no mass culture out there; it is the very element in which we all breathe.

For anthropology to contribute to an analysis of the nature,uses, and consequences of cultural forms in a late capitalist world, traditional ethnography is inadequate. What need representation are not self-sufficient communities of meaning-making subjects, but the complex relationships that tie local worlds into larger systems. In the "mixed-genre" texts (Marcus 1986:188) adequate to that task, ethnographic representation, although essential, will have to be combined with other modes of analysis. It is even conceivable that anthropology itself may eventually be incorporated into a more comprehensive, interdisciplinary cultural studies, although that eventuality is unlikely on institutional grounds. For my part, however, the ongoing erosion of disciplinary boundaries is not threatening but exhilarating. (Traube, 378)

About the Author

Elizabeth Traube is a Prfoessor of Anthropology at Wesleyan University. Her areas of expertise are as follows: social and cultural theory; anthropology of ritual; cultural and media studies.

"My teaching interests include social and cultural theory, ethnographic writing, the anthropology of ritual and the cultural politics of nationalism. I also teach a number of courses on popular culture in the US, such as ANTH324 (Youth Culture), ANTH244 (Television: The Domestic Medium), and ANTH308 (Television Storytelling)."

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