Lucas Jackson and Post-Modernism: Are Current Scholars Playing a "Cool Hand"?
"Cool Hand Luke", Stuart Rosenberg's 1967 film depicting life on a Southern chain gang, can serve as a parable for the current state of scholarship in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. Lucas Jackson's struggles — demotion, incarceration, execution — and responses to seemingly arbitrary societal rules — cutting the heads off of parking meters, consumption of 50 eggs, etc. — emphasize the degree to which his Western society is obsessed with order and control. Many post-modernists have questioned whether this overriding cultural fixation has unknowingly caused previous Western scholars to impose their own rules and biases on the Other. They have shaken the very core of anthropological inquiry, questioning whether outsiders can appreciate cultural phenomena other than their own. Building on Roy Wagner's 1975 assertion regarding the inadvertent Western invention of the Other's culture, the scholars' culture, and the concept of Culture, this study investigates the relationship between bias deconstruction and empiricism. It lauds the attention to scholarly bias, yet suggests that any analytical approach that does not move beyond an initial deconstruction of cultural perspective is nothing more than a paradigmatic "cool hand".
Keywords: Postmodernism, Cool Hand Luke, Cultural Rules, Perspective, Empiricism
Dr. Seth Mallios
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, San Diego State University