When I presented the first version of this paper at Madison, I was still in the middle of wrestling with many of the elusive and intractable problems it raised. Dealing with some issues led to kicking others into the margins, where they lurked balefully as enormously extended footnotes. The critical comments of my colleagues were extremely helpful in restoring some perspective and bringing some of the marginalized issues back into the center. But what is published here is still far from a finished statement—it merely represents another stage in the continuing struggle with the hydra.
Mary Jo Arnoldi, in particular, addressed herself to the part of the paper that had become most distorted by my struggle: the part that examines the usual distinction between popular, traditional and elite and attempts to rescue something of value from this hackneyed triad. This was the part of the paper that I was most uneasy about and that I have revised most since the presentation. Since Arnoldi did not have the opportunity to see the revised version before her comments were published, some of her very good points have now been pre-empted. But much of what she says still stands and offers me an opportunity both to disagree about certain issues and also to clarify some aspects of my argument.
In the first version of my paper I did not sufficiently acknowledge the existence of unofficial or popular traditions within pre-colonial cultures. As Arnoldi points out, my picture of the “popular” was ahistorical because I located it in only one epoch, the colonial and post-colonial one. Because I was trying to come to grips with the indefinite, shapeless, and fluid area covered by popular in most scholarly writing, I inadvertently reified what was on the margins of this area: the “traditional” and the “elite,” turning the traditional in particular into a monolithic entity. As this picture of the traditional was contradicted by my own research on Yoruba oriki (Barber, 1984b) it is not surprising that I felt uneasy about it even before I read Arnoldi's perceptive comments. But unlike Arnoldi, however, I still think that the colonial/post-colonial popular arts form a distinctive though not boundaried field: they are qualitatively different from the unofficial arts of so-called traditional culture, whether pre-colonial or present-day. It seems to me that Arnoldi's own examples of Iteso and Bamana traditional-popular arts illustrate this brilliantly.