Michael Taussig


Michael Taussig
Michael Taussig (born 3 April 1940) is an Australian anthropologist, born in Sydney. He earned a medical degree from the University of Sydney, received his PhD. in anthropology from the London School of Economics and is a professor at Columbia University and European Graduate School.[1] Although he has published on medical anthropology, he is best known for his engagement with Marx's idea of commodity fetishism, especially in terms of the work of Walter Benjamin. He won a Berlin Prize 2007 from the American Academy in Berlin.[2]

The Devil And Commodity Fetishism (1980)
The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America is both a polemic about anthropology and an analysis of a set of seemingly magical beliefs held by rural and urban workers in Colombia and Bolivia. His polemic is that the principal concern of anthropology should be to critique Western (specifically, capitalist) culture. He further argues that people living in the periphery of the world capitalist economy have a critical vantage point on capitalism, and articulate their critiques of capitalism in terms of their own cultural idioms. He thus concludes that anthropologists should study peoples living on the periphery of the world capitalist economy as a way of gaining critical insight into the anthropologists' own culture. In short, this polemic shifts the anthropologists' object of study from that of other cultures to that of their own, and repositions the former objects of anthropological study (e.g. indigenous peoples) as valued critical thinkers. Taussig applies this approach to two beliefs, one based on both his own field research and that of anthropologist June Nash, the second based on his own research. The first is the belief held by semi-proletarianized peasants in Colombia (with an analogous case among Bolivian tin miners) that proletarianized sugar-cane cutters can make a contract with the devil that will cause them to make a good deal of money, but that this money can be spent only on frivolous consumer goods, and that the cutter will die an early miserable death. Taussig suggests that earlier anthropologists might have argued that this belief is a hold-over from pre-capitalist culture, or serves as a levelling mechanism (ensuring that no individual become significantly wealthier than any of his or her fellows). Taussig however argues that through the devil, peasants express their recognition that capìtalism is based on the magic belief that capital is productive, when in fact capitalism breeds poverty, disease, and death. The second belief provides another example of peasants' representing their own understanding of capitalism's claim that capital is productive: the belief that some people engineer a switch that results in a peso, rather than a baby, being baptised. The consequence is that the money, alive, will return to its original owner no matter how it is spent, and bring more money back with it.

Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing (1987)
In Michael Taussig's seminal work, Shamanism, Colonialism and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing, he leads us down a path that examines the project of Colonialism as it was carried out in South America. He first creates a space of an all-too-real and present terror followed by a process of healing that we as readers are ourselves supposed to follow. Through the weaving and interlocking of literature, firsthand accounts, and his ethnographic work, Taussig creates, "a mode of perception—a way of seeing through a way of talking--figuring the world through dialogue that comes alive with sudden transformative force in the crannies of everyday life’s pauses and juxtapositions. ... It is an irregular, quavering image of hope, this inscription on the edge of official history" (209). In both following his text and allowing ourselves to be absorbed into it as it develops, Taussig himself comes to take on the role of the shaman, and we readers the role of the patient. Taussig introduces his subject matter in his author’s note, stating that the purpose of his text is to examine, "the politics of epistemic murk and the fiction of the real, in the creation of Indians, in the role of the myth and magic in colonial violence as much as in its healing, and in the way that healing can mobilize terror in order to subvert it ...

which Taussig thoroughly documents through providing firsthand accounts from the time. The barons' reaction to indigenous resistance was to carry out horrific acts of terror on the minds and bodies of the local population. Terror resulted in a. He tries to explore the process through which we commodify the state and in that way transfer the power to it. who violently pressured the natives to extract rubber from the rubber trees of the area.’ To show the universality of the nervous system he takes his reader through the heights of Macchu Picchu. "folding of the underworld of the conquering society into the culture of the conquered [is] not as an organic synthesis or ‘syncretism’… but as a chamber of mirrors reflecting each stream’s perception of the other" (218). not whether facts are real but what the politics of their interpretation and representation are" (xiii. Within the "space of death" created in the Putumayo area came also the death of communal memory and objectivity. "wild". also develops its force from the colonially generated wildness of the epistemic murk of the space of death" (127). Wildness is the death space of signification” (219).. Here Taussig is speaking of how the shaman has been able to harness the "mystery" and "wildness" projected onto him by Western "civilization" in his practice as a shaman. He goes on to write that this. Wildness pries open this unity and in its place creates slippage. He notes that to the magic already possessed by shamans like García. were it not for the reciprocation of the colonized. the magic of primitivism" (216).. an Indian shaman of the Putumayo. bringing together in the dialogical imagination of colonization an image that wrests from civilization its demonic power (467). Taussig is particularly compelled by the fact that many peasant colonists seek out José García to be healed. . the powerful force of healing develops from the same space created by the other powerful force of terror: "Shamanic healing. "society shrouded in an order so orderly that its chaos was far more intense than anything that had preceded it—a death-space in the land of the living where torture's certain uncertainty fed the great machinery of the arbitrariness of power" (4). during the 1970s. the transcendent totalization binding the image to that which it represents. In the eyes of the British.. like the culture of terror. italics added). In his section on healing Taussig relates his ethnographic work with José García. That is why my subject is not the truth of being but the social being of truth. the Nervous System comprises nine essays. the world of Cuna shamans. As stated above the author begins this discussion first by looking at acts of terror and the "space of death" created there. He argues that we live in a state of emergency. Michael Taussig sets out on a journey to explore and describe various forces that shape and mold our present society. the Indians "would not work appropriately". So it has been through the sweep of colonial history where the colonizers provided the colonized with the left-handed gift of the image of the wild man--a gift whose powers the colonizers would be blind to. "colonialism fused its own magic. In what does the healing power of wildness lie? Taussig answers this question: Wildness challenges the unity of the symbol. 2 The Nervous System (1992) Published in 1992. citing Walter Benjamin. His case of terror is that of the rubber trade in the Putumayo river area of Colombia of the late 19th and early 20th century. Taussig attempts to show how the state uses forces such as violence or media control to consolidate its power over the people. . Interestingly enough. Much of these acts of terror stemmed from British rubber barons of the time trying to impose a capitalist mode of production on an indigenous. that is not ‘an exception but the rule. and the pale world of New York’s hospital system. population still living under an economy based upon a gift exchange system.Michael Taussig through the tripping up of power in its own disorderliness..

[3] http:/ / www. Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses. americanacademy. 1993. For Taussig. Namely My Own. 1999. press. press. edu/ faculty/ michael-taussig/ biography/ ) Faculty profile at European Graduate School [2] "American Academy Siemens Fellow .columbia. 1997. The Cuna have adopted a set of wooden figurines for magical ritual that look remarkably like white colonists. ISBN 978-0-415-90687-6. 2009. edu/ Misc/ Chicago/ 790045. See an excerpt [3]. egs. Publications • • • • • • • • • • • • The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America. and through the ideas of Walter Benjamin. ISBN 978-0-226-79006-0. The Nervous System. he would likely deny all connection between the two. The Talking Dog. ISBN 978-0-226-78982-8 Beauty and the Beast. and the value of this perspective. Shamanism. Another noteworthy peculiarity of Cuna culture that Taussig mentions is the way in which the Cuna have adopted. demonstrating why exactly anthropologists have come to reduce the Cuna culture in this way. including a distorted reflection of the Jack Daniel’s bottle. ISBN 978-0-415-91791-9. in their traditional molas. uchicago. he argues from both sides. I Swear I Saw This: Drawings in Fieldwork Notebooks. ISBN 978-0-415-90445-2. My Cocaine Museum. ISBN 978-0-226-79013-8. edu/ Misc/ Chicago/ 790096. 2006. and mistook them for Gods.Michael Taussig 3 Mimesis and Alterity (1993) Mimesis and Alterity looks primarily at the way people from different cultures experience the two themes of the book – how we come to adopt or assimilate another's nature or culture (mimesis). 2011. See an excerpt [4]. this very reduction of the Other is suspect in itself. Walter Benjamin's Grave. creating an epistemic dilemma where something that may appear obvious to anthropologists is anything but obvious to those they study. were impressed by their large ships and exotic technologies.edu/faculty/michael-taussig/biography/) Faculty profile at European Graduate School . edu/ Misc/ Chicago/ 790060. to the point of sometimes being recognizable as figures from history that traveled through those parts. See an excerpt [5]. html External links • Michael Taussig (http://www. 1992. html [5] http:/ / www. ISBN 978-0-226-79014-5. and the Wild Man : A Study in Terror and Healing.with biography and bibliography • Taussig Bio page at Columbia University (http://www. ISBN 978-0-8047-3200-0. 2004. ISBN 978-0-8078-4106-8. Taussig studies this phenomenon through ethnographical accounts of the Cuna. de/ home/ person/ michael-taussig).Class of Spring 2007" (http:/ / www. 2012 References [1] Michael Taussig (http:/ / www. Defacement: Public Secrecy and the Labor of the Negative.edu/cu/anthropology/fac-bios/taussig/ faculty. images from western pop culture. 1987. Taussig criticizes anthropology for reducing the Cuna culture to one in which the Cuna had simply come across the white colonists in the past.egs. . ISBN 978-0-226-79009-1. and also a popular iconic image from the early twentieth century. What Color Is the Sacred?. at the same time as defending the independence of lived culture from Anthropological reductionism. Retrieved 24 March 2012. html [4] http:/ / www.html) . 2003. uchicago. American Academy in Berlin. and also how we come to identify/distance ourselves with/from it (alterity). used in advertising gramophones. The Magic of the State. 1980. press. uchicago. If you asked one of the Cuna about the figurines. ISBN 978-0-226-79004-6. and through Mimesis and Alterity. Law in a Lawless Land: Diary of a Limpieza in Colombia. Colonialism.

Blainster. Agusk7. Giraffedata. Tom Lougheed. John of Reading. Laughlin. Justus Nussbaum. Miceinthelemonfields.wikipedia.0 Unported //creativecommons. Omnipaedista. Birdmessenger. Charles D. JubalHarshaw. Waacstats. Taussigportal. Allens. Philososlav. Scoty6776. Slrubenstein. Tarret. Colonies Chris. UnitedStatesian. Dblobaum. Anthrophilos.0/ . Schrauwers.org/w/index. Manytexts. Jfpierce. Edward. Theoldanarchist. Charles Matthews. Seelouise58. Jbmurray. Maelnuneb.org/licenses/by-sa/3. Chzz. Rjwilmsi.Article Sources and Contributors 4 Article Sources and Contributors Michael Taussig  Source: http://en. Robofish. Dl2000. Bellfox79. PelleSmith. Sigismondo. PseudoSudo. 24 anonymous edits License Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3. S.php?oldid=536761495  Contributors: Adambiswanger1. Bearcat.