Taussig/Reply to Lieber

John Mcreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Tue, 4 Oct 1994 16:08:14 JST

M. Lieber writes,

Taussig is a master of mindfuck, a brilliant but useless holdover from the
60s. I see he's done it to you. Think about the dismissal of any "solution"
because it is ideological. That is, he uses an old academic trick, a
category of X which is by its nature invalid, to equal whatever it is that
was the answer to the original question. But it goes one step beyond the
olf trick, which is to take someone's framework and dismiss it categorically,
e.g., it is just functionalism. He creates a double-bind of the form:
This is how schizophrenigenic parents create schizophrenic children, and this
is what Taussig is best at. Why waste your time?
To which I reply

Because, leaving aside the 'mind-fuck,' there are observations that pose
real problems: very specific ones like, "Why are figurines used in Cuna
curing rites carved to look like white folks?" and more general ones like,
"Mimesis involves an attempt to become something other. Is this 'faculty'
(aka 'black box') central to cultural such cultural phenomena as mysticism,
religion, magic and advertising (all favorite topics of mine) or, indeed,
to cultural tout court, conceived as a sort of consensual fiction?" In
the case of Chinese religion, to return to a more concrete example, there
are numerous ethnographic studies that repeat the proposition that gods,
ghosts and ancestors are modeled on social categories: officials, non-
relatives and kin, respectively. It is clear, however, that the "modeling"
in question is far from exact--which leads to the interesting question why
and how the "models" differ from (as well as resemble) the social
categories in question....That sort of thing.

Anyone else care to plunge in?