Taussig and Alterity

John Stevens (8859jstev@UMBSKY.CC.UMB.EDU)
Tue, 4 Oct 1994 16:43:06 EDT

on Michael Taussig and *Mimesis and Alterity*. Basically, I see Taussig
as "good to think with," as opposed to a "mindfuck," a characterization
that I think ignores what Taussig is trying to do with *M&A*. There are
two quotes that I think illustrate his intentions: the first is a lengthy
one from his introduction (p.xvii):
But just as we might garner courage to reinvent a new world and live new
fictions --what a sociology that would be!-- so a devouring force comes at us
from another dirction, seducing us by playing on our yearning for the true
real. Would that it would, would that it could, come clean, this true real.
I so badly want that wink of recognition, that complicity with the nature of
nature. But the more I want it, the more I realize it's not for me. Nor for
you either. . . " He then goes on to talk about "representational gimmicks"
and how we channel our desires for "this silly and often desperate place"
into our construction of the world. On p. 143, he states that "[t]his infernal
American identity machine thus composes a mosaic of alterities around a
mysterious core of hybridity seething with instability, threatening the First
World quest for a decent fix of straightforward Othering. . ." I think that
Taussig is both attempting to construct a critical, rather poetic stance on
the production of Others and our lust for knowledge, and giving us clues as to
the source of this desire and its expressions.
Taussig does not dismiss "any 'solution' because it is ideological", since
there is a thinly veiled and deeply embedded ideology present in *M&A*. Unlike
some other 'scorched-earth' theorists (like Roy Wagner and historian of religio
ns Catherine Bell), he gives us enough contextual information for us to begin
to answer the questions that his work poses, urged on by his wonderful prose
and subtextual intent. Taussig is obviously creating "new fictions" for us to
plunge into, so that we can join him in figuring why the Other is so attractive
and why we feel the need to constantly explain and reconstruct Him/Her/Them.

Comments, reflections, et al, are very much desired.

John Stevens
University of Massachusetts at Boston