Taussig, Reply to J. Stevens

John Mcreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Wed, 5 Oct 1994 11:46:47 JST

Dear John,

So far we have on the table three readings of Taussig: Lieber says mind-fuck,
leftover from the '60s, why bother. You say that Taussig is

"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's project, then, is

"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."

I say that I find him fascinating but frustrating. I work in advertising and
am able simultaneously to admire the flashy bells and whistles and to inquire
skeptically what, after all, am I getting for the time I invest in reading him.

One of the things I admire in M&A is something already there in The Devil and
Commodity Fetishism in South America: an attempt to relate the meanings of
magical images to situations which are neither purely
"traditional" (whatever that would be) or purely "Us, the West" (whatever that
would be) but instead defined by cross-cultural encounters (collisions,
invasions, revolts) that disrupt received ideas on both sides.

What bothers me is the "So what?" question? When we've gotten through the
"fiction," what have we got that represents more value than reading, say,
William Gibson (Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive) or even Tom
Clancy? (I'm now about half-way through Red Storm Rising--and amazed by how
well the thriller writer manages to humanize the players on both sides of the
war, as well as teaching me a whole lot about military technology).

I am not being flippant here. If what Taussig produces is fictions, surely
then he must be willing to be compared to work in the same category. To say
this is not to dismiss his work; it is instead to ask _specifically_ what is it
we find attractive and useful in it.

Over to you.