Re: Taussig, Reply to J. Stevens

wilkr (wilkr@INDIANA.EDU)
Wed, 5 Oct 1994 09:45:49 -0500

I just finished reading Taussig's paper "Maleficium: State Fetishism" in
Apter & Pietz' "Fetishism as Cultural Discourse."

I have to weigh in on the Leiber-Mcreery side, in that I found the paper
interesting, in places wise and creative. I was surprised by how easy it
was to read and understand, put-off by the gimmicks, like the empty frame
where a picture of a totem would have appeared if it had not been sacred
(reminds me of Taussig's famous gimmick where he read a paper with a bag
over his head).

But at the end I asked myself what I had learned or experienced. Taussig
strikes me as a trickster (and a self-styled one at that). He is so
ambivalent about anthropology and its goals - he slides in and out of
being serious about it. So if you ask a serious question he says you lack
a sense of humor. And if you joke with him he tells you to get serious!

I would tell him, after reading this paper, that I reject Genet as an
inspiration for anthropological thought about the nature of the state.
But I'm sure he would laugh at me and tell me I missed the point.

Rick Wilk

Richard Wilk Anthropology Dept.
812-855-8162 (voice) Indiana University
812-855-4358 (fax) Bloomington, IN 47405