More on Taussig

John Mcreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Fri, 7 Oct 1994 15:22:13 JST

John Stevens writes:

"I also like seeing people peel back the layers of an
anthropological/epistemological grape and reveal new things
under the skin. That's how you get to the fruit. The value of a
solidly contextualized, positioned, and uncompromising
postmodern-inflected analysis is that it helps you see new things,
maybe not "truth" as an object, but some truisms about the
subject before you, some insight into something that you thought
had been explained. In stripping away or reconfiguring
representations, I think that Taussig (esp. in *Mimesis and
Alterity*) gives us a chance to see. . . maybe not *new* things,
but more clearly see what is already there."

My problem is that I'm not really sure that having read Taussig I
now see "maybe not *new* things, but more clearly...what is
already there."

Just to keep things going, let's start with the words in the title:
"Mimesis" and "Alterity." One directs our attention to imitation,
the other to the observation that something mimed is always
"Other" with respect to those doing the miming. On careful
reflection, however, I wonder if I've really gotten any further than
standard metaphor theory in which something from one domain
is assigned attributes associated with something in a second
domain, thus enhancing its meaning. To say that people on both
sides of a cross-cultural encounter "appropriate" images from
each other's cultures in an effort to understand or control what at
first seemed "other" to them, is, on the face of it, unremarkable.
Happens every day. What isn't clear to me is the value added by
using the words "mimesis" and "alterity" and raising the ghost of
Walter Benjamin, except of course to overawe the hicks who
haven't read continental philosophers. Is there more to this than
shuck and jive? What, I wonder, am I missing? <g>