Michael Taussig: The End of the Masterful Explanation

Some leftover notes from Taussig, for the scrapbook, extracted from:

Taussig, Michael. (1993). Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses. New York: Routledge.


The end of “inquiry” and the mastery of the First World:

“To call these reflections on Western reflections an ‘inquiry’ suggests that the anthropological project can continue unabated with the same old desire for intellectual mastery of the object of study and the same old desire for the enigma of the ‘powerful explanation.’ But world history has decreed otherwise. mastery is mocked as First World and Other worlds now mirror, interlock, and rupture each other’s alterity to such a degree that all that is left is the excess — the self-consciousness as to the need for an Identity” (pp. 236-237)

“Mastery is no longer possible. The West as mirrored in the eyes and handiwork of its Others undermines the stability which mastery needs. What remains is unsettled and unsettling interpretation in constant movement with itself — what I have elsewhere called a Nervous System — because the interpreting self is itself grafted into the object of study” (p. 237)

“explanation” is a “defensive appropriation of the unfamiliar” (p. 237)


The Second Contact Era:

“To become aware of the West in the eyes and handiwork of its Others, to wonder at the fascination with their fascination, is to abandon border logistics, and enter into the second contact era of the borderland where ‘us’ and ‘them’ lose their polarity and swim in and out of focus” (p. 246)


Fragmented Knowledge and Representation:

“In this world the glimpse, like the sound-bite and the after-image, is where the action is, Dada-like impulsions of Otherness hurled at disconcerted beings splayed open to the future” (p. 249)