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In the vein of his books "The""Nervous System "and "Walter Benjamin s "Grave, "The Corn Wolf "presents a collection of essays that capture well Michael Taussig s ongoing development/trajectory as a writer and his recent move toward storytelling "as" theory. The thrust, in a nutshell, is to extend and develop the contrast between the "Nervous System "style of writing, writing that arises from what Taussig calls the bodily unconscious, and what he now refers to as agribusiness writing, a type of writing that strips ethnography not only of its capacity to surprise but also to connect with another world. Taussig defends ethnography from agribusiness writing just as the corn wolf in Frazer s "Golden Bough" inspirits and defends agricultural crops from the reapers. A crucial aspect of this analogy is that the corn animal "occupies" the field protecting it from disease and disaster, in short from profanation. Taussig calls this apotropaic magic as opposed to the magic that transforms crops (read ethnography ) into mere food (read scholarly article or theory ). His essays explore the idea of occupation in a variety of contexts and meanings such as Palestine and Wall Street."
Collecting a decade of work from iconic anthropologist and writer Michael Taussig, The Corn Wolf pinpoints a moment of intellectual development for the master stylist, exemplifying the “nervous system” approach to writing and truth that has characterized his trajectory. Pressured by the permanent state of emergency that imbues our times, this approach marries storytelling with theory, thickening spiraling analysis with ethnography and putting the study of so-called primitive societies back on the anthropological agenda as a way of better understanding the sacred in everyday life.
The leading figure of these projects is the corn wolf, whom Wittgenstein used in his fierce polemic on Frazer’s Golden Bough. For just as the corn wolf slips through the magic of language in fields of danger and disaster, so we are emboldened to take on the widespread culture of academic—or what he deems “agribusiness”—writing, which strips ethnography from its capacity to surprise and connect with other worlds, whether peasant farmers in Colombia, Palestinians in Israel, protestors in Zuccotti Park, or eccentric yet fundamental aspects of our condition such as animism, humming, or the acceleration of time.
A glance at the chapter titles—such as “The Stories Things Tell” or “Iconoclasm Dictionary”—along with his zany drawings, testifies to the resonant sensibility of these works, which lope like the corn wolf through the boundaries of writing and understanding.
University of Chicago Press
Number of Pages
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
9.00 x 6.00 x 0.80 Inches
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