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The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America
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The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  318 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
In this classic book, Michael Taussig explores the social significance of the devil in the folklore of contemporary plantation workers and miners in South America. Grounding his analysis in Marxist theory, Taussig finds that the fetishization of evil, in the image of the devil, mediates the conflict between precapitalist and capitalist modes of objectifying the human condi ...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published March 1st 2010 by University of North Carolina Press (first published 1980)
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Despite the title, this is not an exploration of satanic rituals – but it is very much an ethnography of religion, colonialism and the changes brought about in life experience as a result of the imposition of the new ways of being that colonialism brings about. Good cross cultural scholarship and ethnography can expose and reveal an enormous amount about the ‘home’ culture of the researcher while at the same time unravelling and allowing us to make sense of another way of being and living.

In th
Viii Legion
Nov 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Triumphs as an ethnography, fails at political commentary. The author expertly chronicles the synthetic blend of Roman-Catholic, Afro-Caribbean, and Latin superstitions and religious faiths South American agricultural workers harbor which is very interesting. However, the author occasionally inserts his naive belief that Marxism can somehow save these people from exploitation which detracts from the ethnography. Not to get too political, but if Capitalism and Marxism both become susceptible to t ...more
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally finished this damn book after three years. Sorry Saba, I hope ur doing well.

Also thanks Taussig, I guess.
Emma Roulette
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faves
I think that when we read ethnography about cultures other than our own, we end up learning just as much about how weird our own culture is. Good ethnography uncovers the social relations that construct meaning in a particular society, calling into question the processes that shape the facts and concepts that we call our own. It makes us realize that we have taken for granted the paradigms that we use daily to understand our world. Our schemas of categorization have become contact lenses that ha ...more
May 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is soooooooooo cool! it takes two examples of indigenous communities in latin america and looks at how they have begun to use discourses of the devil and the demonic at the same time as capitalism was forced on their lives. It essentially argues that capitalism can be best understood/revealed/denaturalized by using the imagery of the devil, soul stealers, etc.
Feb 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school
As far as ethnographies go, this one is pretty good. Easily readable for anyone not familiar with the theory that's being applied in the study. However, there is a bit of a slog through the history at the start of the book, I would almost go so far as to say to skip the first 50-70 pages.
Mar 27, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really brings it home how something isn't intrinsically itself, but has qualities only so far as its different from the things around it. Makes a great case for a relational rather than an atomistic view of reality.
Apr 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting but I was ultimately left unconvinced, particularly by the final chapter
John Victor
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting anthropological study imo
Very good and highly informative.
Marxist historians CANNOT write.
Matt Webb
Mar 11, 2008 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended by Anne G after a discussion about understanding exchange and use values better.
Apr 20, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Too communist-heavy for my liking.
Nov 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
A little too much economics for my taste.
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Michael Taussig (born 1940) earned a medical degree from the University of Sydney, received his PhD. in anthropology from the London School of Economics and is a professor at Columbia University and European Graduate School. Although he has published on medical anthropology, he is best known for his engagement with Marx's idea of commodity fetishism, especially in terms of the work of Walter Benja ...more
More about Michael Taussig...
“Magical beliefs are revelatory and fascinating not because they are ill-conceived instruments of utility but because they are poetic echoes of the cadences that guide the innermost course of the world. Magic takes language, symbols, and intelligibility to their outermost limits, to explore life and thereby to change its destination.” 0 likes
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