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The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America
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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Anthropology Great Books (Now Includes Books That Are Just OK)
86 books — 25 voters
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Nov 07, 2014 Malcolm rated it it was amazing · review of another edition
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.
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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
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
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.
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.
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 ...moreMore 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.”More quotes…