Tactility and Distraction

Essay Excerpt

Quite apart from its open invitation to entertain a delicious anarchy, exposing principles no less than dogma to the white heat of daily practicality and contradiction, there is surely plurality in everydayness. My everyday has a certain routine, doubtless, but it is also touched by a deal of unexpectedness, which is what many of us like to think of as essential to life, to a metaphysics of life, itself. And by no means can my everyday be held to be the same as vast numbers of other people in this city of New York, those who were born here, those who have recently arrived from other everydays far away, those who have money, those who don't. This would be an obvious point, the founding orientation of a sociology of experience, were it not for the peculiar and unexamined ways by which "the everyday" seems, in the diffuseness of its ineffability, to erase difference in much the same way as modern European-derived notions of the public and the masses do.

This apparent erasure suggests the trace of a diffuse commonality in the commonweal so otherwise deeply divided, a commonality that is no doubt used to manipulate consensus but also promises the possibility of other sorts of nonexploitative solidarities which, in order to exist at all, will have to at some point be basedon a common sense of the everyday and, what is more, the ability to sense other everydaynesses. (Taussig, 147)

About the Author

Michael Taussig is a Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. "I began fieldwork in 1969. I have returned every year. My writing has spanned different things in roughly the following order; two books in Spanish for local people on the history of slavery and its aftermath, and books and articles in academic journals on the: 1) commercialization of peasant agriculture, 2) slavery, 3) hunger, 4) the popular manifestations of the working of commodity fetishism, 5) the impact of colonialism (historical and contemporary) on "shamanism" and folk healing, 6) the relevance of modernism and post-modernist aesthetics for the understanding of ritual, 7) the making, talking, and writing of terror, 8) mimesis in relation to sympathetic magic, state fetishism, and secrecy, 9) defacement (meaning iconoclasm), 10) a two week diary detailing paramilitary violence, 11)a study of exciting substance loaded with seduction and evil, gold and cocaine, in a montage-ethnography of the Pacific Coast of Colombia, 11) currently writing a book entitled "What Color is the Sacred?"."

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