Saturday, October 18, 2008

Normal Life

This semester I am sitting in on a course with the great M. Taussig – anthropologist extraordinaire. He’s teaching a course on fictocriticism: the anthropology of estrangement. His basic point is that if we expose ourselves to things outside of what we consider normal we are able to see how what we consider normal is just as strange as what we at first consider strange: we are no more reasonable than any other strange people. When we understand this we become enchanted by “the normal” and we can potentially “make culture” through a careful telling the story of our own collective estrangement.

The class is fantastic not only because M. Taussig wears a different exotically woven shirt to every class, and tells wonderful stories of extreme behavior full of snorts, sarcastic reflexivity, and half-closed eyes (for concentration) – but because he tries to reinvigorates the world at large with electric mystical knowledge.

Last Tuesday I went to hear one of my favorite writers, Philip Gourevitch, down at Columbia and who should I see loafing in the back but the great M. Tuassig. Philip Gourevitch was talking about literature and terror (Abu Gharib, Rawanda), about how there might not be any common humanity, and about how the human story might be more about “making the other conform to my story of reality by any force necessary.” Philip has a “pessimistic view of history” grounded in the way “blood makes the fiction real.” But despite this tragic way of life he still has a firm trust in a style of life and writing that prefers the beautiful, the good sentence, the careful composition abstracted from the muddle of everyday power politics and re-presentation re-production. He believes in telling his own story just like M. Taussig. I’d like to try that lifestyle too; as I loaf along the backcloth of Chinese and Uyghur cultural history, through the streets of Foucault’s San Fransico, and the pines of Gary Snyder’s Northern Cascades with my normal wife Jennifer/


Blogger Bubbsyte said...

Darren, have you ever watched "Wit" the movie (2001)?

12:48 AM  

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