I Swear I Saw This: Drawings in Fieldwork Notebooks, Namely My Own

University of Chicago Press
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I Swear I Saw This records visionary anthropologist Michael Taussig’s reflections on the fieldwork notebooks he kept through forty years of travels in Colombia. Taking as a starting point a drawing he made in Medellin in 2006—as well as its caption, “I swear I saw this”—Taussig considers the fieldwork notebook as a type of modernist literature and the place where writers and other creators first work out the imaginative logic of discovery. Notebooks mix the raw material of observation with reverie, juxtaposed, in Taussig’s case, with drawings, watercolors, and newspaper cuttings, which blend the inner and outer worlds in a fashion reminiscent of Brion Gysin and William Burroughs’s surreal cut-up technique. Focusing on the small details and observations that are lost when writers convert their notes into finished pieces, Taussig calls for new ways of seeing and using the notebook as form. Memory emerges as a central motif in I Swear I Saw This as he explores his penchant to inscribe new recollections in the margins or directly over the original entries days or weeks after an event. This palimpsest of afterthoughts leads to ruminations on Freud’s analysis of dreams, Proust’s thoughts on the involuntary workings of memory, and Benjamin’s theories of history—fieldwork, Taussig writes, provokes childhood memories with startling ease. I Swear I Saw This exhibits Taussig’s characteristic verve and intellectual audacity, here combined with a revelatory sense of intimacy. He writes, “drawing is thus a depicting, a hauling, an unraveling, and being impelled toward something or somebody.” Readers will exult in joining Taussig once again as he follows the threads of a tangled skein of inspired associations.
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About the author

Michael Taussig is the Class of 1933 Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. He is the author of ten books, including What Color Is the Sacred?, Walter Benjamin’s Grave, and My Cocaine Museum, all published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Oct 20, 2011
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Pages
192
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ISBN
9780226789842
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Latin America / General
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / General
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“It is the contemporary elixir from which all manner of being emerges, the metamorphic sublime, an alchemist’s dream.” So begins Palma Africana, the latest attempt by anthropologist Michael Taussig to make sense of the contemporary moment. But to what elixir does he refer?

Palm oil. Saturating everything from potato chips to nail polish, palm oil has made its way into half of the packaged goods in our supermarkets. By 2020, world production will be double what it was in 2000. In Colombia, palm oil plantations are covering over one-time cornucopias of animal, bird, and plant life. Over time, they threaten indigenous livelihoods and give rise to abusive labor conditions and major human rights violations. The list of entwined horrors—climatic, biological, social—is long. But Taussig takes no comfort in our usual labels: “habitat loss,” “human rights abuses,” “climate change.” The shock of these words has passed; nowadays it is all a blur. Hence, Taussig’s keen attention to words and writing throughout this work. He takes cues from precursors’ ruminations: Roland Barthes’s suggestion that trees form an alphabet in which the palm tree is the loveliest; William Burroughs’s retort to critics that for him words are alive like animals and don’t like to be kept in pages—cut them and the words are let free.

Steeped in a lifetime of philosophical and ethnographic exploration, Palma Africana undercuts the banality of the destruction taking place all around us and offers a penetrating vision of the global condition. Richly illustrated and written with experimental verve, this book is Taussig’s Tristes Tropiques for the twenty-first century.
"Without this testimony, we simply cannot grasp what is going on . . . Americans would do well to read [Gangster Warlords]." --The New York Times Book Review, Editor's Choice

From the author of El Narco, the shocking story of the men at the heads of cartels throughout Latin America: what drives them, what sustains their power, and how they might be brought down.

In a ranch south of Texas, the man known as The Executioner dumps five hundred body parts in metal barrels. In Brazil's biggest city, a mysterious prisoner orders hit-men to gun down forty-one police officers and prison guards in two days. In southern Mexico, a meth maker is venerated as a saint while enforcing Old Testament justice on his enemies.

A new kind of criminal kingpin has arisen: part CEO, part terrorist, and part rock star, unleashing guerrilla attacks, strong-arming governments, and taking over much of the world's trade in narcotics, guns, and humans. What they do affects you now--from the gas in your car, to the gold in your jewelry, to the tens of thousands of Latin Americans calling for refugee status in the U.S. Gangster Warlords is the first definitive account of the crime wars now wracking Central and South America and the Caribbean, regions largely abandoned by the U.S. after the Cold War. Author of the critically acclaimed El Narco, Ioan Grillo has covered Latin America since 2001 and gained access to every level of the cartel chain of command in what he calls the new battlefields of the Americas. Moving between militia-controlled ghettos and the halls of top policy-makers, Grillo provides a disturbing new understanding of a war that has spiraled out of control--one that people across the political spectrum need to confront now.
In this fascinating and inventive work, A. David Napier argues that the central assumption of immunology—that we survive through the recognition and elimination of non-self—has become a defining concept of the modern age. Tracing this immunological understanding of self and other through an incredibly diverse array of venues, from medical research to legal and military strategies and the electronic revolution, Napier shows how this defensive way of looking at the world not only destroys diversity but also eliminates the possibility of truly engaging difference, thereby impoverishing our culture and foreclosing tremendous opportunities for personal growth.

To illustrate these destructive consequences, Napier likens the current craze for embracing diversity and the use of politically correct speech to a cultural potluck to which we each bring different dishes, but at which no one can eat unless they abide by the same rules. Similarly, loaning money to developing nations serves as a tool both to make the peoples in those nations more like us and to maintain them in the nonthreatening status of distant dependents. To break free of the resulting downward spiral of homogenization and self-focus, Napier suggests that we instead adopt a new defining concept based on embryology, in which development and self-growth take place through a process of incorporation and transformation. In this effort he suggests that we have much to learn from non-Western peoples, such as the Balinese, whose ritual practices require them to take on the considerable risk of injecting into their selves the potential dangers of otherness—and in so doing ultimately strengthen themselves as well as their society.

The Age of Immunology, with its combination of philosophy, history, and cultural inquiry, will be seen as a manifesto for a new age and a new way of thinking about the world and our place in it.
In September 1940, Walter Benjamin committed suicide in Port Bou on the Spanish-French border when it appeared that he and his travelling partners would be denied passage into Spain in their attempt to escape the Nazis. In 2002, one of anthropology’s—and indeed today’s—most distinctive writers, Michael Taussig, visited Benjamin’s grave in Port Bou. The result is “Walter Benjamin’s Grave,” a moving essay about the cemetery, eyewitness accounts of Benjamin’s border travails, and the circumstances of his demise. It is the most recent of eight revelatory essays collected in this volume of the same name.

“Looking over these essays written over the past decade,” writes Taussig, “I think what they share is a love of muted and defective storytelling as a form of analysis. Strange love indeed; love of the wound, love of the last gasp.” Although thematically these essays run the gamut—covering the monument and graveyard at Port Bou, discussions of peasant poetry in Colombia, a pact with the devil, the peculiarities of a shaman’s body, transgression, the disappearance of the sea, New York City cops, and the relationship between flowers and violence—each shares Taussig’s highly individual brand of storytelling, one that depends on a deep appreciation of objects and things as a way to retrieve even deeper philosophical and anthropological meanings. Whether he finds himself in Australia, Colombia, Manhattan, or Spain, in the midst of a book or a beach, whether talking to friends or staring at a monument, Taussig makes clear through these marvelous essays that materialist knowledge offers a crucial alternative to the increasingly abstract, globalized, homogenized, and digitized world we inhabit.

Pursuing an adventure that is part ethnography, part autobiography, and part cultural criticism refracted through the object that is Walter Benjamin’s grave, Taussig, with this collection, provides his own literary memorial to the twentieth century’s greatest cultural critic.
People around the world know Dave Batista as World Wrestling Entertainment's "the Animal," the rope-shaking, spine-busting World Heavyweight Champion, one of the most popular Superstars in recent years.The crowd turned Batista from heel to babyface after they were electrified by his awesome physique and physical wrestling style.

Few fans, however, know that Batista didn't join the profession until he was thirty years old -- an age at which many wrestlers are thinking about hanging up their boots. Nor do most fans know the tremendous toll the climb to the top has taken on Batista's personal life. While successfully staying away from hard drugs and -- usually -- liquor, he found sex too tempting to resist.

"Women were my drug of choice," the Animal confesses. That addiction cost him his marriage, destroying a relationship that had helped him climb from poverty to the pinnacle of sports entertainment in less than two years.

Now, in Batista Unleashed, the WWE Superstar comes clean about the choices he made and the devastating effects they had on his family. He talks about the injury that stripped him of his title -- an injury he blames on Mark Henry's carelessness. While being sidelined cost Batista untold hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income, it also set the stage for a tremendous comeback that cemented the Animal's reputation as a true champion.

Batista talks about growing up in the worst part of Washington, D.C., where three murders occurred in his front yard before he was nine. He speaks lovingly about his mother -- a lesbian -- and how hard she worked to keep the family not just together but alive. He talks candidly about his own criminal past: a conviction on a drug charge and another, since overturned, on assault. He speaks of his days as a bouncer and a lifeguard, and tells how bodybuilding may have saved his life.

Once he made it to the WWE, Batista realized he wasn't really ready for the big time. His career seemed headed for a fall until Fit Finlay took him under his wing. But his real education came when he joined Evolution and rode with Triple H and Ric Flair, two of sports entertainment's all-time greats. Batista talks about what they taught him, and details some of their wild times on the road.

But the champ also reveals a kinder, gentler side. While his soft-spoken manner in the locker room has sometimes been misinterpreted as arrogance, in truth Batista's always been somewhat shy and quiet. Emotional by nature, he reveals for the first time that the tears fans saw at WrestleMania 21, when he won the World Heavyweight Championship for the first time, were very real. And he speaks movingly about his problems with his ex-wives and teenage daughters, and how it felt to become a grandfather.

While his straight-shooting mouth has occasionally gotten him into trouble -- most notably in a backstage confrontation with Undertaker after some remarks about SmackDown! -- Batista is his own harshest critic. He explains his early limitations as a wrestler and the work he has done to overcome them. Interspersing his memoir with accounts from life on the road, Batista lightens the narrative with a surprising sense of humor. An Animal in the ring, he reveals himself as an honest and even humble man in everyday life.
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