In his most ambitious and accomplished work to date, Michael Taussig undertakes a history of mimesis, the practice of imitation, and its relation to alterity, the opposition of Self and Other. Drawing upon such diverse sources as theories of Benjamin, Adorno and Horckheimer, research on the Cuna Indians, and theories of colonialism and postcolonialism, Taussig shows that the history of mimesis is deeply tied to colonialism, and more specifically, to the colonial trade's construction of "savages." With analysis that is vigorous, unorthodox, and often breathtaking, Taussig's cross-cultural discussion of mimesis deepens our understanding of the relationship between ethnography, racism and society.
"Taussig's deeply informed anthropological readings present us with a contemporary cabinet of curiosities that informs the longstanding fascination with the primitive in the constitution of the modern, and shocks us, in the spirit of Benjamin, into reconsidering what we thought we had largely dismissed in our concerns with the politics of representation." -- George E. Marcus, Rice University
"In Mimesis and Alterity Taussig investigates the contacts between anthropologists and subjects and the world created therein . . . his accounts have the tactility one gets from a good storyteller." -- Artforum
"This book can most profitably be read in conjunction with Taussig's provocatice and often original earlier works (e.g. The Devil and Commodity Fetishism) since these provide the details of the historical and cultural stage of mimetic performance." -- Bulletin of Society for the Anthropology of Europe