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The Corn Wolf

Collecting a decade of work from iconic anthropologist and writer Michael Taussig, The Corn Wolf pinpoints a moment of intellectual development for the master stylist, exemplifying the “nervous system” approach to writing and truth that has characterized his trajectory. Pressured by the permanent state of emergency that imbues our times, this approach marries storytelling with theory, thickening spiraling analysis with ethnography and putting the study of so-called primitive societies back on the anthropological agenda as a way of better understanding the sacred in everyday life.

The leading figure of these projects is the corn wolf, whom Wittgenstein used in his fierce polemic on Frazer’s Golden Bough. For just as the corn wolf slips through the magic of language in fields of danger and disaster, so we are emboldened to take on the widespread culture of academic—or what he deems “agribusiness”—writing, which strips ethnography from its capacity to surprise and connect with other worlds, whether peasant farmers in Colombia, Palestinians in Israel, protestors in Zuccotti Park, or eccentric yet fundamental aspects of our condition such as animism, humming, or the acceleration of time.  

A glance at the chapter titles—such as “The Stories Things Tell” or “Iconoclasm Dictionary”—along with his zany drawings, testifies to the resonant sensibility of these works, which lope like the corn wolf through the boundaries of writing and understanding. 

216 pages | 45 halftones, 16 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2015

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Latin American Studies


"The spirit of this book demands not a succinct review but notes of a leisurely journey through the text, with pauses to admire a clever juxtaposition, the catch of an image, the stripes of the animal."

American Anthropologist

“Another great volume by Taussig, which we have come to expect almost annually as his late career unfolds with vitality, ingenuity, and surprises—with the storytelling voice, finally, of a Marlowe. The idea of the ‘nervous system’ proposed decades ago has served him well as the frame in which old stories can be filled in, new ones can be told, and the intense social movements of protest today can be witnessed though a fertile imagination by which readers are comforted (yes, this is a Taussig story), aroused, and outraged.” 

George Marcus, author of Ethnography through Thick and Thin

Table of Contents

Author’s Drawings

The Corn Wolf: Writing Apotropaic Texts

Animism and the Philosophy of Everyday Life

The Stories Things Tell and Why They Tell Them


Excelente Zona Social

I’m So Angry I Made a Sign

Two Weeks in Palestine: My First Visit

The Go Slow Party

Iconoclasm Dictionary

The Obscene in Everyday Life

Syllable and Sound

Don Miguel


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