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Mastery of Non-Mastery in the Age of Meltdown

For centuries, humans have excelled at mimicking nature in order to exploit it. Now, with the existential threat of global climate change on the horizon, the ever-provocative Michael Taussig asks what function a newly invigorated mimetic faculty might exert along with such change. Mastery of Non-Mastery in the Age of Meltdown is not solely a reflection on our condition but also a theoretical effort to reckon with the impulses that have fed our relentless ambition for dominance over nature.
Taussig seeks to move us away from the manipulation of nature and reorient us to different metaphors and sources of inspiration to develop a new ethical stance toward the world. His ultimate goal is to undo his readers’ sense of control and engender what he calls “mastery of non-mastery.” This unique book developed out of Taussig’s work with peasant agriculture and his artistic practice, which brings performance art together with aspects of ritual. Through immersive meditations on Walter Benjamin, D. H. Lawrence, Emerson, Bataille, and Proust, Taussig grapples with the possibility of collapse and with the responsibility we bear for it.

192 pages | 5 halftones | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 | © 2020

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Folklore and Mythology


“Anthropologists (and those in allied disciplines) know Taussig as a stylistic innovator.”—Times Literary Supplement
“Above all, he is interested in individual stories and experiences, unique tales that cannot be reduced to rational explanation or bland report. . . . At the center of Taussig’s method is the anthropologist’s desire to bear witness to what he cannot understand.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
One of the most accomplished writers that anthropology has produced.”—Choice
“Iconoclastic, experimental, and poetic, refusing ‘theory’ even as he makes it do his work.”—Hugh Raffles, The New School
[This is] what anthropology is for: the art or science that shows fish the water. Taussig is renowned as one of its dizziest dialectical conjurors.”—Times Higher Education
“ [Taussig’s] late career unfolds with vitality, ingenuity, and surprises—with the storytelling voice, finally, of a Marlowe.”—George Marcus, University of California, Irvine

Praise for Michael Taussig

"In the nineteen chapters that make up the book, Taussig reflects on a world on the brink of collapse; a world which is based on a “new normal” marked by the 'fantastic power of catastrophe' and the non-existence of the ordinary... Taussig’s book helps one consider new paths for understanding our contemporary world and the various forms of violence, dominance and destruction that haunt us."

Anthropology Book Forum

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