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Proudly powered by WordPress. Silverclean design by Iceable Themes. Play 4. Feed Us. Play 5. Saving Us. How come culture appears so natural? If things coarse and subtle are constructed, then surely they can be reconstrued as well? To adopt Hegel, the beginnings of knowledge were made to pass for actual knowing.
And if its very nature seems to prevent us— for are we not also socially constructed? No more invention, or more invention? Would that it would, would that it could, come clean, this true real. I so badly want that wink of recognition, that complicity with the nature of nature. Nor for you either. We act and have to act as if mischief were not afoot in the kingdom of the real and that all around the ground lay firm.
That is what the public secret, the facticity of the social fact, being a social being, is all about. No matter how sophisticated we may be as to the constructed and arbitrary character of our practices, including our practices of representation, our practice of practices is one of actively forgetting such mischief each time Mimesis and Alterity we open our mouths to ask for something or to make a statement.
Or try the opposite experiment. Yet this mimetic faculty itself is not without its own histories and own ways of being thought about. To witness mimesis, to marvel at its wonder or fume at its duplicity, is to sentiently invoke just that history and register its profound influence on everyday practices of representation. By her hammock in his singing he is seeing, scrutinizing, bringing into being an allegory of the cosmos as woman through whom is plotted the journey along the birth canal of the world—an action he undertakes by first awakening congealed life in his petrified fetish-objects, carved wooden figurines now standing by the laboring woman.
With them he will journey. To them he sings: 1 Mimesis and Alterity The medicine man gives you a living soul, the medicine man changes for you your soul, all like replicas, all like twin figures. Note the magical, the soulful power that derives from replication.
The Objectness of the Object Like Adorno and Benjamin, if not also this San Bias Cuna shaman, my concern is to reinstate in and against the myth of Enlightenment, with its universal, context-free reason, not merely the resistance of the concrete particular to abstraction, but what I deem crucial to thought that moves and moves us—namely, its sensuousness, its mimeticity.
Nele is a title meaning High Chief and Seer which Nordenskiold and Perez sometimes employ as a proper name. Both well-groomed, in suit and tie, they share the same posture, these relaxed yet alert investigators of things Cuna.
Having been forced by illness to leave the land of the Cunas after a mere month of study there in , two years after their successful revolt against the Panamanian government, the baron had invited Ruben Perez to spend six months in Sweden to become his secretary and assist him in the interpretation of Cuna picture-drawings.
The problem I want to take up concerns the wooden figurines used in curing. Cuna call them nuchukana pi. Only the women wear such a ring. Dove L. Prather, to add to his collection. Not only the Indians collect nuchus. Indeed, his prestige and safety among them depended on such knowledge. He reports vividly on lively healing ritual involving the mimicry of what he takes to be the voices of spirits conversing with the healer.
But there is no indication of figurines. What magic lies in this, my wooden self, sung to power in a language I cannot understand? And about time, too. For if I take the figurines seriously, it seems that I am honor-bound to respond to the mimicry of my-self in ways other than the defensive maneuver of the powerful by subjecting it to scrutiny as yet another primitive artifact, grist to the analytic machinery of Euroamerican anthropology.
The very mimicry corrodes the alterity by which my science is nourished. For now I too am part of the object of study. The Indians have made me alter to my self. Time for a little chant of my own: And here where pirates arm in arm with Darien Indians roamed, Of their bones is coral made.
For the ethnography emphatically states, as a Cuna article of faith, that the spirit of the wood, not its outer form, determines the efficacy of the figurine. Thus we are forced to ponder why it is then necessary to carve an outer European, non-Indian form. Why bother carving forms at all if the magical power is invested in the spirit of the wood itself? And indeed, as our puzzling leads to more puzzling, why is embodiment itself necessary? I find it exceedingly strange that in the research on Cuna curing I have consulted, not only is there almost nothing written directly on the figurines, let alone on their healing function, but that this problem of why they exist and are used is not posed.
And the anthropologist can mention other functions of the figurines as well. Nordenskiold presents the case of a girl of the Nargana community who used to dream a lot about people who had died. Ruben Perez took a figurine that she had held in her hands for but a few minutes to the shaman, who was then able to diagnose her visions as those of evil spirits, not of deceased persons, and to declare that unless she bathed in certain medicines she would lose her reason.
In another instance, a man who fell ill in a settlement along the Gulf of Uraba took in his hands one of these wooden figurines, held it in the smoke of burning cocoa nibs, and then had a friend take it to the seer, who kept it in his house for some time, until in his dreams its soul told him from what kind of disease the Indian in far off Uraba, was suffering.
Ruben Perez used to believe that the seer or nele received instruction from the figurines about what medicines to use for different illnesses. But the nele later told him that he learned these things from the illness demons themselves, although sometimes the figurines would give him advice.
He is able to see what illnesses are affecting any person who comes to consult him. He sees right through him as if he were made of glass. Nele sees all the organs of the body. He is also able, with the assistance of the nuchus [i. Nele can foretell how long a person is going to live.
These exorcisms last many days. The chief figurine in one such exorcism in the late s was said by an American visitor to be a seven-foot-tall likeness of General Douglas MacArthur and we will have occasion to think again of this representation of the general when we consider the meaning—to the Western eye—of Primitivist Parody and its mimetic relation to the West : Because the Indians were not familiar with military regulations governing dress they made some grave errors.
Instead of wearing khaki, the image is painted so as to be wearing a green cap with a pink band and one white star. His coat was painted a powder blue with two pink breast pockets. Below the left pocket was what appears to be a German Iron Cross. He also wore a black bow tie and black pants.
Although the Indians have small flat noses, they admire long pointed ones. They therefore made the image with a nose that projected three inches from the face. Why imagine a nose?
Why imagine at all? Why this urge to tangibilize? But, then, is it possible to conceive of, let alone have, pure appearance? Next to the curing figurines or nuchus, perhaps none is more intriguing than what they say about imitations of turtles. A man can own as many as a hundred small figures made of different kinds of wood which one finds along the coast, and the bathing is carried on in order to acquire skill in turtle hunting. But then the editor, Henry Wassen, feels impelled to add a clarifying note.
He quotes from a missionary describing the use of these decoys. My eye flicks back to the magically efficacious turtle, then back again to the decoy. Is the decoy closer to the real turtle than the magically effective imitation?
Or is the decoy closer to what the Indians think a real turtle thinks a real turtle looks 11 Turtle figurines used for hunting magic from Nordenskiold and Perez, like? Making an object and thereby spiritualizing it, reification-and-fetishization, does not catch their eye. It is a tale of an Embera shaman who was frightened speechless by the visitation of the spirits of white men, and who then decided, in a daring move, to capture them to add to his stable of spirit- helpers.
She was being told this story by an Embera man in a riverine settlement by the forest in the Darien peninsula of southern Panama in the s. They were part of a crowd being lectured by a well- intentioned Catholic priest concerning the virtues of progress and community.
We had to cross the great bay, by the island they call Enchantment. The moon was clear. My cousin Bernabe was there. We saw a boat of many colors, luminous with pure gringos aboard.
It sounded its horn and we, in the canoe, hauling, hauling, trying to catch up to the boat. We wanted to sleep alongside it but the boat moved out to sea, escaping us. Then we smelled gasoline. This is not a boat. This is a thing of the devil. On another occasion this boat is described as being pretty, 14 Protect Oneself From the Spirits as if painted with red, with colored lights on every side. Blurred with other foreign talk there were loud mechanical sounds like lifting a log with a winch.
They became violently sick, lost the power of speech, and were consumed by fever. When after great difficulty they managed to get home, the shaman oversaw their preparation of a healing ritual in which, through feasting and exchange of food and drink, he was able to get into the spirit world. Valentin continues the story and I want you to be alert at this point to the artwork he is now going to mention—to the three embodiments of body paint, balsa figurines, and dressing up the virginal young women in Indian gear.
The shaman showed them:. He put the girls in floor-length parumas [knee-length skirts worn by Embera women]. The anthropologist breaks in to tell us that here the shaman has made an important choice.
Instead he has boldly decided to take the initiative and acquire the gringo spirit-crew for himself, to capture them so as to add to his stable of spirit-powers. And how does he do this? He makes a copy of them: Grandfather could see all the crew members of the boat. And he made a [model of] the boat and put the crew in it. The captain with no head or neck, another crew member with no feet [and he] brought the boat from Yaviza.
By means of his knowledge he made a tide, a current that came from below, like a motor, to get the boat up here. The boat is still there. And does not the magical power of this embodying inhere in the fact that in reading such examples we are thereby lifted out of ourselves into those images? Just as the shaman captures and creates power by making a model of the gringo spirit-ship and its crew, so here the enthnographer is making her model. My point is not to assimilate this writerly practice to magic.
Rather I want to estrange writing itself, writing of any sort, and puzzle over the capacity of the imagination to be lifted through representational media, such as marks on a page, into other worlds. Neither Head Nor Neck I am well aware that mimesis, or at least the way I am using it, is starting to spin faster and faster between opposed yet interconnected meanings, and yet I want to push this instability a little farther by asking you to observe the frequent interruptions and asides, changes of voice and reference, by which this text on the Embera, so manifestly a text about us too, breaks up intimations of seamless flow that would immunize mimetic representation against critique and invention.
The task to which the mimetic faculty is here set is to capture that very same spirit power, and for the ethnographer graphing the ethnos, the stakes are no less important. For Kane embodies us readers not only by retelling tales, but also by embodying those very tales into a variety 17 Mimesis and Alterity of distinct and conflicting contexts.
She is being told the story of the gringo boat as she sits on the edge of a group being lectured to by a well-intentioned Catholic priest. By their little bonfire on the edge of the forest, how ardently these gringos labor for the abstract universal! But what of the pestilent and uncontrollable spirit gringos thereby released, dancing wild through the flames? Where will their power, the power of magical mimesis reemerge? One need only think of mimicry.
The highest capacity for producing similarities , however , is mans. His gift of seeing resemblances is nothing other than a rudiment of the powerful compulsion in former times to become and behave like something else. Perhaps there is none of his higher functions in which his mimetic faculty does not play a decisive role. This is not an appeal to historical continuity. Instead, modernity provides the cause, context, means, and needs, for the resurgence—not the continuity—of the mimetic faculty.
Here is what is crucial in the resurgence of the mimetic faculty, namely the two-layered notion of mimesis that is involved—a copying or imitation, and a palpable, sensuous, connection between the very body of the perceiver and the perceived. Later we will see how this ties in with the way Frazer develops what he takes to be the two great classes of sympathetic magic in The Golden Bough: the magic of contact , and that of imitation.
On this line of reasoning, contact and copy merge to become virtually identical, different moments of the one process of sensing; seeing something or hearing something is to be in contact with that something. Nevertheless the distinction between copy and contact is no less fundamental, and the nature of their interrelationship remains obscure and fertile ground for wild imagining—once one is jerked out of the complacencies of common sense-habits.
Witness the bizarre theory of membranes briefly noted by Frazer in his discussion of the epistemology of sympathetic magic, a theory traced to Greek philosophy no less than to the famous realist, the novelist Honore de Balzac; he explained the phenomenon of the photographic image as being the result of membranes lifting off the original and being transported through the air to be captured by the lens and photographic plate!
To ponder mimesis is to become sooner or later caught, like the police and the modern State with their fingerprinting devices, in sticky webs of copy and contact, image and bodily involvement of the perceiver in the image, a complexity we too easily elide as nonmysterious, with our facile use of terms such as identification, representation, expression, and so forth—terms which simultaneously depend upon and erase all that is powerful and obscure in the network of associations conjured by the notion of the mimetic.
The swallowing-up of contact we might say, by its copy, is what ensures the animation of the latter, its power to straddle us. All this contact of perceiver with perceived is obliterated into the shimmering copy of the thing perceived, aloof unto itself. So with the commodity, mused Marx, a spectral entity out there, lording it over mere mortals who in fact, singly and collectively in intricate divisions of market-orchestrated interpersonal labor-contact and sensuous interaction with the object- world, bring aforesaid commodity into being.
We need to note also that as the commodity passes through and is held by the exchange-value arc of the market circuit where general equivalence rules the roost, where all particularity and sensuousity is meat-grindered into abstract identity and the homogenous substance of quantifiable money-value, the commodity yet conceals in its innermost being not only the mysteries of the socially constructed nature of value 22 Physiognomic Aspects of Visual Worlds and price, but also all its particulate sensuousity—and this subtle interaction of sensuous perceptibility and imperceptibility accounts for the fetish quality, the animism and spiritual glow of commodities, so adroitly channeled by advertising not to mention the avant-garde since the late nineteenth century.
This capacity of mimetic machines to pump out contact-sensuousity encased within the spectrality of a commoditized world is nothing less than the discovery of an optical unconscious, opening up new possibilities for exploring reality and providing means for changing culture and society along with those possibilities.
Surely this is sympathetic magic in a modernist, Marxist revolutionary key. These machines, to state the matter simplistically, would create a new sensorium involving a new subject-object relation and therefore a new person. In abolishing the aura of cult objects and artworks, these machines would replace mystique by some sort of object-implicated enterprise, like surgery, for instance, penetrating the body of reality no less than that of the viewer.
For it is a fact that Benjamin emphasizes again and again 24 Physiognomic Aspects of Visual Worlds that this physiognomy, stirring in waking dreams brought to the light of day by the new mimetic techniques, bespeaks a newly revealed truth about objects as much as it does about persons into whom it floods as tactile knowing.
We see and comprehend hidden details of familiar objects. We become aware of patterns and necessities that had hitherto invisibly ruled our lives. But what is the nature of the seeing and comprehension involved?
How do we get to know the rooms and hallways of a building? What sort of knowing is this? Is it primarily visual? What sort of vision? Surely not an abstract blueprint of the sort the architect drew? Maybe more like a mobile Cubist constellation of angles and planes running together in time, where touch and three- dimensioned space make the eyeball an extension of the moving, sen- sate body? Which is to say, an indefinable tactility of vision operates here too, and despite the fact that the eye is important to its chaneling, this tactility may well be a good deal more important to our knowing spatial configuration in both its physical and social aspects than is vision in some non-tactile meaning of the term.
The claim is grand. They are mastered gradually by habit, under the guidance of tactile appropriation. The irony that this failure is due in good part to the very power of mimetic machinery to control the future by unleashing imageric power, on a scale previously only dreamed of, would not have been lost on him had he lived longer. I am the machine which shows you the world as I alone see it.
Starting from today, I am forever free of human immobility. I am in perpetual movement. I approach and draw away from things— I crawl under them—I climb on them—I am on the head of a galloping horse—I burst at full speed into a crowd—I run before running soldiers— I throw myself down on my back—I rise up with aeroplanes—I fall and I fly at one with the bodies falling or rising through the air.
The same object can as easily be the surface of the moon, seen in a long shot, or a shriveled, pock-marked basketball photographed in close-up. The flames are of a heat and an intensity to melt a Cadillac Seville.Wasted Youth - The J. Geils Band - Youre Gettin Even While Im Gettin Odd, RocknRollowcy - Róże Europy - Żyj Szybko, Kochaj Mocno, Umieraj Młodo, Technical Reasons - Etic - Technical Reasons, Mimetic Roger Rotor (Remix) - Mimetic Data* / Mimetic Be-At* - Sensitive / Sound A, ZZafrika (Julio Bashmore Remix) - ZZT - ZZafrika (Remixes Bonus.