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My Cocaine Museum 1st Edition

2.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226790091
ISBN-10: 0226790096
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

If Hunter S. Thompson had been trained by Boaz in anthropology, Engels in economics and Arendt in philosophy, he might write something like Taussig, whose ninth book follows on the heels of Law in a Lawless Land, and is a further study of the ways and means of south Colombia’s poor communities. Taussig literally imagines his book to be a "cocaine museum"; it’s a conceit that brings Taussig’s first-person outsider’s perspective together with Colombia’s major cash crop, and with the things that people make and use around it. Short chapters riff on a particular person, place or thing—town officials who clap out death warrant-like denuncias on manual typewriters; citizens who distill the lighter fluid-like drink biché as their only income-generating activity; children who mine gold by hand and can go years without finding any—and then spiral out into the entwined histories of slavery, drugs and colonialism, as well as into philosophical speculations. "Transgressive substances," Taussig writes, "make you want to reach out for a new language of nature, lost to memories of prehistorical time that the present state of emergency recalls." A book of "spells, hundreds and thousands of spells, intended to break the catastrophic spell of things," Taussig’s virtual museum feels as real as the hot, damp rainforest where it’s set.
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"What's an anthropologist to do in a country where life is magic? This question shapes Columbia professor Michael Taussig's My Cocaine Museum. Taussig has spent much of the last three decades in Colombia, where he has been everywhere and, it seems, met everyone, from the descendants of African slaves who pan for gold on the coast to the ministers in Bogota, digging in their cabinets for missing files. My Cocaine Museum is a report from the field, but it is hardly traditional fieldwork. Taussig begins with a description of the Gold Museum in Bogota, a collection of golden artifacts plundered from the inhabitants of pre-Columbian Colombia. What follows is a kind of anti-museum, made of meditations on the uncollectible phenomena he has encountered on the country's remote Pacific coast: rain, stone, lightning, boredom, moonshine. My Cocaine Museum tells the story that the Gold Museum hides, about the difficulty of life in the place gold (and now cocaine) comes from, a swamp where it rains three feet a month and the heat never goes away. This story remained untold, Taussig suggests, because gold and cocaine have tricked human beings into putting it out of their minds. . . . Gold and cocaine lead people to forget time and place, cause and effect, maybe even to make basic geographical mistakes. You might think that a dose of the good old cause and effect would be the best antidote to this befuddlement, but Taussig disagrees. He constructs his Museum in accordance with the spellbound logic of gold and coke; each chapter mixes natural and human history, fiction and reportage, with the manic associativeness of, well, a coke fiend. . . . My Cocaine Museum is intended as a counter-enchantment, to free the reader, if not all Colombia, from the magic of two commodities that have had a profound and malign effect on the nation's history. It's an ambitious task, but Taussig invokes some powerful spirits to help him, notably Walter Benjamin, who believed (or maybe believed: Benjamin is tricky) that words have a magical connection to the world, even if this connection is also historically and politically determined, i.e., not magic at all (tricky, tricky). . . . My Cocaine Museum. . . . is a daring immersion in a Colombian mode of thought."

(Paul LaFarge Voice Literary Supplement 2004-05-19)

"[Taussig] has taken his cue for this new book from the Gold Museum in Colombia's capital, Bogota, where the treasures of the indigenous Indians before the Spanish conquest have been installed in the depths of the National Bank. Many stories and much history have been washed away to display the country's proud heritage. Taussig has undertaken to tell a contrapuntal tale of slavery and intoxication, of power and cartography, perverted culture, lost peoples, tyranny and material survival at the bottom. . . . More psycho geography than ethnography, a travel journal striving to the condition of prose poetry, an indulgent and enraptured trip to the ends of the earth by a writer aspiring to join the lineage of other voyagers to the extremes somewhere close to hell (Rimbaud, Celine, B. Traven)."
(Marina Warner The Times (UK) 2004-06-05)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (May 11, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226790096
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226790091
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #306,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By T. Duncan on April 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
this book is fantastic. i found the previous reviewer's commentary to be disingenuous and bad-humured. taussig's self-consciousness is refreshing coming from a writing tradition that is dominated by academic-omniscient narration.

this work is politically and personally engaged and engaging. it is also, hopefully, evidence of contemporary anthropology's dedication to talking to people instead of simply about them.

if you would like a visceral imagining of the history and reality of colombia's cocaine production, you should read this book. if you are interested in ethnography that transgresses the traditional, then again, you should read this book.
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Format: Paperback
, which is a technique he coyly conceals. The reader, whether of books or nature, passes into that which is being read. (29) [We travel to ¶2: the Drug Room] Is this travel? It seems more like a physiological test. (191) Benjamin has his hashish, I have Malbec, but Taussig admits no cocaine. He does not inhale, yet his pages are sprinkled with the rambling stream-of-conscious and free-association rush of this fetishized powder and, reflexively, with himself. Perhaps, like abstemious Nietzsche, his only drugs are those of internal passion: observation and outrage. His method, like his prose, reflects a paradoxical geography: were I a fish, I could swim up the coast from Mulattos a hundred miles to Buenaventura, a few thousand more miles, hugging the coast and I'd be home in San Buenaventura; were I a bird I could fly towards Polaris, like a missile until I descend mid-way between Baltimore and Philadelphia. How you travel determines where you wind up. Taussig, in undocumented fashion, crosses the map-imposed border of academic verification and asserts that "the United States [is] the most incarcerated society in the world" (273). With what authority does he assert this? Whether citing B. Traven or Kilgore Trout, Taussig lets his references and citations roam freely. Like a stone skipping across water, his documentation leaves ripples at seemingly sporadic intervals. Taussig does not provide (does not have faith in) maps; he prefers we swim or fly via the landscape of his words, instinctively, without thinking destination. But there is a destination; we will be guided to discover the placeness of place which JZ Smith denies. "This is a story about a prison island" (273).

[We enter ¶1: the Prison Island Room] Is this the central room of the museum?
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I was looking for a book to learn something about Colombia. As the author self describes the book it is a "strange apotropaic text." It is as if he made a trip to Afro Colombia and he wants to relate it to every mystic theory he has. Too often as I read I can feel the author careening off the rails and me wondering how long until we get back to writing about Colombia.
I feel a bit duped buying a book to learn something and having to spend most of my time listening to a "strange apotropaic" story.
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Format: Paperback
Mick Taussig's fetishism with fetishism is shown at new levels in this book. This pomo work of fantasy is almost a parody of the stupidity with which anthropology has retreated from a world inhabited by real people with real problems to a never ending exercise in self exploration. This book shows Taussig to care only about himself and his whims in ways betraying not only his own narcissism, but that of contemporary anthropology as it praises such self important musings while ignoring the voices of other cultures.
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