THE PROBLEM:  MIMESIS UNLEASHED

At this point the problem can be fairly stated (with some wonder, mind you) as to why these figures, so crucial to curing and thus to Cuna society, should be carved in the form of “European types.”  In short: why are they Other, and why are they the Colonial Other?  This question leads to still more of a very particular and particularizing sort, because in asking it I am, as a “European type,” brought to confront my cultured self in the form of an Indian figurine!  What magic lies in this, my wooden self, sung to power in a language I cannot understand?  Who is this self, objectified without my knowledge, that I am hell-bent on analyzing as object-over-there fanned by sea breezes and the smoke of burning cocoa nibs enchanting the shaman’s singing?

Something trembles in the whole enterprise of analysis and knowledge-making here:  the whole anthropological trip starts to eviscerate.  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…

Taussig, Michael (1993)  MIMESIS AND ALTERITY: a particular history of the senses.  New York:  Routledge., p. 7