The Mastery of Non-Mastery


Michael Taussig in Public Seminar:

As I write, the plug is being pulled on the steady-state.

Violence and tragedy take revenge on humanity through routinization. Sooner or later we become immune.

But is there a reverse process, such as Freud writes about in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, where the nightmare recurs so as to provide the anxiety that would have defended you against the worst excesses of shock?

Talking in Istanbul in the Kurdish restaurant (where I was never allowed to pay), where once he knew I was born in Sydney, the waiter showed me his cell phone photo of Ashley Johnston, a young Australian who had died fighting in the siege of Kobane; or dining with Nazan and Deniz outside at night with a sea breeze in my face; or in the seminar room in the anthropology and sociology department of Bogazici university, I was de-immunized — not only by the recurrence of the nightmare but by its counter-wave of sensitivity and friendship, and by what I discerned as a specific warp to Turkish culture provided by Kurdish Being, that ever-desired enemy within. It was as if Turkish culture, or at least its Stately essence, was utterly dependent on that which it had to deny and destroy and thus make spectral, every day more powerful.

This warp is a sick state of affairs, predisposed to surreal twists — as with Nazan’s story of the drone and the black umbrellas. A PKK woman combatant in the mountains in eastern Turkey unfurled her umbrella when a drone passed overhead. All the other women were killed. So the guerrillas ordered black umbrellas from Russia. But the trucks were intercepted by the Turkish army expecting arms, only to find . . . black umbrellas.

Then there was the video of a woman dancing in the ruins of Kobane. As the film stopped, lo and behold, that same woman emerged from the darkness to dance in the audience there in Istanbul. Kobane is everywhere! And we are dancing. Right?

Like the ships in the Bosphorous that from my window seemed to be passing through the forest I was being re-scaled, alive with the turbulence of internal relations; of the Other within.

More here.