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The Chameleon Effect

That hu­man­istic work and re­search can also con­sist of exu­berant con­nec­tions be­tween dis­par­ate ob­jects proved Mi­chael Taussig in a ful­mi­nant lec­ture as part of the In­ter­na­tion­al Doc­torate Pro­gram MIME­SIS at the LMU Mu­nich.

Michael Taussig Introduces his “Chameleon World”

In how far the con­fron­ta­tion of dif­fer­ent forms of knowledge can be rei­fied far away from field stud­ies showed Mi­chael Taussig in his key­note lec­ture on June 12, 2018, at the LMU Mu­nich. The pro­fes­sor of an­thropol­ogy at New York's Co­lum­bia Uni­ver­sity spoke pas­sionately about his fas­cina­tion for the poignant sound of the don­key cry. Not only did Taussig imi­tate and in­ter­pret this ra­ther unu­sual ob­ject of in­ves­tiga­tion, he also es­tab­lished a dense net­work of analogies and simi­lari­ties, and by that cre­ated unu­sual and sur­pris­ing con­nec­tions.

In a per­formative lec­ture, Taussig in­tro­duced his un­der­standing of “A Chameleon World”: To him, eve­ry­thing seems to be con­nected with eve­ry­thing via mi­met­ic con­cat­enations. In this way, Mi­chael Taussig had no dif­fi­culty speaking of palm oil cul­tiva­tion in rural Co­lom­bia and the chameleon-like camou­flage of par­amil­itar­ies who en­rich themselves with this pet­ro­chemi­cal lub­ri­cant of our time, start­ing from the imi­ta­tion of the don­key cry.

The Overall Connection through Mimetic Processes

With the de­light of a sci­en­tist fas­cinated by his sub­jects, Taussig in­sisted on the mag­ic of the great con­nec­tions be­tween mi­met­ic prac­tices, lan­guage, im­ages, and poli­tics in "Chameleon World". Me­thodical­ly, he re­fers to Wal­ter Ben­ja­min's con­cept of thought, a trickster character whose in­her­ent speech mag­ic he has ded­icated him­self to. Es­pe­cial­ly the fas­cinated ad­her­ence to childlike imi­ta­tion and 'shamanic' lan­guage mag­ic es­tab­lish­es Taussig's repu­ta­tion as a con­tro­ver­sial and in­no­va­tive sci­en­tist.

This de­sire for re­flec­tion, marked by flashes of in­spi­ra­tion and play­ful mindset, was con­tinued by Mi­chael Taussig the fol­low­ing day in a mas­ter­class with doc­toral stu­dents from the In­ter­na­tion­al Doc­toral Pro­gram "MIMESIS", but without con­vincing all skeptics of his "as­sem­blage" method based on Deleuze and Guatta­ri.

Text: Christian Hartwig Steinau, In­ter­na­tion­al Doc­torate Pro­gram "MIME­SIS"