Michael Taussig’s Delightful Anthropological Postcards
A full moon after a wasp attack, poppies from a train, panning for gold in the River Cesecito, a bountiful pumpkin harvest…. “Postcards for Mia,” from which the following images are excerpted, is a joyful collection of hand-drawn and -painted postcards sent by renowned anthropologist Michael Taussig to his granddaughter Mia during his various anthropological trips.
Taussig is known for his visionary explorations of color, magic, and myth, founded upon over 40 years of experience with communities in Colombia and Venezuela as well as research visits to Palestine, Kurdish Syria, Kabul, Alice Springs, Sydney, Venice, and Paris. “Postcards for Mia” provides a remarkably personal insight into Taussig’s unique way of seeing and responding to the world, and explores the overlapping realms of adult and child imagination.
“Something that especially intrigued me in connection with the postcards is what I call the adult’s imagination of the child’s imagination or AICI,” writes Taussig in the book’s epilogue. “Instead of seeing the adult’s imagination and the child’s as separate, my interest is where they overlap, especially when this is not recognized. In other words, the adult assumes important things about the child’s imagination but does not take into consideration that the child’s imagination already imagines the adult’s imagination. One feeds into the other. The two imaginations are co-dependent. They constitute one another. And they do so without conscious recognition of what’s going on. It is like a shared secret and this is what is going on in these postcards.”
Underneath Paris are the bones of dead people from long ago. The monks arranged them in patterns.
Puerto Tejada, Colombia
Every year I go to Colombia. Sometimes I stay in a small town with my friend Olivia who at night watches the news on an old TV. During the day she makes clothes on her Singer sewing machine.
A wild boar came racing through the forest in the French countryside.
Here is a Kogi house in another mountain. The houses are round. The roof is thatch. Women sleep in one house. Men in another. Children weave their own clothes.
At Easter I joined desert people for Memory Time.
I went with my friend Carolina to an old convent with 180 rooms. Now people go there to draw and talk. One day I thought I saw an angel fly past. Maybe it was a bird.
Michael Taussig is a writer and an anthropologist. He is the author of numerous books, including “The Magic of the State,” “I Swear I Saw This,” “Mastery of Non-Mastery in the Age of Meltdown,” and “Postcards for Mia,” from which this article is excerpted.