Coming out of time spent in the swamplands of northern Colombia recently, this presentation tries to figure the eerie, nerve-wracking, cry of the donkey at night in connection with paramilitary violence sustaining oil palm plantations there. Just as sugar was to African slavery and the European colonial period, so palm oil is to our times, as can be seen in Indonesia and Malaysia with its devastating effects on environment, local people, and climate change. This talk will play with “shamanic analysis”, emphasising the metamorphic sublime in the Burro’s cry that, like Artaud’s scream, mimetically resonates with the shape-shifting character of the violence to people and environment as well as with the mimetic cornucopia inherent to palm oil itself.
Michael Taussig is an Australian-American anthropologist renowned for his provocative and shape-shifting ‘ficto-critical’ writings and life-long engagement with the work of Walter Benjamin. A writer, performance maker and imaginative mover through the unseen of complex worlds, he has written extensively about the violence of colonisation, of the state and of late capitalism in Latin America – especially in Colombia where he has lived and researched since the 1960s. His books over the past decade have threaded and unravelled knotted historical and philosophical histories of colour, magic, drawing and lives lived on the hell edges of late liberalism. Most recently he has turned his attention to the ruins of palm oil monocultures. Mick was in Alice Springs a decade ago and delivered the unforgettable WTS talk, I Swear I Saw This.