The Afterlives of Fetishism: A Conversation

Lecture | February 27 | 5-7 p.m. | 3335 Dwinelle Hall

 Rosalind Morris, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University

 The Program in Critical Theory

A conversation with Rosalind Morris about her new book, The Returns of Fetishism: Charles de Brosses and the Afterlives of an Idea (Chicago, 2017; with a translation of de Brosses’s ‘The Worship of Fetish Gods,’ by Daniel H. Leonard). In the essays of this book, Morris charts the changing and uneven status of the fetish as an object of thought and a figure of conceptual or theoretical limits across a variety of disciplines—each of which marked its own boundaries partly through its claim to rethinking the fetish and fetishism. In her remarks and the ensuing conversation, Morris will speak about the ways in which materialism, in anthropology and social theory more generally, depended upon or operated by disavowing its own entanglement with the term and the ideas about mediacy and immediacy variously encoded in it across the centuries.

The following recommended readings from The Returns of Fetishism will be made available
here: ‘Excursus: Recontextualizing de Brosses, with Pietz in and out of Africa’ (153-166), ‘Fetishism Against itself: Marx’s Two Fetishisms’ (187-304), ‘Anthropology’s Fetishism,’ ‘Surrealism,’ and ‘Anthropology Redux’ (241-270, 292-309). At a minimum, people are urged to read the book’s final chapter.

Rosalind Morris focuses her fieldwork in two main areas: South Africa and mainland Southeast Asia, especially Thailand. Her earlier scholarship focused on the history of modernity in Southeast Asia and the place of the mass media in its development, particularly in the encounter between old and new forms of mediation. More recently, she has been writing an ethnography of South Africa’s mining communities. Traversing these fields of inquiry, her work addresses questions of the relationships between value and violence; aesthetics and the political; the sexualization of power and desire; and the history of anthropological thought and social theory. In her formally wide-ranging writings on all of these issues, she attends specifically to the problem of language, and the matter of representation.

Morris has served as a Director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, an Associate Director of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, and is the former co-editor of CONNECT: art, politics, theory, culture. She is also the founding editor of “The Africa List,” for Seagull Books.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology and the Townsend Center for the Humanities.