Michael Taussig

Jan 2015

Taussig is bat-sh*t crazy, but it is not hard to get an A. He did indigenous dances, described in detail what it's like to trip on acid in the Amazon, and spoke at length that he believed our classroom was haunted (we consequently moved classrooms multiple times). I had Fernando as my TA, and the grading was relatively generous if you were decent at talking out of your a**. A few unbelievably pretentious hipsters ran the course and were thoroughly beloved by Taussig, almost to an inappropriate level. Overall, a hilarious lesson when a famous drug-addled anthropologist gets tenure at Columbia.

Jun 2012

Most difficult class I've taken at Columbia. However, Prof Taussig will give you back as much as you put into the course. The readings, discussions, and test demonstrations are intense (no oxygen tanks or snorkling masks allowed, only reeds) but well worth it! I had particular difficulty in the "natural materials" challenge. Hudson seaweed just isn't made for asymmetrical, post-modern baskets! However, this course reaffirmed my decision to major in Underwater BW. I know that this class will remain with me throughout my education and career as the fundamental foundation of my very being and intellectual reasoning system. Some people might call Underwater BW a "joke major" do not be disheartened by this! This is one of the most challenging majors at Columbia-- both mentally and physically! It combines environmental science, physics, chemistry, political science (negotiating with merpeople), and others! However, I would suggest that you begin breath holding/pressure/ oxygen absorption training ASAP over the summer as the high amounts of Pollution in the Hudson make it particularly difficult to absorb oxygen into your skin while weaving.

Jul 2011

University is about transformation and in my opinion radicalizing the youth away from their ideologically paralyzed bourgeois commodified spectacularized work-ethic life. Down that line all you get is SEPARATION PERFECTED. We need more poet-philosopher-professors, what did Blake say? Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without Improvement, are roads of Genius. It depends on what you´re looking for, what your orientation is, or more likely what you´ve unquestioningly consumed from infancy and perpetuate compulsively. Im not innocent of this critical consciousness. WE LIVE IN AN ASPHYXIATING CULTURE. What are the secrets for changing life? You must change your life. What do you think estrangement is all about? Of course this is not for everybody, though i wish it were. It´d be an other world.

Apr 2011

The class was run by a few pretentious hipsters who fundamentally said nothing. This course was an exercise in entertainment, excitement, and an exploration of our petty fetishes. We did not discuss taboo. We did not discuss genocide, poverty, oppression, murder, sex slavery --- real tabbos. Instead, we fixated on sex, feces and, lest I forget since it was so forgettable, some girl played a movie of her pulling her tampon out. That was her final project. EVERYONE APPLAUDED. I don't know why. I barely went. I found it infuriating. I was not called on once even though I raised my hand. My emails were not responded to. The class was a profound waste of money and time. The last class involved rolling on the floor while listening to experimental "music." so.lame.

Jan 2011

He is absolutely the worst professor at Columbia. He SHOULD NOT be allowed to teach, not that his classes remotely resemble teaching. Taussig rambles on for hours without ever saying anything, continuously reminding his students of his overrated achievements. His class consisted primarily of his writings, and his horribly written narratives, as he vomits up new "coined" phrases that make little to no sense. It was an immense waste of money, and time. I rarely went to class, and assignments were almost never posted, yet I still managed to slide away with an A. Big Joke-- the prof, and the class. His ideas are as old and deflated as he is. I would not recommend Taussig's class TO ANYONE. Unless you enjoy endless hours of intellectual masturbation, hideous purple suits, and the never-ending array of Taussig's pathetic attributes, STAY AWAY.

Jun 2006

Mick: you either get him or you don't. Chances are, if you are provoking yourself with your own papers, then you are provoking him too. But if you are merely going through the motions, writing dull, predictable papers, then, well, you will waste everyone's time. At once frighteningly knowledgeable and boyishly goofy, Mick will fool you with his "dumb" questions. This is all a facade. Before you know it, he will trick you into having deep thoughts about Nietzsche, Kafka, anuses, Bataille, Christ, tribal sex, cutting, color, torture, and smell. Yum! As the course moves along, you will get off on your intellectual battles and rap sessions.

Jan 2006

First of all, I'll start out by saying that both the positive and negative reviews are "right" in a sense. Yes, the man rambles. If he sets a class agenda for the day, he never finishes discussing all that he sets out to. That said, you will read many of the fundamental texts of anthropology (Mauss, Malinowski, etc) and many interesting, but certainly off-beat texts (such as his own books, and others of his choosing such as Toward an Anarchist Theory of Anthropology). Personally, I find his ramblings super-interesting. He is certainly not the kind of guy who lectures according to power-point presentation bullet points. If that's how you learn best, avoid this class. If bullet-point lecturing makes you want to kill yourself, you'll probably love Taussig; he's a storyteller. He has lived on-and-off in Colombia (the country, not Columbia) since the 60's, and his specialty is looking at what the pervasive violence that both the successive governments and the FARC have wrought on the people. He also knows loads about the cross-roads between indigenous, afro-colombian and Spanish cultures and talks a lot about their mingling. So if you are interested in anthropology and Latin America, Taussig is also a good bet. He loves students, so if these subjects, or approaches to anthropology interest you, feel free to drop by his office for a chat.

Jan 2006

This is a VERY easy class if you know how to bs your way through papers, and possess the skills to charm your TA. Just assimilate the post-modern lexicon from a few choice readings, and remember: There is NO such thing as Truth. Don't expect to learn anything about the science of Anthropology: it's no longer a science. (That's why the EEEB department was created.) Past reviewers are right, you don't have to go to lectures to get an A, but if you are thinking about experimenting with drugs, perhaps seeing Taussig once a week will deter you.

Dec 2005

A wonderful class taught by a wonderful professor. As other reviewers have said, this course is not a review of "anthropology" - but an introduction to actually studying anthropology. I guess you could call it "meta-anthropology." My only qualm - the lectures took a dive in the middle of the semester, but Taussig is still brilliant. If you get to read any of the full books on the syllabus, make sure you read the ones he himself wrote. They're awesome.

Dec 2005

The man's a genius, no contest. The class, however, is beyond wretched. If you really want to "experience Taussig," I recommend you read some of his books ("Law in a Lawless Land" was good) and spare yourself the pain of this rambling, pointless course. With that said, attending his lectures is kind of like reading "Naked Lunch." So maybe if you like the Beats, you'd fare better than me.

Dec 2005

I want my money back! What a horrible excuse of a class. Taussig rambles, and rambles, and rambles, and rambles, and rambles, and rambles, and rambles, and rambles on about God knows what, but certainly NOT about anthropology. The required books are as expensive as they are confusing, and they are plenty expensive. The class breaks into small groups, about 20, in which a TA leads discussion. However, even my TA was confused when confronted with basic questions. Worst of all, the grading is completely subjective. You are at the whim of your TA. You can write an absolutely knock out brilliant essay and get a C, which happened, or write a load of crap and get an A, which likewise happened. I would not recommend this class, or this instructor.

Nov 2005

In my opinion, academically, Taussig is a fraud. His course was not about anthropology, nor the class material, but was instead about Taussig. Like some poor- man’s David Letterman, Taussig seems to think think that students are there to quietly listen to his banal, trite, and outrageously self-absorbed babblings. His recycled and reactionary ‘New Criticism’ hogwash is not merely hopelessly reactionary and boring; it’s hopelessly reactionary and boring because it's nonsense. To put Taussig into perspective, it also might be useful to go over Vaneigem’s ‘The Revolution of Everyday Life.’ In my opinion Taussig is about enriching Columbia and himself via his mini- Madonna persona, not about fostering criticality, as, like one of Vaneigem’s spineless academics, the man has got “a corpse in his mouth.”

Nov 2005

This was the first class I ever attended in my first semester at Columbia.. I was absolutely terrified that this was what I was paying money for. I went to only a handful of lectures, most of them consisted of him rambling on in short shorts and unbuttoned shirts(this is the last prof you want to see in this state). My notes often only had one or two statements per lecture- i'll admit every now and then he raised interesting questions, but he gave them no context and did not make any attempt to answer them. Section is where the class really is. I liked my T.A.(Kiara if u have the choice), and often had great discussions in section. The papers that were assigned(often), however, were such painful strange topics and graded so subjectively it left me at a complete loss. The course packet is interesting but do not buy the other 10+ books, particularly his. Sit in on one lecture if you want a taste of his madness- he is hysterical and very approachable, but that is NO reason to waste a semester with this man. DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS.

Nov 2005

Granted, the man has clearly done way too many hallucinagenic drugs and it shows (and not just in the shiny purple shirts!)--his tangents have tangents, he trails off frequently, and he often does this adorable pilsbury dough-boy laugh--BUT those who say he is a fraud in these reviews are clearly lazy students or just not interested in the subject of anthropology. Not that this means anything necessarily, but he is at the forefront of his field (which I know at Columbia doesn't seem like a shocker, but even by this university's standards he's somewhat of an academic celebrity)--those who say he doesn't know what he's talking about obviously don't know what he was talking about. Taussig's class is unique, as is he, and if you love professors who are PASSIONATE about the material, are hilarious because of their quirkiness, and know freakin everything about their subject then check him out. Taussig hates the stereotypical Columbia do-it-for-the-grade-and-to-get-the-right-answer student--he really wants you to read deeply, THINK about the material and get something out of it. Really, the best way to go is to sit in on a class--or even 20 minutes of a class!--and see for yourself.

Sep 2005

don't take my word, or anyone else's word for it. before taking a class with taussig-- and ponying up the cash to buy all the books he assigns--do yourself a favor and read a chapter in his opus, "The Nervous System," or pick one in his "Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man : A Study in Terror and Healing." Take an hour or so to work your way through it. You will see for yourself: in my opinion, this man is a fraud, who cannot think clearly. he loves great ideas, how much he would love to have a great, profound idea of his very own! view the sound and fury of his lectures as an attmept to disguise the fact that he doesn't.

May 2005

I admittedly dislike Taussig more than most students, because I think he is a lazy scholar and a secret narcissist. That said, he is much needed in this University because he does not take himself too seriously, does a decent job of pretending to be humble, and assigns fantastic reading. I wish he didn't spend the whole class talking about what he wants to touch on during the class--it's like he is always revving up, adding to his thesis statement without ever delving into it--and I wish he gave more direction to class discussion, but he is kind and crazy, and thus a perfect antidote to overserious academia. Plus, if you are late to class or in handing in assignments, you are applauded for being Dionysian.

Mar 2005

No No No!!!! Do not take this class!!! It has nothing to do with anthropology. Taussig just rambles on and on in a "whirlygig" about whatever pleases him. The lengthly and confusing readings are a complete waste. Moreover, the books are darn expensive (thirteen in all), and are as confusing as Taussig himself. It is such a shame, because anthro could be a fantastic course with properly assigned readings. The class is subdivided into discussion groups in which the TA grades your assignments. I did luck out and have a good TA, but that was not the case in all of the sections. Accordingly, the grading is completely subjective, and does not reflect students work on an even playing field. To sum things up, I am no longer an anthropology major because of this class.

Mar 2005

Mick Taussig is one of the gems of Columbia. I'm a Comp Lit major and have no specific interest in anthropology, but I am so glad I took this course. Prof. Taussig is passionate, eccentric, brilliant, and loves students and teaching.

Jan 2005

I have to agree with the previous review. Your grade is determined subjectively by a TA, not by Taussig. There were tons of readings, many of which were never discussed. Furthermore, the cost of purchasing these books is enormous. Although the course had little to do with antrhopology, some of the topics were interesting. Overall, I propbably would not recomend it.

Jan 2005

This was the most frustrating and painful class I have ever had the displeasure of taking at Columbia. It was not so much because of the Taussig, but because the course had very little to do with anthropology and much more to do with philosophy. Taussig is truly zanny, but if your ideas don't match his, watch out! His reading assignments were lengthly, and many simply did not make any sense. Furthermore, several of the costly required books were written by Taussig. After dumping a ton of money on them, we just read a few chapters. The worst part of this class, however, relates to the TA's. You are at the complete whim of who you get. Personally, I have never written better papers for any class at Columbia, and I have never received such low grades! I read every single iota, participated in every discussion group, and never missed a lecture or a discussions group. However, this was not reflected in my grades. To add insult to injury, I read some of the papers that received A's. Some of these students constantly missed class, and failed to do readings. This was reflected in mediocre papers, yet they received the hightest grades!! This is astounding to me. As someone who previoulsy had a perfect 4.0 gpa, I am regretful that I took this waste of a class. About 150 people showed up for the first lecture. Many left. Be smart and do the same.

Jan 2005

Mick is the only teacher who's words I thought about outside of class. Understandably, if you're a callow little freshman you will probably be scared at first, but once you move past the all the orthodox crap of what a professor should look, talk, and act like, you will love this guy. Half the time it sounds like he's just pulling stuff out of his ass, the the other half of the time you don't really know where he's going, but like an earlier review so eloquently put it, though Mick never goes quite where you expect, what he does touch upon is far more interesting. Plus, he will make far more sense if you actually read the stuff he assigns before coming to class, which I rarely did. Yes, you certainly don't have to do all the reading to get a decent grade, but the reading is so interesting that you really don't mind it. DEFINITELY take this class, if you don't mind that it's far more philosophy and psychology than anthropology of course.

Dec 2004

Prof MT embodies the most positive elements of the academic experience: endlessly informative, brilliant, funny, engaging/engaged, always curious, passionate about being passionate--in short, he inspires my belief in the power of higher education. If you need a list of "right" answers, do not take this class. Taussig WILL leave you scratching your head...and thinking long into the night.

Dec 2004

What a fantastic, crazy experience this class was! Taussig was the quintessential eccentric professor. His lectures reflect his personality: zany, twisting, full of stories and always interesting. While taking the class it felt like anything but a survey class, but at the end I realized we had covered Mauss, Boas, Hunt, Malinowski, et al. , pretty much the anthro canon. I would recommend this class to anyone without hesitation. Taussig is truly a rock star of social science. From his crazy Australian accent to his crazy purple shirts to his crazy stories of his Colombian fieldwork, Taussig will never disappoint. I still use his works on transgression in other classes, and it's really cool to piece things together using concepts learned in this class. Take this class, you won't regret it.

Aug 2004

def. take class. just a caveat: don't buy all the (pretty expensive) books at the beginning of the semester. pick up the coursepack and by book by book as he actually talks about them in class. youll probably get to about a third of the assigned material. and if dean lukic is a ta, be in his section.

Jan 2004

this man is amazing. his class is pretty laid back and the workload is not back-breaking at all. considering the size of and how leniant the class is, youd think that no one would show up, but a lot of people did. it just goes to say that people were genuinely intereseted in the class and what he had to say. yes, he went off on random tangents, yes sometimes the class had no idea what he was talking about, and yes sometimes we never got to most of the readings, but he is truly a well-learned, travelled, and interesting man who has interesting and important things to say.

Dec 2003

Taussig is great. He's funny, enthusiastic, and definitely a character. I heard from many before enrolling "you'll never have another professor like him, enjoy it." And he does indeed have a shining personality: most likely a hippie back in the day (frequently starts the class with Doors playing in the background, showed Apocalypse Now the first week of class), definitely opinionated and not afraid to share it, a non-conformist and proud of it, but not at all obnoxious or condescending. His crazy shirts are always a joy. The reading is interesting and the lectures, though sometimes convoluted and requiring close attention to understand, are always interesting and informative. And consequently, Missing a class or three or four is no big deal if you keep up the reading and make sure to attend discussion sections. There is no final or midterm, and the frequent essay topics are interesting and fun.

Nov 2003

What a crazy guy. He is incredibly disorganized and spends class ranting about economics... which in my opinion usually turns into "America is bad." ....You read some interesting stuff, but he will never talk about it in class.

Dec 2002

OK, whoever wrote the last review has very little credibility, because if he or she had read the syllabus it would have been clear that the course was intended to do half of what was complained about. No, this class is not an ethnography of war (although there were some really interesting readings that I think qualify as ethnographies.) On the syllabus, and in class on the first day, the Professor explained that the point of the class was to explore war as a concept, the attraction/repulsion people felt towards it, and to think about meaningful ways to resist war and explore the possibilities for anti-war art (the fact that the course title uses "war machine" not "war" ought to give some of this away). I do think there's something slightly disturbing about the abstraction of war, but I think in disucssing war conceptually people were usually expressing frustration with the lack of "reality"war has for many of us-- and I think it trivializes the real experience of war to pretend that reading ethnography of war would resolve this. While this class doesn't deal with much straight anthropological theory ,it is very much concerned with the symbolic and with social forms and structures, and with various questions of representation. Personally I was fascinated by the way material from different disciplines and historical circumstances was tied together conceptually and made relevant to major anthropological questions. Yes, this class was more lecture than seminar, and I think Professor Taussig could have done a better job facilitating discussion, but I also think you'd be hard pressed to find a professor on this campus who could make a two hour lecture as consistantly interesting as this one was. I didn't get the impression that he was at all closed off to alternate opinions, in fact class discussion was often dominated by one or two students who had vocal opposition to the view being presented, and while people disagreed with them they were never silenced or ridiculed. My biggest complaint was the constantly changing reading assignments-- not because I'm big on sticking to the syllabus, but because on occasion we did not know what the day's reading was until the morning of class, and it got confusing. I still enjoyed the class very much, and didn't feel like the flexibility seriously detracted from it. I understand how that the lack of structure and the interdisciplinary aspects of the course might frustrate some people, but it was pretty clear what they were getting into when they enrolled in the class. So basically, if you're very conservative, or if you can't deal with uncertainty in academic settings, or you just have a big stick up your butt like the previous reviewer, stay away fromt this or any other class Taussig is teaching, but if you're ok with randomness you'll probably learn a lot.

Dec 2002

This class sucked like no other. To call it a class is a fallacy. To call it anthropology is ridiculous. To call Taussig anything but a giant self-important self-pleasuring intellectual fallace is... well... you get the point. Taussig has no structure to his rants and his content is void of intellectual merit. He doesn't question his own cultural assumptions or those of his students, and in a discipline based on examining cultural structures, world-views, and ASSUMPTIONS, his sloppiness is unacceptable. If I as a student can poke major holes in my professor's methodology and arguments, something's not quite right. Where's the ethnographic material of people who have actually engaged in warfare? Where's the synthesis of the ridiculously stratified readings we did? What got to me most was Taussig's completely unselfconscious bias. He presents one interpretation of our reality like it's truth, and that's just bad news in a discipline that examines multiple, culturally specific "truths." Taussig's got knowledge, but he has neither the perspective nor the wisdom to balance it out. And what sort of professor makes up paper topics 10 minutes after class has finished? What sort of respect does that show for students, or the subject, for that matter? This seminar made me want to vomit. My ass could have taught a better class.

Dec 2001

The good, the bad, and the absolutely fabulous: Taussig is probably the most interesting and compelling professor I've had at Columbia. He doesn't think like your average academic, he doesn't talk like your average academic...he can make Walter Benjamin, Robert Louis Stevenson William Burroughs and Shakespeare all fit into a single class, and not only that, make sense. The readings were every which way, fun, shocking, and sometimes really difficult, and the lectures are the same. I learned a lot and I enjoyed it. The problems: his classes tend to be crowded and this is one seminar where you probably won't open your mouth much. Honestly, I say, all the better: Taussig can fill a 2 hour class and every last minute will be worth your attention. He is that good, every single week.

Jul 2001

Fascinating man, less than fascinating teacher. Don't count on talking much in his seminars since he rambles pretty much the whole time. Some people find his lectures interesting, but I found them not worth following. If the class were bigger, I'd take out a copy of the Spec. Oh, and did I mention the mandatory weekly recitation led by his TA?

Jan 2000

Michael Taussig is <i>the</i> original non-conformist.

Jan 2000

If Keith Richards and David Helfgot (of Shine) could somehow have a child, it would be Mick Taussig. Many find that his classes, famously lacking in focus, are still very satisfying. Others find it difficult to tune out his extensive collection of tics and eccentricities. It's very much a matter of personal taste. Basically, Mick seems like the type of guy who would hijack a postal van but still deliver the mail just for kicks. None of the letters would arrive at the correct addresses, yet somehow the information that people do wind up getting turns out to be much more interesting than what they were hoping for in the first place. This is how his classes work. If you've never had him for a class, you would probably avoid sitting next to him on the subway. The lectures are a bit like the original Road Runner cartoons -- all over the place but full of energy and always entertaining. He probably could have been a successful pulp novelist or comedy actor (Michael Richards has nothing on him) but only Anthropologists are allowed to visit Colombia as often as he does, which explains a lot about his mannerisms. Most strikingly, every third sentence out of his mouth seems to contain the word fascinating. He understands the world as an endlessly interesting place, an attitude which is highly contagious and reason enough to take his classes.