The Fetish Revisited

Marx, Freud, and the Gods Black People Make

Book Pages: 392 Illustrations: 51 photographs, incl. 9 in color Published: November 2018

Subjects
African Studies, Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Religious Studies

Since the early-modern encounter between African and European merchants on the Guinea Coast, European social critics have invoked African gods as metaphors for misplaced value and agency, using the term “fetishism” chiefly to assert the irrationality of their fellow Europeans. Yet, as J. Lorand Matory demonstrates in The Fetish Revisited, Afro-Atlantic gods have a materially embodied social logic of their own, which is no less rational than the social theories of Marx and Freud. Drawing on thirty-six years of fieldwork in Africa, Europe, and the Americas, Matory casts an Afro-Atlantic eye on European theory to show how Marx’s and Freud’s conceptions of the fetish both illuminate and misrepresent Africa’s human-made gods. Through this analysis, the priests, practices, and spirited things of four major Afro-Atlantic religions simultaneously call attention to the culture-specific, materially conditioned, physically embodied, and indeed fetishistic nature of Marx’s and Freud’s theories themselves. Challenging long-held assumptions about the nature of gods and theories, Matory offers a novel perspective on the social roots of these tandem African and European understandings of collective action, while illuminating the relationship of European social theory to the racism suffered by Africans and assimilated Jews alike. 

Praise

“J. Lorand Matory's latest book is an all-time glorious masterpiece.” — Robert Farris Thompson, author of Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy

“J. Lorand Matory's The Fetish Revisited is a brilliant tour de force that links nineteenth-century fantasies about blackness and the power of the fetish with many of the underlying currents of the twentieth century, from Marxism to psychoanalysis. Matory's work consistently contrasts such views with the ‘fetish objects’ themselves, the products of African religions and cultures, their inherent meanings and functions, and their appropriation within the intellectual world of expanding European colonialism. An important addition to the analysis of racial thought in Europe showing how the underlying objects that seemed to inspire Marx and Freud had an autonomous and powerful function quite separate from their role in the two men's thought.” — Sander L. Gilman, coauthor of Are Racists Crazy? How Prejudice, Racism, and Antisemitism Became Markers of Insanity

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

J. Lorand Matory is Lawrence Richardson Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Director of the Sacred Arts of the Black Atlantic Project at Duke University. He is the author of Stigma and Culture: Last-Place Anxiety in Black America; Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism, and Matriarchy in the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé; and Sex and the Empire That Is No More: Gender and the Politics of Metaphor in Oyo Yoruba Religion.

Table of Contents Back to Top
A Note on Orthography  ix
Preface  xi
Introduction  1
Part I. The Factory, the Coat, the Piano, and the "Negro Slave": On the Afro-Atlantic Sources of Marx's Fetish  41
1. The Afro-Atlantic Context of Historical Materialism  45
2. The "Negro-Slave" in Marx's Labor Theory of Value  60
3. Marx's Fetishization of People and Things  78
Conclusion to Part I  91
Part II. The Acropolis, the Couch, the Fur Hat, and the "Savage": On Freud's Ambivalent Fetish  97
4. The Fetishes That Assimilated Jewish Men Make  103
5. The Fetish as an Architecture of Solidarity and Conflict  117
6. The Castrator and the Castrated in the Fetishes of Psychoanalysis  145
Conclusion to Part II  165
Part III. Pots, Packets, Beads, and Foreigners: The Making and the Meaning of the Real-Life "Fetish"  171
7. The Contrary Ontologies of Two Revolutions  175
8. Commodities and Gods  191
9. The Madeness of Gods and Other People  249
Conclusion to Part III  285
Conclusion. Eshu's Hat, or An Afro-Atlantic Theory of Theory  289
Acknowledgments  325
Notes  331
References  339
Index  349
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0105-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0075-4
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