Chapter

Things, Sounds, and Spectacles

Johannes Fabian

in Out of Our Minds

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 2000 | ISBN: 9780520221222
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520923935 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520221222.003.0005
Things, Sounds, and Spectacles

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Among the “strange things” that drew explorers outside the safe confines of rationally controlled inquiry were certain objects and performances. Realizing this adds an important dimension to the search for ecstatic aspects in the exploration of Africa. For instance, different authors shared the premise that African religious and philosophical beliefs had their quintessential form and expression in “fetishism.” Wishing to control, or play with, African desire for knowledge, explorers sometimes staged exhibits of European objects. They frequently were asked to demonstrate the working of their superior modern arms, scientific instruments, and mechanical contraptions, and did so with relish. But musical instruments, in the hands of more or less competent players, lend themselves neither to selective exhibition nor to detached contemplation. As such, music effectively subverts the controlled distance and hierarchical relations that constitute the politics of scientific observation.

Keywords: European explorers; Africa; fetishism; knowledge; scientific instruments; musical instruments

Chapter.  11335 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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