The School for Advanced Research (SAR)
Winner of the J. I. Staley Prize, 2022
J. Lorand Matory, The Fetish Revisited; Marx, Freud, and the Gods Black People Make (Duke University Press, 2018)
In a work of considerable ambition and insight, J. Lorand Matory challenges the traditional Eurocentric view of the "fetish" by showing how it is not only a distorted concept but an implicit accusation that peoples who believe in the power of symbolic objects are irrational and unsophisticated. In so doing, Matory reveals the profound limitations of the canonical ideas of "fetishism" propounded by Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. Through close ethnographic engagement with Afro-Atlantic thinkers and religious practitioners, Matory reveals them to be as perceptive as any European theorist. Indeed, he argues, so-called "fetishists" have a great deal to teach us about their complex spiritual practices and nuanced understanding of the world. The Fetish Revisited is likely to prove influential in fields far beyond anthropology, including philosophy, psychology, and religious studies.