William Mazzarella - "The Mana of Mass Society" - W. J. T. Mitchell

Friday, January 19, 2018 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
William Mazzarella

“Effervescent with intellectual energy, Mazzarella’s Mana of Mass Society is that exceedingly rare book that stands equal to its subject matter. More than a century after its formulation as a general theory of magic, this book performs here its eternal return, making us suddenly aware of that unacknowledged magic of modernity that like a flash surfaces at a moment of danger.--Michael T. Taussig, Columbia University

William Mazzarella discusses his new book The Mana of Mass Society. He will be joined in conversation by W. J. T. Mitchell.

Presented in partnership with Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory (3CT)

At the Co-op

RSVP HERE (Please note that your RSVP is requested, not required)

About the book: We often invoke the “magic” of mass media to describe seductive advertising or charismatic politicians. In The Mana of Mass Society, William Mazzarella asks what happens to social theory if we take that idea seriously. How would it change our understanding of publicity, propaganda, love, and power?

Mazzarella reconsiders the concept of “mana,” which served in early anthropology as a troubled bridge between “primitive” ritual and the fascination of mass media. Thinking about mana, Mazzarella shows, means rethinking some of our most fundamental questions: What powers authority? What in us responds to it? Is the mana that animates an Aboriginal ritual the same as the mana that energizes a revolutionary crowd, a consumer public, or an art encounter? At the intersection of anthropology and critical theory, The Mana of Mass Society brings recent conversations around affect, sovereignty, and emergence into creative contact with classic debates on religion, charisma, ideology, and aesthetics.

About the author: William Mazzarella is the Neukom Family Professor and Chair in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Shoveling Smoke: Advertising and Globalization in Contemporary India (2003), Censorium: Cinema and the Open Edge of Mass Publicity (2013), and The Mana of Mass Society (2017). He is also the editor of K D Katrak: Collected Poems (2016) and the co-editor (with Raminder Kaur) of Censorship in South Asia: Cultural Regulation from Sedition to Seduction (2009). 

About the interlocutor: W. J. T. Mitchell is Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago. He served as Chair of the English Department from 1988 to 1991, and has been the editor of Critical Inquiry since 1978. He received his B.A. from Michigan State University in 1963, his M.A. and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1968. He taught in the English Department of Ohio State University from 1968-77 before moving to Chicago.

Event Location: 
The Seminary Co-op Bookstore
5751 S Woodlawn Ave
Chicago, IL 60637