Anthropology Book Update - July 2012

Anthropology Book Update – July 2012

Posted by / Books

Been getting a lot of book notices from anthropology blogs, Facebook, and e-mail listservs. Many of these books have interdisciplinary connections, showcasing broad anthropological scholarship and research. Here are some of the anthropology book titles:

Economic Persuasions, Stephen Gudeman (editor)
Berghahn Books is pleased to announce the recent publication of a paperback edition. If you are interested in obtaining a copy for a 25% discount, please use this form. This offer is valid until August 16th and is only for individuals.
As the transition from socialism to a market economy gathered speed in the early 1990s, many people proclaimed the final success of capitalism as a practice and neoliberal economics as its accompanying science. But with the uneven achievements of the “transition”–the deepening problems of “development,” persistent unemployment, the widening of the wealth gap, and expressions of resistance–the discipline of economics is no longer seen as a mirror of reality or as a unified science. How should we understand economics and, more broadly, the organization and disorganization of material life? In this book, international scholars from anthropology and economics adopt a rhetorical perspective in order to make sense of material life and the theories about it. Re-examining central problems in the two fields and using ethnographic and historical examples, they explore the intersections between these disciplines, contrast their methods and epistemologies, and show how a rhetorical approach offers a new mode of analysis while drawing on established contributions.

Book Review: P. Sean Brotherton’s Revolutionary Medicine, Amy Cooper
In Revolutionary Medicine, P. Sean Brotherton presents a rich ethnographic analysis of health and medicine in Cuba since the late 1990s, examining state medical institutions, the everyday practices of doctors, and the pragmatic strategies of Havana residents seeking biomedical care amidst growing social and economic inequalities. The book is based on fieldwork conducted across a ten-year period, during an economic crisis known as the período especial or special period that began with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 and was exacerbated by the tightening of U.S. economic sanctions on Cuba during the 1990s. . . . Deftly avoiding the polemics that characterize much writing on contemporary Cuba, Brotherton analyzes the complex and at times contradictory meanings and practices of health and the body in contemporary Havana with great respect for the vastly different points of view of his informants. The book does a brilliant job of demonstrating the productive relationships between individual bodily practices and macro-level socioeconomic change. Brotherton makes valuable contributions to analytic understandings of medically mediated citizenship, subjectivity, and the limits of individual agency and state authority in a context of ongoing economic crisis. Revolutionary Medicine would be an excellent stand-alone text to read in graduate or undergraduate courses in Latin American studies, medical anthropology, global health, or the medical humanities.

Somatosphere, 29 June 2012

Walmart in China, Anita Chan (editor)
Walmart and “Made in China” are practically synonymous; Walmart imports some 70 percent of its merchandise from China. Walmart is now also rapidly becoming a major retail presence there, with close to two hundred Walmarts in more than a hundred Chinese cities. What happens when the world’s biggest retailer and the world’s biggest country do business with each other? In this book, a group of thirteen experts from several disciplines examine the symbiotic but strained relationship between these giants. The book shows how Walmart began cutting costs by bypassing its American suppliers and sourcing directly from Asia and how Walmart’s sheer size has trumped all other multinationals in squeezing procurement prices and, as a by-product, driving down Chinese workers’ wages. China is also an inviting frontier for Walmart’s global superstore expansion. As China’s middle class grows, the chain’s Western image and affordable goods have become popular. Walmart’s Arkansas headquarters exports to the Chinese stores a unique corporate culture and management ideology, which oddly enough are reminiscent of Mao-era Chinese techniques for promoting loyalty. Three chapters separately detail the lives of a Walmart store manager, a lower-level store supervisor, and a cashier. Another chapter focuses on employees’ wages, “voluntary” overtime, and the stores’ strict labor discipline. In 2006, the official Chinese trade union targeted Walmart, which is antilabor in its home country, and succeeded in setting up union branches in all the stores. Walmart in China reveals the surprising outcome.
Note: Got this alert from a post by one of the contributors, anthropologist David Davies, who writes about Walmart in China, on his Museum Fatigue blog. Davies commented on my blog-post about Walmart Socialism, and I’m looking forward to more analysis.

International Studies – Second Edition, Mark Allen Petersen
Written by a geographer, a historian, a political scientist, and an anthropologist, this textbook provides a much-needed interdisciplinary approach to international studies. Emphasizing the interconnected nature of these disciplines, the authors detail the methodologies and subject matter of each to provide a fuller understanding of the world. Applying these discipline lenses to regional chapters, the authors examine issues facing these regions and the global community. Case studies give readers a closer look at issues such as international terrorism and national identity. This disciplinary and regional combination provides an indispensable, cohesive framework for understanding global issues. . . I am currently compiling a set of on-line teaching resources, so if you have any good ideas for creative use of web sites, video clips, animations, slideshare presentations or other resources freely available for enhancing lectures on social science disciplines (anthropology, economics, geography, history or political science) or world regions (Africa, East Asia, Europe, Middle East, South America or South Asia), please share them with me!

Connected in Cairo, 29 June 2012

I Did It to Save My Life: Love and Survival in Sierra Leone, Catherine E. Bolten
Utilizing narratives of seven different people–soldier, rebel, student, trader, evangelist, father, and politician–I Did it To Save My Life provides fresh insight into how ordinary Sierra Leoneans survived the war that devastated their country for a decade. Individuals in the town of Makeni narrate survival through the rubric of love, and by telling their stories and bringing memory into the present, create for themselves a powerful basis on which to reaffirm the rightness of their choices and orient themselves to a livable everyday. The book illuminates a social world based on love, a deep, compassionate relationship based on material exchange and nurturing, that transcends romance and binds people together across space and through time. In situating their wartime lives firmly in this social world, they call into question the government’s own narrative that Makeni residents openly collaborated with the rebel RUF during its three-year occupation of the town. Residents argue instead that it was the government’s disloyalty to its people, rather than rebel invasion and occupation, which destroyed the town and forced uneasy co-existence between civilians and militants.

The Neighborhood as a Social and Spatial Unit in Mesoamerican Cities, M. Charlotte Arnauld, Linda R. Manzanilla and Michael E. Smith (editors)
Recent realizations that prehispanic cities in Mesoamerica were fundamentally different from western cities of the same period have led to increasing examination of the neighborhood as an intermediate unit at the heart of prehispanic urbanization. This book addresses the subject of neighborhoods in archaeology as analytical units between households and whole settlements. The contributions gathered here provide fieldwork data to document the existence of sociopolitically distinct neighborhoods within ancient Mesoamerican settlements, building upon recent advances in multi-scale archaeological studies of these communities. Chapters illustrate the cultural variation across Mesoamerica, including data and interpretations on several different cities with a thematic focus on regional contrasts. This topic is relatively new and complex, and this book is a strong contribution for three interwoven reasons. First, the long history of research on the “Teotihuacan barrios” is scrutinized and withstands the test of new evidence and comparison with other Mesoamerican cities. Second, Maya studies of dense settlement patterns are now mature enough to provide substantial case studies. Third, theoretical investigation of ancient urbanization all over the world is now more complex and open than it was before, giving relevance to Mesoamerican perspectives on ancient and modern societies in time and space.
Note: The alert for this book is from Michael E. Smith’s blog-post A good day in Mexico: Carbon, thin sections, an index, and chicharron, where Smith writes: “This is a good book, buy it, you’ll like it. You see, after going on and on in this blog about how most edited volumes in archaeology are worthless, I can’t afford to edit a bad book. So any volume I edit now must be good, almost by definition (please suspend your critical thinking skills here temporarily).

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