Monthly Archives: September 2009

Humboldt’s Enduring Legacy

September 14, 2009
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Humboldt’s Enduring Legacy

Today marks the 240th birthday of Alexander von Humboldt, an explorer, scientist, writer, and humanist who was the most famous intellectual of the age that began with Napoleon and ended with Darwin. The University of Chicago Press is publishing two books this fall that celebrate this seminal thinker. Laura Dassow Walls’s The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America traces Humboldt’s ideas from Cosmos—the book that crowned his career—to his 1799 journey to the Americas, where he first experienced the diversity of nature and of the world’s peoples—and envisioned a new cosmopolitanism that would link ideas, disciplines, and nations into a global web of knowledge and cultures. That voyage is also at the center of Stephen T. Jackson’s edition of Humboldt’s Essay on the Geography of Plants. Walls and Jackson recently collaborated on this appreciation of Humboldt on his 240th anniversary. That Walls is an English professor and Jackson an ecologist would undoubtedly please Humboldt very much; he argued for interdisciplinarity across the humanities and sciences, and this essay is emblematic of that fertile exchange. Mention “Darwin” to any literate audience in America and eyes will light up with recognition; mention “Humboldt,” and most faces will . . .

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Press Release: Shweder, The Child

September 14, 2009
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Press Release: Shweder, The Child

Vetted by some of the most distinguished child development researchers in the world, The Child broadens the current scope of knowledge on children and childhood. It is an unparalleled resource for parents, social workers, researchers, educators, and others who work with children. Each entry in this one-volume encyclopedia begins with a concise and accessible synopsis of the topic at hand. For example, the entry for “adoption” begins with a general definition, followed by a detailed look at adoption in different cultures and at different times, a summary of the associated mental and developmental issues that can arise, and an overview of applicable legal and public policy both within the United States and elsewhere. The Child includes multiple cross-references to guide readers toward related topics and suggestions for further reading. The Child also includes over forty “Imagining Each Other” essays that present vivid and iconic case studies of child-raising practices in specific cultural settings. In “Work before Play for Yucatec Maya Children,” for example, readers learn of the work responsibilities of some modern-day Mexican children, while in “A Hindu Brahman Boy is Born Again,” they witness a coming-of-age ritual in contemporary India. Read the press release. See a website for the . . .

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The debate over the return of the wolf

September 11, 2009
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The debate over the return of the wolf

The New York Times website is running an article and multimedia feature about the first legal wolf hunt in the lower forty-eight states in the last 35 years. Having made an extraordinary comeback in many states, the American gray wolf was recently removed from the list of endangered species by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. And in states like Idaho, some claim that the wolf has not only made a comeback, but that its growing populations are now large enough to threaten the lives and livelihoods of ranchers and other rural dwellers. Sportsmen eager to track down these “world class predators” are busy preparing for a unique opportunity in the hunting world while environmental groups like Defenders of Wildlife say that the delisting of wolves will only return the species to near extinction status and destroy an essential part of many ecosystems throughout North America. With both groups claiming that the science supports their point of view, the question of managing wolf populations is a contentious one. But for the rest of us, L. David Mech and Luigi Boitani’s Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation, offers the most systematic, comprehensive overview of wolf biology since 1970. In Wolves, many . . .

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Go look at Look at me

September 10, 2009
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Go look at Look at me

Photographer Jed Fielding, whose collection Look at me was published by the University of Chicago Press in March, has a show opening tonight at the Andrea Meislin Gallery in New York City . Writing about the gallery opening, The New Yorker raves: Fielding’s photographs of the blind children he met at schools in Mexico City are not in the tradition of photojournalistic muckraking. Like his terrific earlier series from the streets of Naples, these images are vivacious, audacious, and in your face. His subjects are not pitiable victims; they’re rambunctious, apparently happy kids at play, responding to Fielding’s attention with curiosity and delight. They may be cut off from the visual world, but they relish physical contact, both with one another and with the patient photographer. The best of the work was made at close range, where that connection was most tangible, and young faces fill the frames with fragile, vivid life. For those not fortunate enough to be in Manhattan during the show’s run (it’s up through October 17), Fielding’s photographs are available in convenient book form. An in-depth pictorial study of blind schoolchildren in Mexico, Look at me contains more than sixty arresting images from which we often . . .

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Press Release: Durocher, Nice Guys Finish Last

September 10, 2009
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Press Release: Durocher, Nice Guys Finish Last

Forty years ago this month, the Chicago Cubs were on top of the baseball world, holding an eight-and-a-half-game lead and ready to cruise to their first pennant in more than forty years. But over the course of a few weeks, it all fell apart, with loss after loss culminating in one of the worst collapses in baseball history. The man at the helm of that disaster was the outspoken, cantankerous Leo Durocher, who always seemed to be on the scene of baseball’s most memorable moments throughout a fifty year career as a player or manager. From riding the bench as a rookie with the ’27 Yankees, to breaking out as a hard-charging shortstop with the Gashouse Gang Cardinals in the 1930s, to managing the previously hapless Dodgers to their first World Series, to watching Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard ’round the world” propel his Giants to the 1951 pennant, to, yes, that horrible Cubs collapse—Durocher saw it all, and in 1975 he told his side of these stories and more in Nice Guys Finish Last. Now the University of Chicago Press is bringing Durocher’s classic back into print for a new generation of baseball fans to enjoy. All the larger-than-life players, . . .

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Dorothea Lange’s forgotten photographs

September 10, 2009
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Dorothea Lange’s forgotten photographs

Having produced some of the most powerful images of Depression-era rural America, including the now iconic Migrant Mother, Dorothea Lange’s documentary photography for the Farm Security Administration offers a profound (and timely) record of the devastating effects of the Depression, as well as American’s resilience in the face of hardship. But surprisingly, many of Lange’s photographs for the FSA, (and arguably some of her best) have remained hidden from the public eye, consigned to archives where they have languished for years, rarely seen. Now, in Anne Whiston Spirn’s recent Daring to Look: Dorothea Lange’s Photographs and Reports from the Field Lange’s never-before-published photos and captions from her fieldwork in California, the Pacific Northwest, and North Carolina during 1939 can finally receive the exposure they merit. Focusing on selections of photographs accompanied by field notes and citations strategically selected by Spirn, as a recent review in Bookforum notes, “presents a case study of Lange’s artistic agility”—the juxtapositions of image and text allowing readers to experience a diversity of voices and points of view, dismissing what reviewer Jordan Bear calls the “maudlin sentimentality” sometimes ascribed to Lange’s work. And for a sampling of some of these images see this . . .

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Back to School Reading

September 9, 2009
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Back to School Reading

Millions of children across the country headed back to school this week, and despite some manufactured controversy over President Obama’s address to our nation’s students, the school year is off to a smooth start. As pupils sharpen pencils and crack spines on new textbooks, teachers and administrators work behind the scenes to ensure a smooth transition to a new school year. Though the focus of the back-to-school push is on the students, we offer here two titles from Dan C. Lortie that focus on the adults in the school building. When we think about school principals, most of us imagine a figure of vague, yet intimidating authority—for an elementary school student, being sent to the principal’s office is roughly on par with a trip to Orwell’s Room 101. But with School Principal: Managing in Public, Lortie aims to change that, offering here an intensive and detailed look at principals, painting a compelling portrait of what they do, how they do it, and why. Lortie begins with a brief history of the job before turning to the daily work of a principal. These men and women, he finds, stand at the center of a constellation of competing interests around and within . . .

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The organization behind the Burning Man

September 9, 2009
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The organization behind the Burning Man

Last weekend Nevada’s Black Rock Desert once again played host to the annual alternative community / neo-pagan festival known as the Burning Man. And since 2005 Katherine K. Chen author of Enabling Creative Chaos: The Organization Behind the Burning Man Event has been there, helping to organize efforts to safely and successfully execute the festival—which can attract upwards of 40,000 people—and organize its participants into a temporary alternative community where (according to the official Burning Man website) “transactions of value take place without money, advertising, or hype…” and “care emerges in place of structural service.” In her book, she draws on her own first-hand experiences of the Burning Man event and its unique community, to offer some fascinating insights into how the event’s organizers have managed to pull it off. And beginning this week, she will also be offering her insights on the event as a new guest blogger at orgtheory.net. In her first post she demonstrates how analysis of such “unusual” cases of civic organization such as the Burning Man can be used to understand larger phenomena. Navigate over to orgtheory.net to read. Also, visit the author’s own Enabling Creative Chaos blog. . . .

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Scrap the stimulus, says Allan Meltzer

September 8, 2009
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Scrap the stimulus, says Allan Meltzer

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Voters are citizens

September 3, 2009
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Voters are citizens

At 4:15 this afternoon, Peter Alexander Meyers’s Civic War and the Corruption of the Citizen will be the focus of an Author Meets Critics session of the American Political Science Association annual meeting in Toronto. The upcoming event got Toronto Globe & Mail blogger Douglas Bell thinking about Meyers’s work, which Bell praised as “the first of what will amount to nothing less than a comprehensive theory of politics.” Bell suggested, in fact, that Canadian Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff should pin over his desk a passage from the book: The hope and flaw of democracy is that it boils down, not to the will of the people, but to the judgment of the Citizen, which is to say the capacity of each person to size up a situation and pitch his or her energies one way or another. The list of impediments and constraints in this practice is as long as a lifetime. This book in its own eccentric way, urges engagement in your own life; lived as it is, this is almost bound to bring you to the position of the Citizen. For every day is something new. Thresholds for action are constantly shifting ground. In the . . .

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