Monthly Archives: October 2009

A renegade academic’s path to publication

October 2, 2009
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A renegade academic’s path to publication

The process of getting a manuscript published is often a harrowing one fraught with revising, rewriting, and rejection. But for those few who manage to find a suitable home for their work, the reward of seeing one’s ideas in print can be worth the all the head- and heart-ache. As a case in point, William Davies King, whose Collections of Nothing was published by the Press in 2008, has a blog post on the PowellsBooks.Blog detailing his own odyssey through the world of publishing. From the numerous submissions of his manuscript—an oddball autobiographical account of the author’s devotion to decades to collecting ephemera and trinkets, otherwise known as trash—to its eventual publication by the Press’s executive editor Susan Bielstein, King’s tale is a personal and insightful look from an author’s point of view at the process of publication. Read King’s posting on the PowellsBooks.Blog, or find out more about his book, Collections of Nothing with this excerpt and essay by the author. . . .

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Press Release: Walls, Passage to Cosmos

October 2, 2009
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Press Release: Walls, Passage to Cosmos

This month marks the 240th anniversary of the birth of Alexander von Humboldt. Although today he is less well known than some of the luminaries he inspired, Humboldt was the most famous intellectual of the age that began with Napoleon and ended with Darwin. With The Passage to Cosmos, Humboldt remerges for a new age. Here, Laura Dassow Wall traces Humboldt’s ideas for 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. In reclaiming Humboldt’s transcultural and transdisciplinary project, Walls situates America in a lively and contested field of ideas, actions, and interests, and reaches beyond to a new worldview that integrates the natural and social sciences, the arts, and the humanities. To the end of his life, Humboldt called himself “half an American,” but ironically his legacy has largely faded in the United States. The Passage to Cosmos will reintroduce this seminal thinker to a new audience and return America to its rightful place in the story of his life, work, and . . .

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A political scientist in the slaughterhouse

October 1, 2009
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A political scientist in the slaughterhouse

A recent article for the Chronicle of Higher Education begins with a description of the five and a half months that Timothy S. Pachirat, one of the contributors to Edward Schatz’s new book Political Ethnography: What Immersion Contributes to the Study of Power, spent working in a Midwest slaughterhouse—”hanging beef livers on hooks,” and using electric prods to move cattle into the holding pens. Such work is not the norm for a PhD in political science. But as the Chronicle‘s David Glenn explains, a few intrepid individuals in political science (taking a cue from anthropologists) have abandoned reliance on statistics and polls, turning instead to ethnographic fieldwork in order to gain a better understanding of how public opinion is really shaped. In Pachirat’s case, Glenn writes, his fieldwork “allowed him to ‘illuminate in tangible ways the political and ethical consequences of the delegation of dirty, dangerous, and demeaning work.’ Only participant-observation, says, can give a full picture of how workers, managers, and federal health inspectors experience power relations.” “If nothing else,” as Glenn quotes another of the book’s contributors, Katherine Cramer Walsh, “such observation might give pollsters intelligent ideas about what questions to ask.” (Walsh’s own fieldwork on political . . .

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