Anthropology

Remembering Marshall Sahlins (1930-2021)

April 9, 2021
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Remembering Marshall Sahlins (1930-2021)

Marshall Sahlins, a giant in the field of anthropology and a celebrated Press author, died earlier this week at his home in Hyde Park. Best known for his ethnographic work in the Pacific and for his contributions to anthropological theory, he was the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Chicago and the author of many books. Retired anthropology editor T. David Brent had the honor of working closely with Sahlins throughout his career, and he offered these words of remembrance for a significant author and friend. Marshall Sahlins was a distinguished scholar, a great anthropologist, a treasured author of the University of Chicago Press, and my dear friend. I had the privilege of being the editor for several of his books including Islands of History (1985), Anahulu: The Anthropology of History in the Kingdom of Hawaii volumes 1 & 2, co-authored with Patrick V. Kirch (1992), How “Natives” Think: About Captain Cook, For Example (1995), Apologies to Thucydides: Understanding History as Culture and Vice-Versa (2004) and What Kinship Is . . . And Is Not (2013). I also helped shepherd his Culture and Practical Reason (1976) into publication just after I joined the Press . . .

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Read an Excerpt from “Wild Thought”

March 29, 2021
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To celebrate the release of our exciting new translation of Claude Lévi-Strauss's iconic work, La Pensée sauvage, we're sharing a sneak peek at the translators' intro. . . .

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Meet Mary Al-Sayed, Our New Editor for Anthropology & History

October 30, 2020
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We’re excited to welcome Mary Al-Sayed, who recently joined the Press as editor in the Books Division, acquiring new titles in anthropology and history. Mary comes to us from Palgrave Macmillan, where she was senior editor for anthropology, sociology, and migration studies. Ordinarily, we would look forward to introducing Mary in person at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), where you’d have the opportunity to chat with her directly about her interests. Alas, here we are. AAA will be virtual, as will our booth. But we didn’t want you all to miss the chance to get to know Mary, so we’ve put together this little Q & A. Enjoy the interview, and then click through to our Virtual AAA booth to browse the latest, best books in the field, which are available for 40% off with free shipping. We’ll look forward to seeing you in person at next year’s AAA! What are you looking for in a book, and what kind of project gets you excited? I approach most proposals with a really rude question in mind, one that my mother forbade me from asking around second grade: “So what?” (Yes, I was an obnoxious child.) Most proposals an . . .

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Pandemic Participation: Christopher M. Kelty on Isolation and Participation in a Public Health Crisis

May 28, 2020
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Drawing from ideas in his book, The Participant: A Century of Participation in Four Stories, Christopher M. Kelty discusses how participation changes during a pandemic and what it means for the future. I make a provocative claim in The Participant: To treat participation as general—and democracy as a more specific apparatus to which it responds—amounts to asserting that participation is prior to democracy. Participation is not a simple component of democracy, but something problematic enough that things like representative parliamentary democracy, federal constitutions, secret ballots, and regimes of audit and regulation are oriented toward dealing with too much, too little, or the wrong kind of participation. This is not a conventional way of looking at democracy, and it will not fit well with a political theory tradition in which participation plays only a bit part in the great historical drama of democracy. I think, however, there is something to be gained by reversing this relation. Instead, one can view participation as a longstanding problem of the relation between persons and collectives, and see liberal democracy as existing in an intermediate temporality where institutions, theories, constitutions, legal systems are in a process of steady transformation. The apparatus we call “liberal representative . . .

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An Unflinching Excerpt from ‘The Torture Letters’ by Laurence Ralph

February 20, 2020
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This week on the blog, we're highlighting one of our most timely and important new releases—The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence . . .

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Excerpt: The Personalities on the Plate

April 12, 2017
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Excerpt: The Personalities on the Plate

Frequent NPR contributor, animal intelligence expert, and anthropologist Barbara J. King steals the show—and the front page—at NPR, with the below excerpts from her latest book, Personalities on the Plate: The Lives and Minds of Animals We Eat. *** Chickens may be resplendently different one from the other, as was immediately apparent when I made six hen acquaintances at Wilder Ranch State Park near Santa Cruz, Calif., in the summer of 2015. These beautiful birds, with names like Goosey and Bella, ranging in color from white to gold and yellow, sometimes with patches of a soft iridescent blue, live in an outdoor coop outfitted with a chicken swing for exercise. During my visit they were turned out into a vegetable garden; there among the planted rows, one sunbathed and several foraged. Some invited human interaction, and others did not. I gently picked up Bella — so white, so soft — and held her against my chest in a serene encounter that I enjoyed greatly and that Bella seemed to soak up pleasurably as well. That I held, stroked and talked to a chicken for the first time in my 50s is very much a product of my time and place. In . . .

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Personal Branding is blasé auto-fan fiction and other notes on the new economy

April 7, 2017
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Personal Branding is blasé auto-fan fiction and other notes on the new economy

“Personal branding” seems the provenance dystopian fiction—equal parts Idiocracy and neoliberal end game, one would think its merely a belabored joke about the individual in late capitalism, rather than a facts-on-the-ground-style employment strategy. “You are your brand!,” isn’t a line from 1984, though: it’s part and parcel of almost any TedTalk on the job market, despite the fact that—according to anthropologist Ilana Gershon, whose recent book Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (Or Don’t Find) Work Today is profiled in the Quartz review excerpted below—it rarely results in, um, an actual job. Read more from the Quartz piece after the jump. *** Gershon, a professor of anthropology at the University of Indiana, Bloomington, spent a year interviewing and observing job seekers and employers in Silicon Valley and around the US. Her new book, Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (Or Don’t Find) Work Today explains that branding is largely a boondoggle advanced by inspirational speakers and job trainers. It doesn’t help people get jobs. . . . According to Gershon, the concept of personal branding developed over the last 30 years as the concept of work itself became more precarious. Union membership has contracted. The number of hours in the . . .

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Bronzeville: Recommended reading for a new podcast

March 20, 2017
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Bronzeville: Recommended reading for a new podcast

Josh Olson’s new 10-part podcast Bronzeville, which stars Laurence Fishburne, Larenz Tate, and Tika Sumpter, chronicles the lives of players in the illegal lottery that swept the African American community in the 1940s before the game was taken over by the mob. If that’s not enticing enough, here’s a list of some recommended background reading on the city, then and now; how it become one of America’s most iconic black neighborhoods; and why its redevelopment—in which the middle class benefits as lower-income residents are pushed out—continues to matter, now more than ever. *** Derek S. Hyra’s The New Urban Renewal: The Economic Transformation of Harlem and Bronzeville explores the shared metamorphosis of these formerly notorious urban ghettos into two of our most iconic black communities, as the pressure of late-capitalist gentrification and a complicated web of factors—local, national, and global—shaped their remarkable revitalization. St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton’s Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City, based on research conducted by Works Progress Administration field workers, is a sweeping historical and sociological account of the people of Chicago’s South Side from the 1840s through the 1930s, as path-breaking today as it was when it was first published in 1945. Diane Grams’s Producing Local . . .

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The Sovereign Exception of Guantánamo (A Turkey Pardon)

November 24, 2016
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The Sovereign Exception of Guantánamo (A Turkey Pardon)

This oldie but goodie by Magnus Fiskesjö from Prickly Paradigm Press definitely remains the singular anthropological text published on the relationship between the Thanksgiving turkey pardon and the War on Terror: Each Thanksgiving, the president of the United States symbolically pardons one turkey from the fate of serving as a holiday dinner. In this pamphlet, anthropologist Magnus Fiskesjö uncovers the hidden horrors of such rituals connected with the power of pardon, from the annual turkey to the pardoning of the original Teddy Bear. It is through these ritualized and perpetually remembered acts of mercy, Fiskesjö contends, that we might come to understand the exceptional—and troubling—status of the “War on Terror” prisoners being held by the United States at Guantánamo Bay. “In The Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon, Swedish anthropologist Magnus Fiskesjö, see in the annual presidential reprieve of an otherwise doomed turkey something much more than a lark. (Just ask a vegetarian; it’s no joke.) ‘It is really a symbolic pardoning act which, through public performance, establishes and manifests the sovereign’s position at the helm of the state by highlighting . . . his power to control matters of life and death.’ That observation leads Fiskesjö to some troubling thoughts on the . . .

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Barbara J. King on whale grief

July 25, 2016
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Barbara J. King on whale grief

From National Geographic: More than six species of the marine mammals have been seen clinging to the body of a dead compatriot, probably a podmate or relative, scientists say in a new study. The most likely explanation for the animals’ refusal to let go of the corpses: grief. “They are mourning,” says study co-author Melissa Reggente, a biologist at the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy. “They are in pain and stressed. They know something is wrong.” Scientists have found a growing number of species, from giraffes to chimps, that behave as if stricken with grief. Elephants, for example, return again and again to the body of a dead companion. Such findings add to the debate about whether animals feel emotion—and, if they do, how such emotions should influence human treatment of other creatures. (See “Do Crows Hold Funerals for Their Dead?”) Animal grief can be defined as emotional distress coupled with a disruption of usual behavior, according to Barbara King, emeritus professor of anthropology at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and author of the book How Animals Grieve. Barbara J. King has long positioned her scholarship at the forefront of our study of animal emotions—in works like How Animals Grieve and in . . .

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