Anthropology

Review: Zaloom, Out of the Pits

November 5, 2007
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Review: Zaloom, Out of the Pits

Caitlin Zaloom’s Out of the Pits: Traders and Technology from Chicago to London was recently given an interesting review in the November 1 London Review of Books. Writing for the LRB, Donald Mackenzie begins with a description of his own experiences on the trading floor of the Chicago Board of Trade in 2000—while they were still bustling with traders, runners, and clerks vying for bids: At the Board of Trade, orders were still carried to the pits on pieces of paper by runners and clerks, and then shouted out by traders or ‘flashed’ to others in the pit using the hand signal language known as ‘arb’—an abbreviation for arbitrage, the exploitation of discrepancies in prices.… But as Mackenzie’s article notes, at the turn of the millennium the digital age was already poised to radically transform the way that modern traders conduct business. Chicago’s open-outcry trading, a way of life stretching back to the grain futures pits of the 19th century, was on the brink of disappearing when I visited the Board of Trade in 1999 and 2000. There were already signs that technology was encroaching: headsets were increasingly used instead of runners to communicate between the pits and the booths . . .

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Festival of Maps exhibition opens tomorrow

November 1, 2007
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Festival of Maps exhibition opens tomorrow

Tomorrow, November 2, as part of the three month long Festival of Maps, the Field Museum will open the exhibit, Maps: Finding Our Place in the World. On display will be some of the most fascinating cartographic artifacts ever shown. And just in time for opening day, the Press has released a companion volume of the same name edited by exhibit curators James R. Akerman and Robert W. Karrow, Jr. Like the exhibit, the book surveys a huge range of cartographic sources to explore the many ways that maps have changed our lives and helped us understand the environment in which we live. From a review in Discover magazine: From religious pilgrimages and vacation road trips to depictions of the ocean floor and the magical landscapes of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, maps chart both physical and imaginary worlds. As geographer Denis Cosgrove explains, “world’ is a social concept … a flexible term, stretching from physical environment to the world of ideas, microbes, of sin. Arguably, all these worlds can be mapped.” And they are in this compelling and very readable companion volume to the current exhibition at the Field Museum in Chicago. To find out more about the . . .

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Caitlin Zaloom and the global transition to electronic trading

October 30, 2007
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Caitlin Zaloom and the global transition to electronic trading

Caitlin Zaloom’s most recent book, Out of the Pits: Traders and Technology from Chicago to London, has factored into several articles this week about the world-wide transition from open-outcry trading to electronic, computer based trading—a transformation that she argues promises a radical change in the culture of the global marketplace. Niko Koppel’s piece in the New York Times cites Zaloom’s comparative account of what two very different financial exchanges—the trading floors of Chicago’s commodities markets where open-outcry trading has been a tradition since the mid-nineteenth century, and a shiny new digital dealing room in the City of London—to describe how this transition is affecting the marketplace. Koppel writes for the NYT: Ms. Zaloom observed that, though pit traders were once the first to see bids and offers, electronic trading has leveled the playing field. “The screens are anonymous,” she said, “and that’s part of the idea of having a more pure market, one that doesn’t have the complications of flesh and blood.” Equal access to the markets has made trading more challenging for pit traders. “We’re trading against machines” all over the world, said Jeffrey Levant, 53, who has been at the Exchange for 29 years, and recently . . .

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Review: Maestripieri, Macachiavellian Intelligence

October 23, 2007
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Review: Maestripieri, Macachiavellian Intelligence

The Times Higher Education Supplement recently ran a positive review of Dario Maestripieri’s new book, Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World. A detailed examination of how rhesus macaques have come to claim the title of the world’s most prolific primates (after homo-sapiens, of course) Macachiavellian Intelligence delivers an insightful exploration of macaque social organization—revealing relationships perpetually subject to the cruel laws of the markets and power struggles that would impress Machiavelli himself. Alison Jolly’s review for the THES begins: If this review were written by a rhesus monkey, the author would get an O mouth threat and a clear chance of being bitten. Unless, of course, the author were dominant to the reviewer, in which case it would be a sycophantic fear grin in hopes of payoff—either promotion or sex. The only actual altruists in rhesus society are mothers, but The Times Higher doesn’t ask authors’ mothers to review books.… The review continues: Maestripieri tells story with incisive prose, sharp wit and admirable brevity, and the book should appeal to a wide audience from cynical teenagers to economists who believe that the “invisible hand” of competition underlies all human society. He also has perfect . . .

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Press Release: Montgomery, The Shark God

October 15, 2007
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Press Release: Montgomery, The Shark God

When Charles Montgomery was ten years old, he stumbled upon the memoirs of his great-grandfather, a seafaring missionary in the South Pacific. Twenty years later and a century after that journey, entranced by the world of black magic and savagery the bishop described, Montgomery set out for Melanesia in search of the very spirits and myths his great-grandfather had sought to destroy. In The Shark God, he retraces his ancestor’s path through the far-flung islands, exploring the bond between faith and magic, the eerie persistence of the spirit world, and the heavy footprints of the British Empire. Read the press release. . . .

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Baboon Aristocrats?

October 9, 2007
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Baboon Aristocrats?

The lead article in the “Science Times” section of today’s New York Times focuses on Dorothy L. Cheney and Robert Seyfarth’s new book Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind. The article features a photo gallery of the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana’s Okavango Delta where Cheney and Seyfarth have been making some extraordinary observations of baboons in their social world, and offers some fascinating insights into their research. Reporter Nicholas Wade notes that Cheney and Seyfarth have gone a step beyond the many studies that have sought to simply parse our primate ancestor’s social organization, and instead approach their subjects with the goal of fully understanding the cognitive mechanisms that underlie their social behaviors—in the hopes of gaining a better understanding of our own. Wade writes: Reading a baboon’s mind affords an excellent grasp of the dynamics of baboon society. But more than that, it bears on the evolution of the human mind and the nature of human existence. As Darwin jotted down in a notebook of 1838, “He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke.” Dr. Cheney and Dr. Seyfarth have summed up their new cycle of research in a book titled, after Darwin’s . . .

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Festival of Maps

September 19, 2007
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Festival of Maps

The Chicago Tribune is running an article today about the forthcoming Festival of Maps—a three month display of “rare and important” maps from around the world to be held at more than twenty participating venues throughout Chicagoland beginning later this fall. In conjunction with the exhibition the Press is set to release a companion volume in early November, Maps: Finding Our Place in the World edited by James R. Akerman and Robert W. Karrow, Jr. Delivering a comprehensive account of the diverse ways maps have been used throughout the ages and across cultures, Maps covers much of the material featured in the exhibition, from maps “tracing the rise of the American West” to those used to track and predict the weather. Read today’s article in the Tribune or check out the exhibition’s official website at www.festivalofmaps.com to find out more about the Festival, or learn more about the companion volume, Maps, on our website. . . .

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And the controversy continues…

September 10, 2007
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And the controversy continues…

The New York Times reported today about the controversy surrounding the work of Barnard professor of anthropology Nadia Abu El-Haj, whose 2001 Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society has sparked disputes in and out of academe since its publication. El-Haj’s work is an analysis of archaeological practice in Israel, attempting to explain the complicated interplay of politics and science in the Middle East and the ongoing role that archeology plays in defining the past, present, and future of Palestine and Israel. El-Haj is currently up for tenure at Barnard, but due to the controversial nature of her work, she has some powerful opponents who claim that her own findings have been influenced by political interests. From the New York Times: It is Dr. Abu El-Haj’s book, Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society, that has made her a lightning rod, setting off warring petitions opposing and supporting her candidacy, and producing charges of shoddy scholarship and countercharges of an ideological witch hunt.… The Middle East Studies Association, an organization of scholars who focus on the region, chose her book in 2002 as one of the year’s two best books . . .

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Professor or Baseball?

August 13, 2007
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Professor or Baseball?

Would you rather chair your university department or manage an amateur softball team? Edwin Amenta, NYU professor of sociology and author of Professor Baseball: Searching for Redemption and the Perfect Lineup on the Softball Diamonds of Central Park, was pretty sure he’d enjoy the softball team a lot more. In an interesting piece of commentary for the careers section of the Chronicle of Higher Education Amenta relates how he was passed over for departmental chair but then was given the opportunity to spend the summer as manager of the Performing Arts Softball League. But as it turns out Amenta got a little more than he bargained for. Amenta writes: Near the end of the season, I realized that not only was managing not that much fun, it was not greatly different from being a department chair. Both jobs provide an undercurrent of excitement, with little crises to attend to all the time. Sometimes there are important general managerial decisions to make—like deciding which players or faculty members to recruit. But the rest of the work is extensive and thankless. It takes great effort to get teammates and colleagues to do things they should volunteer for, like practicing or serving on . . .

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Review: Cheney and Seyfarth, Baboon Metaphysics

August 8, 2007
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Review: Cheney and Seyfarth, Baboon Metaphysics

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