Anthropology

The South Side as Sociological Specimen

August 6, 2007
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The South Side as Sociological Specimen

In a recent article for the Chicago Tribune staff reporter Ron Grossman delivers a fascinating account of the long legacy of sociological study that has used Chicago’s South Side as its laboratory. Grossman begins his article by mentioning one of the latest additions to this legacy, Mary Pattillo’s Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City. Her book, like those of the many other sociologists who have chosen to study the South Side’s unique black urban communities, focuses on the sharp divides in race, class, and culture that can be found in the area’s neighborhoods. But it also explores a growing phenomena in Chicago’s South Side communities, the black urban middle class. Examining the social impact of the gentrification of neighborhoods that have for years been home to some of the city’s poorest residents, Pattillo’s book continues to break new ground in one of the most often studied urban neighborhoods in America. You can read Grossman’s article online at the Tribune website, or navigate to the press’s site to find out more about Pattillo’s fascinating new book, as well as read an excerpt. . . .

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Mary Pattillo on the future of Chicago’s black urban communties

July 24, 2007
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Mary Pattillo on the future of Chicago’s black urban communties

Mary Pattillo, author of the recently published Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City, penned a fascinating op-ed piece for Sunday’s Chicago Tribune on the rapidly changing face of Chicago’s black urban communities. Pattillo’s article begins: “No more blacks.” That was the forecast of a resident of the Oakland community when asked about the future of her South Side neighborhood. “No more blacks?” I responded, worried in no small part because my research is about black gentrification. “ couple of blacks” would be left, the woman then allowed. “They got money. This simple prediction is rich with meaning. For one thing, it helps establish the players in the widespread upscaling of Chicago: The little man. The middleman. And then, The Man. The prediction also lays out what’s at stake, not just in Oakland and North Kenwood on the South Side, but in various Chicago neighborhoods. In the process of “building, breaking, rebuilding” the City of the Big Shoulders, as Chicago’s poet Carl Sandburg so eloquently put it, who is going to keep the little man from being left behind? Are Chicago’s shoulders big enough to serve, include and celebrate everyone? Pattillo’s article seems to . . .

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Caitlin Zaloom on the CBOT/Merc Merger

July 11, 2007
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Caitlin Zaloom on the CBOT/Merc Merger

Caitlin Zaloom, author of Out of the Pits: Traders and Technology from Chicago to London, was featured yesterday on Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty-Eight to discuss the merger of the Chicago Board of Trade with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange—a deal that many think is likely to secure Chicago’s place as one of the world’s most important centers for global derivatives trading. In her interview Zaloom goes beyond the numbers to discuss how the merger, and the revolution in the culture of trading it promises, will affect the world’s financial markets and shape everyday life in the new global economy. Listen to the archived audio on the Eight Forty-Eight website. Read an excerpt from Zaloom’s book. . . .

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Review: Amenta, Professor Baseball

June 20, 2007
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Review: Amenta, Professor Baseball

John Sugden recently reviewed Edwin Amenta’s memoir of amateur sport, Professor Baseball: Searching for Redemption and the Perfect Lineup on the Softball Diamonds of Central Park for the June 8 Times Higher Education Supplement. A British academic periodical might seem like an unlikely prospect for a book about a thoroughly American game, but Sugden swings for the fences: One hot and humid summer when Professor Edwin Amenta should have been hard at work at home or in his office in the sociology department of New York University—finishing up his book on pensions organizations in Depression-era America—”Eddy” could be found roaming the recreational spaces of Central Park indulging in the very serious business of playing softball.… At one level, Professor Baseball is a straightforward diary of Amenta’s successes and failures over one summer season in the several teams on which he plays and the one of which he is player-manager. At another, the book is a narrative account of one person’s lived-through obsession. It is a coming-of-middle-age tale of a fortysomething man, with fatherhood imminent, trying to come to terms with changing fortunes in his professional and personal life. Above all, it is about his forlorn and ultimately doomed quest for . . .

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Robert Seyfarth on Radio Times

June 11, 2007
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Robert Seyfarth on Radio Times

Robert Seyfarth, co-author of Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind was recently featured on WHYY Philadelphia ‘s Radio Times with host Marty Moss-Coane. According to the Radio Times website, Seyfarth draws from his new book to discuss how “baboons relate to each other and understand their place in the world as well as what can we learn from them about human behavior.” Archived audio of the radio show is available via the WHYY Radio Times website. In Baboon Metaphysics Dorothy L. Cheney and Robert Seyfarth aim to fully comprehend the intelligence that underlies baboon’s social organization. How do baboons actually conceive of the world and their place in it? Using innovative field experiments, the authors test whether baboons understand kinship relations, how they make use of vocal communication, and how they manage the stress and dangers of life in the wild. They learn that for baboons, just as for humans, family and friends hold the key to mitigating the ill effects of grief, stress, and anxiety. Written with a scientist’s precision and a nature-lover’s eye, Baboon Metaphysics gives us an unprecedented and compelling glimpse into the mind of another species. Read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Review: Cheney and Seyfarth, Baboon Metaphysics

May 29, 2007
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Review: Cheney and Seyfarth, Baboon Metaphysics

Dorothy Cheney and Richard Seyfarth’s new book, Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind, has received several notable reviews over the past month. Writing in the May 19 issue of New Scientist primatologist Frans de Waal notes the the author’s insightful study of baboons’ social organization, and the implications of their research in gaining a better understanding of our own human society. Steven Poole also reviewed the book for the May 12 issue of the Guardian noting the book’s entertaining study of the often dramatic social lives of these primates. Poole writes: What have years of observing wild baboons in Botswana taught the authors about social thinking and learning abilities? The vivid narrative is like a bush detective story, as the authors conduct ingenious experiments, setting up loudspeakers to play back prerecorded baboon calls (the baboons recognize individual voices, and act surprised if a sequence indicates a violation of rank), or lament the loss of their favorites to lions and leopards. The detail of how baboons keep track of the, er, grunting order is almost novelistic, as we track social peaks and troughs in their lives, and the authors’ conclusions have intriguing implications for the evolution of language . . .

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Press Release: Cheney and Seyfarth, Baboon Metaphysics

May 23, 2007
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Press Release: Cheney and Seyfarth, Baboon Metaphysics

Watching primates at zoos is so fascinating because they seem to relate to one another as individuals; we see in their actions and vocalizations signs of friendship, rivalry, and even love. But how much of what we see is just our anthropomorphizing? How do primates really understand their relationships and their place in the world? The fruit of fifteen years living with baboons in their native habitat, Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind answers these questions and more, showing us how baboons understand themselves and their world. The drama of rank and kinship, the authors reveal, would be right at home in Jane Austen, as the baboons make and break alliances with friends, relatives, and rivals. Through unprecedented field experiments, Cheney and Seyfarth enable us to understand the intelligence underlying these bonds and the forms of communications baboons employ to manage their relationships—and the dangers and stress of living in the wild. Baboon Metaphysics gives us an unprecedented and compelling glimpse into the mind of this most fascinating species. Read the press release. Read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Fulford on Khuri, An Invitation to Laughter

May 18, 2007
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Fulford on Khuri, An Invitation to Laughter

Robert Fulford wrote an article in Canada’s National Post on Fuad I. Kuri and his posthumously published memoir An Invitation to Laughter: A Lebanese Anthropologist in the Arab World. A Christian Lebanese, Khuri offers in his unusual autobiography both an insider’s and an outsider’s perspective on life in Lebanon, often fraught with contradictions, and of course, laughter. Khuri entertains and informs with clever insights into such issues as the mentality of Arabs toward women, eating habits of the Arab world, the impact of Islam on West Africa, and the extravagant lifestyles of wealthy Arabs as Fulford writes in the Post: Laughter is not the first sound that comes to mind when someone mentions Arabia. As Khuri wrote, “In Arab culture, laughing loudly in public demeans one’s character.” … Khuri was not an ordinary Arab, or an ordinary anthropologist. Laughter was frequently his response to the societies he studied. He investigated African villagers and other traditional subjects, but he loved studying prosperous societies.… Khuri, it’s clear, loved to follow the rather over-assertive habits of rich Arabs who wanted to display their wealth. He mentions an Arab who asked that Harrods department store in London be closed so that his wife . . .

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Mary Patillo on Eight Forty-Eight

May 17, 2007
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Mary Patillo on Eight Forty-Eight

Author Mary Pattillo was featured Tuesday on Chicago Public Radio’s daily news-radio talk show Eight Forty-Eight. Pattillo speaks with host Richard Steele about her new book Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City and the revitalization of Chicago’s North Kenwood-Oakland neighborhood. Their conversation explores the problems facing this rapidly gentrifying black community to touch on broader issues of race and class in contemporary urban America. You can find archived audio of the show on the Chicago Public Radio website. Pattillo will also be at 57th Street Books today at 7pm to read from her book. In the meantime, you can check out an excerpt on our website. . . .

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Review: Cheney, Baboon Metaphysics

May 9, 2007
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Review: Cheney, Baboon Metaphysics

The ALA’s Booklist magazine recently ran a positive review of Dorothy L. Cheney and Robert M. Seyfarth’s new book, Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind. The review notes that many recent book-length studies of primates have successfully documented primate social organization, but not until Cheney and Seyfarth’s ground breaking new study has anyone attempted to document the intelligence that underlies it. Nancy Bent writes for Booklist: Primatologists Cheney and Seyfarth have studied the same troop of chacma baboons since 1992, and here they demonstrate the importance of their social behavior. Living in a world of predators, baboons must rely on each other for safety, and the resulting large groups they live in are perfect hotbeds for complicated relationships. Matrilineal groups of females retain status by helping their own kin, whereas males act individually and for themselves. Females form short-term bonds with males for mating and long-term friendships with the same or other males for protection. But how do baboons view the world? How do they decide who to associate with, who to defer to, and who to dominate? Cheney and Seyfarth discuss these and other related questions in a style that both explains complex concepts and challenges the . . .

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