After quite some time — and without a chance for me to review the final edits (!) — History of Anthropology Review has published my review of David Varel’s The Lost Black Scholar: Resurrecting Allison Davis in American Social Thought. I thought that the book was well-written and well-researched, but what I really appreciated about it was the way it bought Allison Davis back into my life — an extraordinary scholar whose Deep South I now teach regularly in my History of Anthropology course at both the undergraduate and graduate level. I also interviewed Varel about his book on The New Books Network anthropology channel . And now, The University of Chicago is planning a conference and distinguished lecture series in Davis’s name. It’s great to see Davis getting the recognition that he deserves.
My review of Ian Brown’s “The School of Oriental and Asian Studies” is now open access and available to read at the History of Anthropology Newsletter website. It is a good book, but I didn’t find it very useful for understanding the role that SOAS’s department has played in the history of anthropology… probably because the author did not write the book just for me. So no surprise there. That’s fair. At any rate, I think it is probably the most deeply researched and longest book on the SOAS written to date, or at least that I am aware of, so Brown should be congratulated on this book. If you are interested in a closely written and research administrative history of SOAS this is the book for you.
I’m happy to say that my review of Victoria Stead’s Becoming Landowners is on available, open access, on the Pacific Affairs website. The sum of the article is: Setting aside my personal fondness for Tori — who is one of the most intellectually alive people I know — I think I can say with impartiality that the book is very good. There were some drawbacks for me: I personally would have preferred that it focus just on PNG, just because I’m a PNG chauvinist. I also think some readers might miscrecognize Stead’s distinction between ‘custom’ and ‘modernity’ as romantic or exorcizing. But this is definitely not the case if you read the book carefully. The book has many more strengths than weaknesses, and I especially appreciated her willingness to point out how often Papua New Guineans get the short end of the stick when it comes to resource development and industry. There is a cynical strand in the PNG literature which she is fighting against — which I probably give in to too often! — and I am really glad that she keeps us honest in this account. Overall, it’s a good book and I hope UH publishes it in a less-expensive and more accessible form.
(Trying to keep track of my reading — so here is a quick review of my in-flight reading from #ASAO2018)
As with her previous books, Appleby’s history of European science seen from the angle of discovery and colonization is lucid and well-organized. It will be of interest to anyone who wants a broad and easy overview of the period from Columbus to Darwin, whether they are high school students or nonfiction buffs. The book works chronologically, walking through the biographies of the best-known thinkers from each period. Appleby expertly cherry-picks the literature to provide good summaries from well-respected sources. Although the focus is on European exploration, there are enough digressions into astronomy and chemistry to make this more than just an account geography and voyaging — although note that philology and religious studies are not covered. Overall, Appleby’s book went down easy and filled in several gaps in my knowledge. It made great in-flight reading. Those looking for an introduction to this topic, or something to string all the pieces together will enjoy this well-written volume, but people wanting to go deeper into the literature or already know something about it will be better served looking elsewhere.
I have a book review up in the latest number of the great open access journal Museum Anthropology Review. It’s on Francis Densmore, a pioneering female musicologist and the people she conducted research with/on. The book was very good and a major piece of scholarship on Densmore because it is one of the few pieces of scholarship on Densmore. Feel free to check it out.
I’ve been bad about listing things on this blog, but I did want to note another review of Leviathans, this one from the Journal of Pacific History. As someone with a background in historical anthropology — and who just attended the Pacific History conference! — I’m very pleased the journal reviewed my book. I’m also flattered that the reviewer like it. You can find the review on the JPH’s website.
Leviathans at the Gold Mine was reviewed in the latest number of PoLAR — that’s the Political and Legal Anthropology Review, the journal of my subdiscipline of political anthropology. The review is by Catherine Coumans, an anthropologist at Mining Watch, so it reflects the concerns of the activist community.
I’m happy to say that the first review of my book Leviathans at the Gold Mine has appeared and that is it positive. You can read the review here. The author of the review is David Eller — whose textbook I’ve used in my intro class before, but who I’ve never met. The most frequent adjectives he uses to describe me and the book are ‘ingenious’ ‘exciting’ and ‘fascinating’, although I’m most flattered by the idea that one of my chapters is “calm but ultimately searing”. I don’t think I planned to be ‘searing’ but… I’m glad that Eller found it so.
I’ve also been told that the book has been adopted for use in two classes, so I’m glad to see that someone is taking the time read it after all the time I put in to writing it. So… thanks to everyone for their continued (and positive) reception of the volume!
My book review of Keir Martin’s book The Death of the Big Men and the Rise of the Big Shots is now available in the latest number of Anthropological Forum. I liked Keir’s book a lot and highly recommend it. It clearly establishes him as a major scholar in this area. But I was disappointed that he didn’t flesh out what he means by ‘The West’ and its culturally specific form of individualism more.
Go take a look. You’ll learn a lot about New Ireland, and a fair but about Manchester as well.
If you are interested in digital anthropology, you may also be interested in my short book review of Daniel Miller and Heather Horst’s book Digital Anthropology. The review can be found here. I think the book will be useful for students, but I didn’t feel it pushed the field forward at all. Nor do I feel it met its goal of founding an entire new sub discipline of anthropology. But how often do books achieve goals like that? Overall its very useful for people trying to learn more about this area, I think.