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New text addresses A.N. theme?

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  • George Thomas
    ... A review of a review? The Anthropology News roundup and call for perspectives on anthropologists and our take on the ongoing economic meltdown is beyond
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 18, 2009
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      ... A review of a review?
      The Anthropology News roundup and call for perspectives on anthropologists and our take on the ongoing economic "meltdown" is beyond my area of habitual meandering. I read the announcement and drew a blank.
      ... On the other hand, a quick Google search found this.  "Anthropology Unbound:...", via Paradigm Press, appears to be coming out in Nov '09, and addresses the stated Anthropology News theme directly. I'm wondering how the theme can be more usefully addressed through more specificity, as it seems there is a danger that the book, and even the approach, can be faulted for "ideological stridency." Fortunately it seems most college departments provide most of us some leeway on that, although there's a problem if a text proves itself to be too narrow in its coverage of cultural anthro.
      It's interesting, maybe a plus, and perhaps telling. that "Unbound" combines an established anthropologist's approach with a "freelance writer for unions" as co-author.  It's also a plus that the textbook authors tackle this aspect of anthropology in an introductory volume. I found through my use (it's department policy, and their choice) of Gary Ferraro's "C. Anthro: An Applied Perspective," that Ferraro went to great lengths to include modern issues as relevant to general anthropological concepts, but he fell short.
      There I go, whining about "Unbound's" lack of specificity, and then generalizing about my own "inadequate text." But generally the gut feeling I got when trying to mate Ferraro to my lectures was that he had presented modern issues with no more sophistication than any newspaper feature page, and sometimes achieved the sophistication of Psychology Today. This seemed to be at the expense of an awful lot of the meat of cultural anthropology in all its cross-cultural, counterintuitive glory.
      It's not quite enough to tout today's economic collapse as symptomatic of modern Milton Friedmanesque lack of concern for social justice. You've got to marry all this modern concern with all the emic-vs-etic, actually rather tricky perspective developed during anthropologists' concern with ethnocentrism-vs-relativism and "the ethnographic present," while defining "justice" in the process.  Maybe Durrenberger and Erem manage to do such a thing.
      I run off at the keyboard without having read "Unbound," and perhaps my viewpoint is unhinged.  From the review and comments below, however, I find myself receptive to going through the book to see whether I get that same old Ferraro sinking feeling.

      Anthropology Unbound: A Field Guide to the 21st Century, Second Edition


      E. Paul Durrenberger
      Suzan Erem
      Book Info

      Length: 336 pages
      Trim size: 6" x 9"
      More books in:



      ISBN: 978-1-59451-772-3
      Publish date: November 2009
      List Price: $94.00
      Your Price: $79.90

      Author Info

      The second edition of this revolutionary new anthropology textbook retains its commitment of honest involvement of students in anthropology, challenging them to understand their own lives in anthropological terms, and urging them to live lives dedicated to social justice. Students who read the first edition were prepared to understand the financial fraud and economic meltdown that began about a year after the book was published in 2007, the failure of many financial and government institutions, and the war in Iraq as well as the infighting that has characterized the U.S. labor movement. In the second edition, we explain these developments and how students can understand them as anthropologists. Some eventualities the book foresaw have not yet materialized but have been more widely recognized as problems that require solutions, for instance, the reliance on fossil fuels. We have updated those sections without pulling any punches or supposing that a new
      administration in Washington is sufficient to solve these deeply rooted structural problems. In the new edition, we take advantage of a number of new studies that have been published on Al-Qaeda, fundamentalism, and American culture. In light of the 2008 presidential election, we have revised our discussion of conservative politics in the U.S. to suggest that the interesting phenomenon is not the victory of an avowedly liberal candidate, but, given the dire circumstances of the country, the narrowness of that victory. This is an opportune moment to re-emphasize our analysis of structural racism rather than indulge in premature congratulation. The 2008 election did not indicate a change in the ideological direction of the U.S., but illustrated the power of successful organization at all levels combined with political savvy that was careful not to alienate moneyed interests. “Organize” is one of the messages of the first edition, and this election
      provides us with a very powerful illustration. We also discuss how neoliberal policy was responsible for the meltdown of the Icelandic economy.

      Author Info
      E. Paul Durrenberger, Professor of Anthropology at Penn State, spent twenty-five years at the University of Iowa before moving to Pennsylvania. He has published numerous scholarly articles and books.
      Suzan Erem is a freelance writer for unions and the author of Labor Pains: Inside America's New Union Movement (Monthly Review Press, 2001).

      From the 1st edition

      “The only introductory anthropology text I have ever seen that has the courage not only to address current humanitarian issues of class and state but to tackle the problems head-on with a clear, logical, empirical ethnographic approach.”
      —Kara Leah Reichart, University of North Carolina

      “Conversational, explanatory, and provocative, with a clear and strong point of view on the contemporary world. Undergraduate students will thrive on the immediacy of the writing, while professionals will savor the consistent theme of household versus suprahousehold political economy from simple societies to the contemporary world-system.”
      —Josiah Heyman, Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas–El Paso

      “Anthropology Unbound is the most refreshing text I’ve ever read, a genuine ‘field guide’ to the anthropological way of thinking and perceiving the world around us. The authors make the facts unforgettable, the graphs and charts clear and truly helpful, and the messages both substantial and provocative, exactly what is needed for courses in which critical thinking and discussion are valued.”
      —Bonnie J. McCay, Professor of Anthropology and Human Ecology, Rutgers University

      “Anthropology Unbound helped me teach better than I ever have before.”
      —Barbara Dilly, Creighton University

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