Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category.

Peopled Economies

Staffan Löfving (Editor), Peopled Economies: Conversations with Stephen Gudeman Stephen Gudeman has earned the right, through a series of exemplary books published since the 1970s, to be considered the world’s leading practitioner of ‘economic anthropology’. His commitment has always been, under a number of labels, to bring an anthropological sensibility to the study of economies in the plural. Starting out from social relations and business studies at Harvard, his anthropology PhD at the other Cambridge diverted him from studying development in Panama to a structuralist analysis of compradazgo. But he reverted to his original topic in The Demise of a Rural Economy (1978); went on, in Economics as Culture (1986), to examine the cultural logic of some exotic economies and western economists; again juxtaposed the history of economic ideas and peasant ethnography in Conversations in Colombia (1990); and produced the nearest thing yet to a general textbook in The Anthropology of Economy: Community, Market and Culture (2001). Continue reading ‘Peopled Economies’ »

Kate Fox’s Watching the English

Letter to the Editor, Anthropology Today

Kate Fox’s best-seller, Watching the English, is guaranteed to stir academic prejudices, because her style of writing is self-consciously designed to wind us up. David Mills’ editorial (AT 22[2]) is predictably dismissive:

“Since when have the linguistic conventions and social rituals around alcohol consumption offered insight into national character, whatever that is?”

But, for all her anti-academic bravado, Kate Fox did devote the first 22 pages of her book to explaining her aims and methods. This introduction raises some serious issues and deserves to be treated as such, even if the author seems to be indifferent to the possibility. Despite her self-satirizing, sometimes facetious tone, Fox is not just a wacky deviation from the professional norm. She poses a challenge to the guilds of late academia, and to British social anthropology in particular, that we need to meet. Mills’ review tells us more about the author’s personal history on the margins of academia than the contents of her book. So I hope to redress this omission here by summarizing her introduction before indicating briefly why this book should enter into professional discussions of the future of anthropology. Continue reading ‘Kate Fox’s Watching the English’ »

Caetano Veloso’s A Foreign Sound

Theory Culture and Society, PUBLICity

I read about A Foreign Sound at the same time in Le Monde (1) and the New York Times (2). The CD is Caetano Veloso’s homage to the formative influence on him of American popular music (3). The 23 tracks, sung in English, are mostly standards, but also by the likes of Dylan and Nirvana.

When I bought the CD, I found that his notes were as interesting as the quotes he gave to the two journalists:

So the world began with a Big Bang. Not only the strangest creatures in the remotest galaxy appear speaking English in the movies, the Universe itself started uttering a typically short English expression….A character in O Cinema Falado (The Talkies), a feature film that I directed in 1986: “The English language is an important subject for those who want to dominate music because it is the language of domination. My master wants to dominate dominion itself. I’ll teach music to him.” (3)

Continue reading ‘Caetano Veloso’s A Foreign Sound’ »