Episodes
This episode proved remarkably popular, so we're reposting it as an NBN classic for those who missed it the first time. If you want to read just one book to properly understand capitalism, let it be Tania Li’s award-winning 2014 book Land’s End: Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier (Duke University Press, 2014). This might seem like a strange choice: how can a study of a faraway and possibly exotic indigenous place shed light on “our” own global realities of jobless growth and...
Published 09/25/22
Published 09/25/22
This episode proved remarkably popular, so we're reposting it as an NBN classic for those who missed it the first time. Seven decades of military spending during the cold war and war on terror have created a vast excess of military hardware – what happens to all of this military waste when it has served its purpose and what does it tell us about militarism in American culture? Josh Reno’s Military Waste: The Unexpected Consequences of Permanent War Readiness (University of California Press,...
Published 09/25/22
This episode proved remarkably popular, so we're reposting it as an NBN classic for those who missed it the first time. American anthropologists consider Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, and Margaret Mead to be foundational figures, but outside the academy few people know the details of their ideas. In this new volume, Charles King provides a carefully-researched and beautifully-written history of the Boas Circle that everyone will enjoy reading. King covers the period from Boas's birth to the...
Published 09/24/22
This episode proved remarkably popular, so we're reposting it as an NBN classic for those who missed it the first time. The 2018 election of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil has brought the issues of police violence, racial discrimination, and misogyny to the fore. Jaime Alves’s book the Anti-Black City: Police Terror and Black Urban Life in Brazil (University of Minnesota Press, 2018) shows that, from the perspective of Black Brazilians, these forces have deep roots in the...
Published 09/24/22
Throughout his career, the internationally renowned Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot unsettled key concepts in anthropology, history, postcolonial studies, Black studies, Caribbean studies, and beyond. From his early critique of the West to the ongoing challenges he leveled at disciplinary and intellectual boundaries and formations, Trouillot centered the Caribbean as a site both foundational to the development of Western thought and critical to its undoing.  Trouillot Remixed:...
Published 09/23/22
Stories, Senses and the Charismatic Relation: A Reflexive Ethnography of Christian Experience (Routledge, 2020) offers a uniquely intimate and auto-ethnographic exploration of Christian experience, rendering a deep, phenomenological account of how devotional worlds become real – how they are experienced, shaped, constituted and performed by those who live them. The book starts from a reflexive exploration of the author’s own experiences of the divine, considers the spiritual journeys of...
Published 09/23/22
Based on fieldwork among state officials, NGOs, politicians, and activists in Costa Rica and Brazil, A Future History of Water (Duke UP, 2019) traces the unspectacular work necessary to make water access a human right and a human right something different from a commodity. Andrea Ballestero shows how these ephemeral distinctions are made through four technolegal devices—formula, index, list and pact. She argues that what is at stake in these devices is not the making of a distinct future but...
Published 09/22/22
A Sephardi Sea: Jewish Memories Across the Modern Mediterranean (Indiana UP, 2022) tells the story of Jews from the southern shore of the Mediterranean who, between the late 1940s and the mid-1960s, migrated from their country of birth for Europe, Israel, and beyond. It is a story that explores their contrasting memories of and feelings for a Sephardi Jewish world in North Africa and Egypt that is lost forever but whose echoes many still hear. Surely, some of these Jewish migrants were...
Published 09/22/22
Decolonisation has lost its way. Originally a struggle to escape the West’s direct political and economic control, it has become a catch-all idea, often for performing ‘morality’ or ‘authenticity’. In Against Decolonization: Taking African Agency Seriously (Hurst, 2022), Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò fiercely rejects the indiscriminate application of ‘decolonisation’ to everything from literature, language and philosophy to sociology, psychology and medicine. Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò speaks to Pierre d’Alancaisez...
Published 09/22/22
In The Concrete Plateau: Urban Tibetans and the Chinese Civilizing Machine (Cornell UP, 2022), Grant examines how China’s urban development policies of frontier cities like Xining (Tib. zi ling) accompanied civilizational projects that deployed various discursive and non-discursive practices aimed at creating ideologically homogeneous and modern places. Xining or Ziling is the capital of Qinghai (Tib. mtsho sngon) province and it is the largest city on the Tibetan Plateau and home to over...
Published 09/21/22
A medical doctor with an inquisitive mind and a traveling spirit, John Richens thought he had hit upon an exemplary public health case study – the story of donovanosis among the Marind people of early-twentieth-century New Guinea. The rare, sexually transmitted disease, locally known as “tik Merauke,” rose to epidemic level after the ruling Dutch moved to quash the Marind practice of headhunting. The intensive treatment campaign that followed was successful, at least insofar as curing the...
Published 09/21/22
Retail Inequality: Reframing the Food Desert Debate (U California Press, 2021) examines the failure of recent efforts to improve Americans' diets by increasing access to healthy food. Based on exhaustive research, this book by Kenneth H. Kolb documents the struggles of two Black neighborhoods in Greenville, South Carolina. For decades, outsiders ignored residents' complaints about the unsavory retail options on their side of town—until the well-intentioned but flawed "food desert" concept...
Published 09/20/22
Having a "good" sense of humor generally means being able to take a joke without getting offended—laughing even at a taboo thought or at another's expense. The insinuation is that laughter eases social tension and creates solidarity in an overly politicized social world. But do the stakes change when the jokes are racist? In The Souls of White Jokes: How Racist Humor Fuels White Supremacy (Stanford UP, 2022), Raúl Pérez argues that we must genuinely confront this unsettling question in order...
Published 09/19/22
Community Media Representations of Place and Identity at Tug Fest (Lexington Books, 2022) explores an annual interstate tug-of-war between two small towns along the Mississippi River. In this book, Johnston examines how media shapes place and identity of people at this festival. In writing this book, he conducted analysis of a ten year period of media coverage, and found that the experience people have while attending Tug Fest is quite different than what is said in classic novels about life...
Published 09/16/22
Manuela Ciotti's Retro-modern India: Forging the Low Caste Self (Routledge, 2020) is interesting engagement with Chamar identity and understanding it through the lens of modernity. Through a rich ethnographic engagement the book has looked into what Modernity meant for Chamar community and also the dialectical relationship such identity formation had with the discourse of Modernity.  Kalyani Kalyani is a sociologist and currently teaches at School of Arts and Sciences in Azim Premji...
Published 09/16/22
In Earworm and Event: Music, Daydreams, and Other Imaginary Refrains (Duke UP, 2022) Eldritch Priest questions the nature of the imagination in contemporary culture through the phenomenon of the earworm: those reveries that hijack our attention, the shivers that run down our spines, and the songs that stick in our heads. Through a series of meditations on music, animal mentality, abstraction, and metaphor, Priest uses the earworm and the states of daydreaming, mind-wandering, and delusion it...
Published 09/15/22
Victor Frankl was a leader in 20th century psychiatry. In 1942, Frankl was sent to a concentration camp in the Czech Republic. Frankl was already influential in the field of psychiatry by the time World War II started, but his experiences in the camps would come to define his work. When the war ended, he returned back to Vienna, where he wrote his best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, a reflection on his time in the concentration camps. Arthur Kleinman is an anthropologist and a...
Published 09/14/22
Edited by Ellie D. Hernandez, Eddy Francisco Alvarez Jr., and Magda García, Transmovimientos: Latinx Queer Migrations, Bodies, and Space (University of Nebraska Press, 2021) focuses on queer, trans, and gender nonconforming communities of immigrants and social dissidents who reflect on and write about diaspora and migratory movements while navigating geographical and embodied spaces across gendered and racialized contexts. It forms a nuanced conversation between scholarship and social...
Published 09/13/22
The contributors to Queer Kinship: Race, Sex, Belonging, Form (Duke UP, 2022) assert the importance of queer kinship to queer and trans theory and to kinship theory. In a contemporary moment marked by the rising tides of neoliberalism, fascism, xenophobia, and homo- and cis-nationalism, they approach kinship as both a horizon and a source of violence and possibility. The contributors challenge dominant theories of kinship that ignore the devastating impacts of chattel slavery, settler...
Published 09/12/22
In recent decades, the North American public has pursued an inspirational vision of successful aging—striving through medical technique and individual effort to eradicate the declines, vulnerabilities, and dependencies previously commonly associated with old age. On the face of it, this bold new vision of successful, healthy, and active aging is highly appealing. But it also rests on a deep cultural discomfort with aging and being old. The contributors to Sarah Lamb's Successful Aging as a...
Published 09/09/22
In High-Risk Feminism in Colombia: Women's Mobilization in Violent Contexts (Rutgers University Press, 2022), Dr. Julia Zulver documents the experiences of grassroots women’s organizations that united to demand gender justice during and in the aftermath of Colombia’s armed conflict. In doing so, she illustrates a little-studied phenomenon: women whose experiences with violence catalyze them to mobilize and resist as feminists, even in the face of grave danger. Despite a well-established...
Published 09/08/22
L. L. Wynn and Angel M. Foster,'s edited volume Sex in the Middle East and North Africa (Vanderbilt UP, 2022) examines the sexual practices, politics, and complexities of the modern Arab world. Short chapters feature a variety of experts in anthropology, sociology, health science, and cultural studies. Many of the chapters are based on original ethnographic and interview work with subjects involved in these practices and include their voices. The book is organized into three sections: Single...
Published 09/08/22
Straight from the beaches of Hawaii comes an exciting new ethnography of a community of big-wave surfers. Oahu’s Waimea Bay attracts the world’s best big wave surfers—men and women who come to test their physical strength, courage, style, knowledge of the water, and love of the ocean. Sociologist Ugo Corte sees their fun as the outcome of social interaction within a community. Both as participant and observer, he examines how mentors, novices, and peers interact to create episodes of...
Published 09/07/22
From social media posts and text messages to digital government documents and archives, researchers are bombarded with a deluge of text reflecting the social world. This textual data gives unprecedented insights into fundamental questions in the social sciences, humanities, and industry. Meanwhile new machine learning tools are rapidly transforming the way science and business are conducted. Text as Data shows how to combine new sources of data, machine learning tools, and social science...
Published 09/05/22