I wish I were posting more on this blog, and perhaps my cobloggers feel the same—or maybe my silence is cause for the same celebration it often is amongst my students. In any case, apologies if my posts are missed, and Hello, My Name Is Chris, if you are wondering who the hell I am.
I felt sufficiently moved to withdraw from my Fall Death March of Classes, Conferences and Co-Parenting to add something to Rex’s post about influences. As a member of the Marcus/Fischer/Clifford Cabal (Yes, TINC)—Santa Cruz Undergrad, MIT Grad, Rice Ass’t Prof—I am intimately familiar with the so-called impact of the “writing culture” critiques of the 1980s. As a student of Science Studies, I am also aware of its current cache (in at least a tangible self-interested sense, since it is why I was hired, and I would add Latour’s Science in Action and Haraway’s Cyborgs, Simians, and Women, to the good years of 86-88). However, I admit to being nonplussed — or perhaps simply unmoved—by any sense that the disicipline has no center, or that some things are influential for some people and some aren’t. I never intended to be an anthropologist; indeed—and you heard it here first—I have never taken an anthropology course (!) and the fact that I am granted fellow traveller status here, or at least landed immigrant status, is what makes anthropology the magical and methodologically pluralist blob-disicpline that it is. I’m not sure whether Marcus, Fischer and Clifford had anything to do with that, as one can find all manner of interlopers in anthropology across its history– but I sincerely hope it remains so.
Which is to say, I would much rather be at play in the open fields of anthropology, than sucking it up at the fenced-in margins of economics or sociology, both of which have strong core theoretical commitments that determine little things like who gets which plum jobs and book contracts. I love that I can teach, research and talk about everything from potlatch to nanotechnology with my colleagues, and I can’t imagine any other discipline that would yield equally interesting and in-depth thoughts across this spectrum (sometimes even with the same person).
That being said, here are some things I will have been reading in 2005, when I get to it: Collier and Ong’s volume of Global Assemblages, Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel’s mega-exhibit Making Things Public: Atmosphere’s of Democracy (oh, and Rex, if you hated WHNBM, you will truly despise Latour’s new book, Re-Assembling the Social), Jenny Reardon’ Race to the Finish, lots of truly interesting dissertations by Rice graduates, including one on corruption in poland by Michael Powell, and one on the Inter-American Development Bank’s anti-violence programs by Angela Rivas; an undergraduate thesis on a telemedicine initiative in Cambodia (Cynthia Browne); Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition (which is one of the only ways I can clarify the meanings of public/private/social to my students); Foucault’s lectures on La Naissance de la Biopolitique (especially for his references to Hayek); Dewey’s The Public and its Problems; Bill Maurer’s Mutual Life Limited on Islamic Banking and Alternative currencies; Grace Young’s Breath of a Wok (Popular Anthropology Meets Cookbook!); Deleuze and Guattari’s What is Philosophy? (argh, one of the death march conferences is on D&G); Brian Cantwell Smith’s On the Origin of Objects (a seriously heavy-duty attempt to rethink the practice and metaphysics of computer science); Anna Tsing’s Friction; Stefan Helmreich’s manuscript for a soon-to-be-published book about marine biologists called Alien Ocean; and Clifford Geertz’s “Notes on a Balinese Cockfight” (and yes, it is principally about evocation — but you know what, nothing works magic on naive undergrads like the balinese cockfight… I think maybe it’s principle reason for being is to convert people to anthropology — god knows we could use a few more articles like that one — alleluah).