Winter Reading

What better way to spend your winter break than to read all those books you didn’t have time to read because you were busy reading other books? I thought I’d mention a few things that are on my reading list that deserve more attention than they might otherwise get:

In Good Company: An Anatomy of Corporate Social Responsibility by Dinah Rajak: How has this book not been getting more play? An ethnography of Anglo American (!) a prominent mining company, which starts in London boardrooms and ends in the mine itself. What I’ve read so far is well-written, intelligent, and very ethnographic. A great account of how morality and the market interpenetrate in new ways under CSR which manages to show, rather than tell, the sinister side of this phenomenon in a balanced way.

Going Abroad: Traveling Like An Anthropologist by Robert Gordon: That’s right, a travel book by an anthropologist. Bob Gordon is a superb ethnographer with decades (and decades and decades) of experience working in highly politicized situations (think: Namibia) and who has developed exquisitely tuned bullshit detectors as a result. He is also like a superathlete who can climb over mountains just by looking at them. So when he tells you what sort of shoes to pack or how to ask who is benefiting from the political economy of your touristic encounter, you should probably listen. Great for tourists, and I’d even give this one to graduate students heading into the field.

Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and Metaphysics by Graham Harman: When this first passed my radar I thought ‘good lord a secondary source on Latour?’ and then I felt a little queasy. But in fact when I started reading this book I found it to be absolutely marvelous. It’s clearly written in some thing like Latour’s style, and does a superb job of covering Latour’s work from Pasteurization of France to Pandora’s Hope (i.e. missing a lot of the more recent stuff), although to be honest it’s not like these books are hard to read. In particular Harman ties Latour to broader philosophical conversations, which is really helpful, although some readers might not be interested in how Latour takes issue with Aristotle’s theory of substance. More useful is the way this orients the reader to the hopping philosophical circles that Harman moves in, and for the biographical and characterological notes on Latour himself. It really, as they used to say in the eighties, ‘lifts the kimono’ on a lot of this stuff. Plus best of all it is available free for download as an open access PDF. Let he who has ears hear.

Uh… I think that’s it for now. What do you all have on your reading lists for the next couple of weeks?


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

7 thoughts on “Winter Reading

  1. I’m (re)reading Coming of Age in Samoa. I was hoping to read lots of other stuff, but then writing/revisions took over my winter break and now it looks like reading time may not happen. 🙁

  2. I know it’s tacky, but I don’t care, I’ll recommend a new book every anthropologist should read: “Sounding the Depths: Tradition and the Voices of History.” By me: Victor Grauer. It’s available online for free, in blog format, complete with links to over 80 audio and video clips:

    The paperback version can be ordered via ( I’m posting about it here because I’m hoping someone will be interested enough to discuss it and/or review it.

  3. Since I will be going back to Kenya and the Giriama next year, I will be reading the only book on the subject: “Sacred Void” by David Pagin. Looks like a very interesting book, with alot of ethnographic data.

  4. The main item on my (southern hemisphere) summer reading list is The Dismal Science: How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community by Stephen Marglin followed closely by The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind by James Boyle.

  5. This spring I’ll be teaching a gender studies course, my first new prep in three years. In researching my assigned readings I came across Matthew Gutmann’s “The Meanings of Macho: Being a Man in Mexico City.” So far it is the most beautifully written ethnography I have read in several years. Probably not a keeper for my undergrad course, but I’ll be reading it for myself!

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