300 episodes

Interviews with Anthropologists about their New Books

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    • Social Sciences

Interviews with Anthropologists about their New Books

    Anna M. Gade, “Muslim Environmentalisms: Religious and Social Foundations” (Columbia UP, 2019)

    Anna M. Gade, “Muslim Environmentalisms: Religious and Social Foundations” (Columbia UP, 2019)

    The relationship between Islam and the environment has a long and rich history across various Muslim societies. Anna M. Gade, Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, outlines several strains where these domains intersect in her book Muslim Environmentalisms: Religious and Social Foundations (Columbia University Press, 2019). Gade takes the reader through a number of literary and scriptural sources that Muslims have deployed over history but also steeps her analysis in decades of on the ground ethnographic fieldwork, especially in Southeast Asia. Specific examples reveal the interplay between local, regional, and global contexts as interpretive positions shift and realign across each theme. This combination creates a productive template for rethinking Muslim environmentalism within the larger framework of the Environmental Humanities. In our conversation we discussed Qur’anic theological resources and themes, environmentalism and development work, legal and ethical contexts, ideals of environmental justice, Muslim humanistic traditions, eco-sufism, devotional rituals and popular piety, ethnographic video materials for course use, and green Islam in Indonesia.
    Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. He is the author of Interpreting Islam in China: Pilgrimage, Scripture, and Language in the Han Kitab (Oxford University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled The Cinematic Lives of Muslims, and is the editor of the forthcoming volumes Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (ILEX Foundation) and New Approaches to Islam in Film (Routledge). You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at kpeterse@odu.edu.
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    • 55 min
    Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger, "Re-Engineering Humanity" (Cambridge UP, 2018)

    Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger, "Re-Engineering Humanity" (Cambridge UP, 2018)

    Every day, new warnings emerge about artificial intelligence rebelling against us. All the while, a more immediate dilemma flies under the radar. Have forces been unleashed that are thrusting humanity down an ill-advised path, one that's increasingly making us behave like simple machines? In Re-Engineering Humanity (Cambridge University Press, 2018), Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger examine what's happening to our lives as society embraces big data, predictive analytics, and smart environments. They explain how the goal of designing programmable worlds goes hand in hand with engineering predictable and programmable people. Detailing new frameworks, provocative case studies, and mind-blowing thought experiments, Frischmann and Selinger reveal hidden connections between fitness trackers, electronic contracts, social media platforms, robotic companions, fake news, autonomous cars, and more. This powerful analysis should be read by anyone interested in understanding exactly how technology threatens the future of our society, and what we can do now to build something better.
    John Danaher is a lecturer the National University of Ireland, Galway. He is also the host of the wonderful podcast Philosophical Disquisitions. You can find it here on Apple Podcasts.
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    • 1 hr 29 min
    Rachel Chrastil, "How to Be Childless: A History and Philosophy of Life Without Children" (Oxford UP, 2019)

    Rachel Chrastil, "How to Be Childless: A History and Philosophy of Life Without Children" (Oxford UP, 2019)

    In this episode, Jana Byars talks with Rachel Chrastil, Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences and member of the history department at Xavier University, about her newest book, How to Be Childless: A History and Philosophy of Life Without Children (Oxford University Press, 2019). This book is, at its heart, a history book, exploring the most personal of women’s decisions from the 1500s on. It also makes a stab at providing childless women with a narrative to support their own choices. From the introduction, “Childless women may think that they are alone in this experience, but, in fact, they can draw on a long history of childlessness that extends for centuries. With the exception of the baby boom, widespread childlessness has been a long-standing reality in northwestern European towns and cities from around 1500 onward.” This books attempts the difficult task of marrying scholarship with modern cultural study. The work is excellent, and the conversation fun.
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    • 36 min
    Catherine Besteman, "Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine" (Duke UP, 2016)

    Catherine Besteman, "Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine" (Duke UP, 2016)

    Catherine L. Besteman's book Making Refuge: Somali Bantu Refugees and Lewiston, Maine (Duke University Press, 2016) is an important contribution to our understanding of the process of remaking one’s way of life after war in a new place, and in a new culture. Besteman writes about her ethnographic encounter in the 1980s with Somalis from the village of Banta who she then re-encounters in 2006 in the town of Lewiston, the so-called “Armpit of Maine.” The result is an intimate account of the trajectory of Somali Bantus from their home in the Jubba Valley, their experience flight to refugee camps in neighboring Kenya and their eventual relocation to cities and towns in the United States. Readers also learn that assimilation is not just a one-sided affair, as Besteman narrates how the arrival of Somali Bantus in Lewiston impacts residents there, neighbors and government officials alike. As such, Making Refuge reminds us that resettlement is more than the arrival of refugees; it is also a process by which receiving communities adapt to their foreign neighbors. In other words, Besteman’s work is a study of mutual transformation.
    Susan Thomson is associate professor of peace and conflict studies at Colgate University.
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    • 47 min
    Wendy Bottero, "A Sense of Inequality" (Roman and Littlefield, 2020)

    Wendy Bottero, "A Sense of Inequality" (Roman and Littlefield, 2020)

    How should we understand inequality? In A Sense of Inequality (Roman and Littlefield, 2020), Wendy Bottero, a Reader in Sociology at the University of Manchester offers a detailed and challenging new approach to how we conceive of, how we study, and how we might challenge, social inequality. The book contends we need a new approach to the everyday subjective experience of inequality, appreciating people’s constrained resistance to often highly unequal social situations. Whilst never downplaying the reality of inequality, the book challenges social theories that ignore everyday practices in explanations of the persistence of inequality. Empirically detailed, with extensive global examples, as well as theoretically rich, the book is essential reading across the social sciences.
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    • 40 min
    Filippo Marsili, "Heaven Is Empty: A Cross-Cultural Approach to 'Religion' and Empire in Ancient China" (SUNY Press, 2018)

    Filippo Marsili, "Heaven Is Empty: A Cross-Cultural Approach to 'Religion' and Empire in Ancient China" (SUNY Press, 2018)

    Heaven Is Empty: A Cross-Cultural Approach to 'Religion' and Empire in Ancient China (SUNY Press, 2018) offers a new comparative perspective on the role of the sacred in the formation of China’s early empires (221 BCE–9 CE) and shows how the unification of the Central States was possible without a unitary and universalistic conception of religion. The cohesive function of the ancient Mediterranean cult of the divinized ruler was crucial for the legitimization of Rome’s empire across geographical and social boundaries. Eventually reelaborated in Christian terms, it came to embody the timelessness and universality of Western conceptions of legitimate authority, while representing an analytical template for studying other ancient empires.
    Filippo Marsili challenges such approaches in his examination of the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han (141–87 BCE). Wu purposely drew from regional traditions and tried to gain the support of local communities through his patronage of local cults. He was interested in rituals that envisioned the monarch as a military leader, who directly controlled the land and its resources, as a means for legitimizing radical administrative and economic centralization. In reconstructing this imperial model, Marsili reinterprets fragmentary official accounts in light of material evidence and noncanonical and recently excavated texts. In bringing to life the courts, battlefields, markets, shrines, and pleasure quarters of early imperial China, Heaven Is Empty provides a postmodern and postcolonial reassessment of “religion” before the arrival of Buddhism and challenges the application of Greco-Roman and Abrahamic systemic, identitary, and exclusionary notions of the “sacred” to the analysis of pre-Christian and non-Western realities.
    Victoria Oana Lupascu is a PhD candidate in dual-title doctoral program in Comparative Literature and Asian Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. Her areas of interest include 20th and 21st Chinese literature and visual art, medical humanities and Global South studies. 
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    • 1 hr 18 min

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