Why America's Top Pundits Are Wrong: Anthropologists Talk Back

Posted By: maxxum

Catherine Besteman, Hugh Gusterson (Editors), «Why America's Top Pundits Are Wrong: Anthropologists Talk Back (California Series in Public Anthropology, 13)»
University of California Press | ISBN 0520243560 | 1 edition (January 17, 2005) | PDF | 1,09 Mb | 282 pages


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From Publishers Weekly:

Columnists like Thomas Friedman and popularizing scholars like Samuel Huntington digest a large amount of cultural information for mass audiences, but this thorough deconstruction (though not of their most recent work) aims to make readers more cautious when departing from primary sources. Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations, Gusterson notes acidly, cited no foreign language sources and hardly any anthropologists. Regarding Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Ellen Hertz and Laura Nader deftly adopt the columnist’s breezy, acronym-coining style, damning him as ignoring real people but talking "to the global representatives of Madison Avenue." In another essay stimulated by Friedman, Carolyn Nordstrom charges that the author—as well as many others—paint globalization as a positive force but ignore crime, smuggling and other global illegalities. As for Dinesh D’Souza’s Virtue of Prosperity, Kath Weston delineates his technique: "Interview and observe the affluent … then condescend to ventriloquize the poor." Stefan Helmreich and Heather Paxon find that the authors of A Natural History of Rape dismiss, problematically, the distinction between "rape" in humans and "rape" in scorpionflies. Earlier versions of some essays were presented at the American Anthropological Association meetings in 2000; look for their names in letters to the editor boxes across the country.

Book Description:

In this fresh, literate, and biting critique of current thinking on some of today's most important and controversial topics, leading anthropologists take on some of America's top pundits.
This absorbing collection of essays subjects such popular commentators as Thomas Friedman, Samuel Huntington, Robert Kaplan, and Dinesh D'Souza to cold, hard scrutiny and finds that their writing is often misleadingly simplistic, culturally ill-informed, and politically dangerous. Mixing critical reflection with insights from their own fieldwork, twelve distinguished anthropologists respond by offering fresh perspectives on globalization, ethnic violence, social justice, and the biological roots of behavior. They take on such topics as the collapse of Yugoslavia, the consumer practices of the American poor, American foreign policy in the Balkans, and contemporary debates over race, welfare, and violence against women. In the clear, vigorous prose of the pundits themselves, these contributors reveal the hollowness of what often passes as prevailing wisdom and passionately demonstrate the need for a humanistically complex and democratic understanding of the contemporary world.
Available: November 2004 Pub Date: January 2005

From the Inside Flap:

"The punditocracy are our modern day mythmakers. The anthropologists assembled in this collection deftly debunk their myths and make a passionate case for the importance of anthropology to public debate. The authors present sustained, intelligent, and often biting and humorous criticisms of some of the most influential recent popular writings on social science and international relations. This is a very important book."–Bill Maurer, author of Recharting the Caribbean

"From an anthropological standpoint, the world increasingly looks as if it is led by glib, but uninformed, insensitive dolts. In this volume, the authors fight back against the pundits whose influential publications presume the same expertise as anthropologists. They underscore the overgeneralizations, prejudices, false reasoning, and inaccuracies of these popular authors and in doing so provide a useful corrective."–William Beeman, author of The Study of Culture at a Distance

"This volume is a bold attempt, in language as accessible as the reigning rhetorics, to remake the terms of public debate, to lessen the fear of the primordial, and to allow Americans to understand better the challenges, the errors, and the possibilities of what is being done elsewhere in their name."–George Marcus, co-author of Anthropology as Cultural Critique

"This 'must read' volume is Public Anthropology at its best. It invokes the anthropological veto, brings in voices from the margins, and talks back to society's new tribe of talking chiefs–the spin doctors, myth-makers, and pundits who reduce the richness and complexity of global and national dilemmas into bite-size and dangerous platitudes."–Nancy Scheper-Hughes, author of Death Without Weeping: the Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil

About the Author:

Catherine Besteman is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Colby College and author of Unraveling Somalia: Race, Violence, and the Legacy of Slavery (1999), among other books. Hugh Gusterson, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Science at MIT, is author of Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War (California, 1996) and People of the Bomb (2004).