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PLAYLISTS: Books to Teach With

For Playlists this time, we asked for books people like to teach with.
DON KULICK, University of Chicago

Marilyn Strathern, Gender of the Gift: Problems with Women and Problems with Society in
Melanesia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990): I know everyone will
think this an unbearably pretentious choice, but I like to teach this one partly
because it is so mind-bending. A unique anthropological text in that, despite
being full of ethnographic details, it has no real-world referent. A Mad Hatter
analysis of what “Melanesians” might think about their social system if they were
anthropologists, but they aren’t, so they don’t.
Martha C. Nussbaum, Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007): A beautifully written book
about John Rawl’s social contract theory and how it needs to be revised if justice
is to be extended to persons with disabilities, animals and the developing world.
Takes anthropology students out of their comfort zone because it discusses ethics
and justice, not as ideologies to be critiqued, but as practices and policies to be
fought for and implemented.
Holly Wardlow, Wayward Women: Sexuality and Agency in a New Guinea Society
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006): A wild ride of an ethnography
about Papua New Guinean women who sell sex because they want to get back
at their male kin. “Revenge sex” the author calls it, fittingly. These are women
who, when angry, sometimes chop off one of their own fingers to fling at the

CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY, Vol. 27, Issue 3, pp. 542–546. ISSN 0886-7356, online ISSN 1548-1360.  C 2012 by
the American Anthropological Association. All rights reserved. DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1360.2012.01160.x

person who has made them mad. An epitome of everything that makes Papua
New Guineans so crazy and compelling. Not for the faint-hearted.

Michael Billig, Freudian Repression: Conversation Creating the Unconscious (Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 1999): A lovely book that discusses what Freud
wrote about repression and the unconscious, and argues that we can study
repression as an interactional achievement. Very helpful for thinking about how
social scientists might approach the unsaid and unsayable.

Jacques Derrida, The Animal that Therefore I Am (Bronx, NY: Fordham University
Press, 2008): Derrida stands naked in front of his pussycat and ponders the
species boundary. A crucial meditation on how we might begin to think about
vulnerability and passivity as something other than a privation.

MARSHALL SAHLINS, University of Chicago

I haven’t taught regularly in 15 years, so my list refers more to the prehistoric
20th century than to what I might teach now—probably even less to what others
teach now:

Isaiah Berlin, Vico and Herder (graduate theory course).

H. G. Bissinger, Friday Night Lights (anthro 101).

Greg Dening, Mr. Bligh’s Bad Language (for a course on Oceania).

Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process, vol. 1 (for a theory or history of anthro course).

Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (certain articles for an undergraduate


Jacques Gernet, China and the Christian Impact (for anthro 101).

Marcel Granet, La Pensée Chinoise (for a graduate course on structuralism).

A. M. Hocart, Kings and Councillors (for kingship and Oceania).

Owen Lattimore, Inner Asian Frontiers of China (anthro and history, culture and
nature courses, grad and and/or undergrad).

Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Story of Lynx (for a history and structure course).

Anthony Reid, Imperial Alchemy (courses on the indigenization of modernity and/or


Jean-Paul Sartre, Search for a Method (for a graduate theory course)

Aiden Southall, Alur Society (for a course on stranger-kingship).
Stanley Tambiah, Culture, Thought and Social Action (variety of courses, graduate
and/or undergraduate).
Nicholas Thomas, Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook (e.g., for a
course on Captain Cook).
Michael Tomaselo, Origins of Human Communication (anthro 101 and/or courses on
kinship; grads and undergrads).
Valerio Valeri, Kingship and Sacrifice (for courses on kingship and Oceania).
Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, From the Enemy’s Point of View and The Inconstancy of the
Indian Soul (for undergraduates and theory courses).
Robert Whiting, The Chrysanthemum and the Bat (anthro 101).

WILLIAM W. KELLY, Yale University

A principal aim of the seminar I teach to incoming doctoral students is to develop
a critical appreciation for anthropology’s emergence as both within and against the
disciplinary conventions of Western social science. Among the texts I find most
useful to convey that autocontestation are the following five.

Joseph-Anténor Firmin, De I’Egalité des Races Humaines: Anthropologie Positive [The

Equality of the Human Races (Positivist Anthropology)] (New York: Garland
Publishing, 2000): We owe such a debt to Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, Asselin
Charles, and Jacques Rafael Georges for bringing this stunning critique back into
our disciplinary training.
James Mooney, The Ghost-Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890 (Washington,
DC: Government Printing Office, 1896): Rarely has an ethnography since had
such polyvocality and textual pastiche.
Marcel Mauss, Essai sur les variations saisonnières des société Eskimos: étude de morphologie
sociale. L’Année Sociologique, vol. 9 (1905–1906), pp. 39–132. Published as
Seasonal Variations of the Eskimo: A Study in Social Morphology (London: Routledge
and Kegan Paul, 1979): Better reasoned than The Gift and more revealing of
Mauss’s distinctive form of inductive reasoning. The inspiration but not the
model for The Nuer.


Bronislaw Malinowski, Argonauts of the Western Pacific: An Account of Native Enterprise

and Adventure in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea (London: Routledge
and Kegan Paul, 1922): Despite the stereotype, Malinowski never wrote a
holistic ethnography of “the Trobrianders.” He wrote three ethnographic mono-
graphs of total social facts, and this one should be savored for so splendidly
and simultaneously embodying and transgressing everything he stipulates in his
Zora Neale Hurston, Mules and Men (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1935): Endlessly
inventive, but is the craftiness of the ethnographer greater than the craftiness of
the locals? Does she acquire informants or do they acquire her?

VEENA DAS, Johns Hopkins University

On the specific question of what it means to be attached to our utterances and
thence the contours of the human voice.

Michel Foucault, The Government of Self and Others: Lectures at the Collège de France
1982–1983, Granam Burchell, trans. (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011): For
the idea that only the human voice can draw out the truth from the gods; that
risks of truth telling are embedded in autocratic as well as democratic regimes;
and that truth has its doubles in veiled speech, flattery, and the rhetoric by which
the unjust is made to appear as the just. Finally, how do we receive Foucault’s
claim that if philosophy is a history of pārresia rather than a history of rationality
unfolding in time, then only the West has philosophy?
Stanley Cavell, A Pitch of Philosophy: Autobiographical Exercises (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1994): For understanding the complexity of voice,
with the metaphors of arrogating, pawning, and leasing. What is the fragility of
the human voice? Does one have to be “sincere” in one’s utterances? Why must
women in opera who “sing” the truth also die? What gives words life?
Edward E. Evans-Pritchard, Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (Oxford:
Oxford University Press–Clarendon Paperbacks): For reading the text in the
light of new questions around the human vulnerability to language as if language
would always reveal more than we intended; about processes and techniques of
veridication; and asking how do we know the truth of one’s being.
Jean Favret-Saada, Deadly Words: Witchcraft in the Bocage (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1980): For the idea that the anthropologist becomes the


touchstone through which the experiences of the people she studies find ex-
pression; to expand the idea ethnographically that language bodies forth and
constitutes threats and promises that go beyond that of well-trodden terms like
“reflexive anthropology”; to ask what does it mean for the anthropologist to
open one’s being to the being of the other.
Alf Hiltebeitel, Rethinking the Mahābhārata: A Reader’s Guide to the Education of
the Dharma King (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001): For a gentle
repudiation of Foucault’s notion that other societies (i.e., other than the West)
had no need for philosophy; for asking how might one move from the idea
that such texts as the Mahābhārata, belong to the Indological cannon and express
regional aspirations for conceptual thinking; to open ourselves to a hope that one
day we might be thinking of a different way of conceptualizing what constitutes
“anthropological knowledge” and its machines.

KAREN HO, University of Minnesota

One of my favorite courses to teach is on the social construction of whiteness. I
find that the pedagogy of contextualizing, unpacking, and understanding the wide-
ranging effects of a site and identity presumed to be normative, “cultureless,” and
without racial marking is similar to understanding financial markets, which are also
presumed to be acultural or beyond culture.
Jacobson, Matthew Frye. 1999 Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants
and the Alchemy of Race. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Waters, Mary. 1990 Ethnic Options: Choosing Identities in America. Berkeley:
University of California Press.
Frankenburg, Ruth. 1993 White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of
Whiteness. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Dyer, Richard. 1997 White: Essays on Race and Culture. New York: Routledge.
Perry, Pamela. 2002 Shades of White: White Kid and Racial Identities in High School.
Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Royster, Deirdre. 2003 Race and the Invisible Hand: How White Networks Exclude
Black Men from Blue-Collar Jobs. Berkeley: University of California Press.
McDermott, Monica. 2006 Working-Class White: The Making and Unmaking of
Race Relations. Berkeley: University of California Press.