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Some advice on reading

- Take notes as you read difficult texts. I tend to write a one line summary of every page before I turn to
the next page. I then end up with a one or two pages summary of the article to which I can easily return
and that often clarifies the structure of the argument.
- Read widely, not wisely. Read as much of you can, as soon as you can. Once you’ve done the mandatory
reading, just browse the anthropology section of the library (GN) and take a book that catches your fancy.
Or ask me to recommend you a book. Anthropologists study pretty much everything, from fashion to
primitive communism to football to reading.
- Quote wisely, not widely. When I read your essays, I am not looking for a dictionary of quotations. I
want to read an interesting argument based on a good understanding of the course material. When you
write essays, focus on the course bibliography and on a few authors. And when you quote them, you need
to introduce and explain the quotation so that I know why you’re quoting that author, and whether you
understand what she is writing about or not.
- Deepen your understanding of the texts. On top of taking notes, that implies asking the text questions
and re-reading it from different perspectives. For instance, look for the weirdest, most disturbing
ethnographic example, and try to understand how it makes perfect sense for the people involved. Or look
at the way the author connects ethnographic example, commentary and theory, and try to imitate her in
your essay. Finally, try to apply her interpretation to a very different example that you know well (for
instance, yourself).
- Agree with the text before you disagree. On your first reading of a text, you should try to agree with it.
Find all the ways in which it can be true. If you disagree with something, find out how you have
misunderstood it. Only then should you begin to look for ways to criticize and contradict it. At that point,
the arguments you find will be much stronger.

Some advice on reading

- Take notes as you read difficult texts. I tend to write a one line summary of every page before I turn to
the next page. I then end up with a one or two pages summary of the article to which I can easily return
and that often clarifies the structure of the argument.
- Read widely, not wisely. Read as much of you can, as soon as you can. Once you’ve done the mandatory
reading, just browse the anthropology section of the library (GN) and take a book that catches your fancy.
Or ask me to recommend you a book. Anthropologists study pretty much everything, from fashion to
primitive communism to football to reading.
- Quote wisely, not widely. When I read your essays, I am not looking for a dictionary of quotations. I
want to read an interesting argument based on a good understanding of the course material. When you
write essays, focus on the course bibliography and on a few authors. And when you quote them, you need
to introduce and explain the quotation so that I know why you’re quoting that author, and whether you
understand what she is writing about or not.
- Deepen your understanding of the texts. On top of taking notes, that implies asking the text questions
and re-reading it from different perspectives. For instance, look for the weirdest, most disturbing
ethnographic example, and try to understand how it makes perfect sense for the people involved. Or look
at the way the author connects ethnographic example, commentary and theory, and try to imitate her in
your essay. Finally, try to apply her interpretation to a very different example that you know well (for
instance, yourself).
- Agree with the text before you disagree. On your first reading of a text, you should try to agree with it.
Find all the ways in which it can be true. If you disagree with something, find out how you have
misunderstood it. Only then should you begin to look for ways to criticize and contradict it. At that point,
the arguments you find will be much stronger.