erikwdavis

READ for the Week Ending 1/15/2010

In read on January 14, 2010 at 2:03 pm

What I’m reading. Comment if you want to know more about anything in particular.

  • Scott, James C. 2009. The art of not being governed: an anarchist history of upland Southeast Asia. Should be a groundbreaking correction to the pernicious and tenacious stereotypes about upland and lowland cultures, genesis, maintenance, and relationships. So thoroughly revises reflexive assumptions about mainland Southeast Asia that the book resists quick summary. A lengthier review may be required. Required reading for SEAsianists, Sociology.
  • Holt, John Clifford. 2009. Spirits of the place. Buddhism and Lao religious culture. In many ways this book represents a landmark in the English-language study of Lao religion. Taking upland-lowland realities seriously, Holt treats the interaction between ‘animist’ and Buddhist systems and rituals (and peoples) from a theoretical and historical point of view. A bit weaker in the last two chapters, the first three would serve excellently as an introduction to both the theory and realities of Lao religion and history. Strongly Recommended to SEAsianists and Buddhist Studies.
  • Federici, Silvia. 2004. Caliban and the witch: women, the body, and primitive accumulation. Stunning. A corrective to Marxist theories about the genesis (transition) to capitalism, Federici argues convincingly that a necessary and (logically) prior moment in the developing of formally free, male, waged productive labor, is the production of a denigrated, reproductive, female, unwaged domestic laboring class.  She then ties in, also completely convincingly, the witch-hunts of roughly two and a half centuries of (primarily) European history (though her last chapter traces the witch-hunt throughout colonialism’s path). Required reading for Anti-capitalists and Feminists.
  • Jerryson, Michael K, and Mark Juergensmeyer, eds. 2010. Buddhist Warfare. A much-anticipated and somewhat controversial volume that traces the connections between the Buddhist religion – stereotyped as a pacifist religion – and warfare. The essays are uneven, though some of this unevenness is undoubtedly tied to the wild diversity of attitudes and approaches (insider, outsider, political scientist, anthropologist, sociologist, religious studies, etc.) represented. (Note that google books does not show the actual cover on their page. Actual cover has a picture of a Lao Buddhist novice monk holding an automatic pistol). Recommended to Buddhist Studies.
  • Kummu, Matti, Marko Keskinen, Olli varis, eds. 2008. Modern myths of the Mekong: a critical review of water and development concepts, principles, and policies. Of great interest and contemporary currency, this volume contains a few critically important moments, but is of such wildly uneven quality that I cannot recommend it in its entirety. I’m personally most impressed with the essays by Jussi Nikula (“Is harm and destruction all that floods bring?” – an introduction to ‘flood-pulse’ ecosystem functioning) and Lustig, Fletcher, et al. (“Did traditional cultures live in harmony with nature? Lessons from Angkor, Cambodia.”). This latter is somewhat misleading, since ‘traditional’ here seems merely to mean ‘historical,’ which in many ways means ‘nothing.’ As a specific case study of Angkor, however, their evidence is clear and the conclusion not negotiable – Angkor was not ‘ecologically neutral.’ Not recommended as a volume.
  • Watts, Peter. 2008. Blindsight. Hard Sci-Fi. Very very cool, cerebral: is consciousness worth it, from the perspective of the species? And exactly how would an empathic vampire act in space toward a half-brained crew member who can’t be convinced to act in the interests of self-preservation? Essential for Hard Sci-Fi fans.
  • Wu Ming. 2005. ’54. Just awesome.  From the same collective author responsible for Q, this time the group tackles the year 1954 – the height of the cold war, the rise of the global heroin industry, and Cary Grant. And Hitchcock. Awesome.
  • Germano, William. 2008. Getting it published: a guide for scholars, and anyone else serious about serious books. 2nd Ed. Essential for academics.
  • Germano, William. 2005. From dissertation to book. Essential for academics.
  • Silvia, Paul J. 2007. How to write a lot: a practical guide to productive academic writing. Recommended if you need help scheduling your writing.
  • Boice, Robert. 2000. Advice for new faculty members. Recommended for academics.
  • Lamont, Michèle. 2009. How professors think: Inside the curious world of academic judgment. Recommended for academics facing tenure review, or charged with some form of ‘assessment.’

Look  at those last five titles. I’ve read all of them in the last month.  Can you guess what I’m working on?

  1. You don’t do things by half, do you?

  2. hi Erik, happy to see you blogging again. On those last 5 books, as someone just starting down the long dark night of the dissertation, am I right that the 4th is the main one to look at? Also, in case you’re interested and haven’t read them alraedy, I read two over the holidays that were good, What The Best College Teachers Do and The Joy of Teaching. I like the latter especially. i’d be happy to lend you either if oyu like.
    take care,
    Nate

  3. @Geof: :)
    @Nate: I never did the research into writing the dissertation that I probably should have done; instead, all my advice came largely from two different dissertation advisors. None of those last 5 books will really speak to dissertation writing (which is a truly different beast than other types of academic writing), except potentially the Silvia book (though you don’t seem to have any problems writing a lot) and a chapter of the Germano book (dissertation to book). My own advisor’s best advice was the following:
    • Choose whether you are writing a dissertation or a book: the first is easier and faster to complete as a dissertation; the latter makes it easier and faster (potentially) to publish the dissertation after.
    • Write to the numbers: no publishing house will likely accept a mss. in excess of 300 pages. Therefore, write to that number. How many pages per chapter? How many chapters? How many pages per argument in each chapter? Set up the numbers first.
    • Write to your audience: always good advice, but dissertators need to constantly remember that they have the most discrete and specific audience in the world: three or four people. Write for those specific people. Dissertation writing is often not about creating new and compelling knowledge or ideas, but is instead normally a paranoid, defensive writing, intended to forestall specific complaints from specific members of the committee.
    • Don’t ever forget that almost no dissertation, when complete, is ever read again. Most dissertations are best bound on all four sides.

  4. [...] of Women’s Reproduction in Cambodia In comment on January 21, 2010 at 2:23 pm I mentioned recently that I’d read the horrifying, amazing work of Silvia Federici recently, specifically [...]

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