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Reading

Another installment in the too-short ‘reading’ posts of late. Short, because I’m busy writing for upcoming conferences, and therefore have not been reading as much as normal, and also because I have less time (same reason) to write up my notes.

Buddhism Stuff

Decaroli, R. 2004. Haunting the Buddha: Indian popular religions and the formation of Buddhism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
I’ve only just started this one, but it seems quite promising, and related to my own work on the distinction between this-worldy spiritual power and the unworldly spiritual power of the Buddha. Keep tuned…

Holt, J. C., J. N. Kinnard, and J. S. Walters. Editors. 2003. Constituting communities: Theravada Buddhism and the religioius cultures of South and Southeast Asia. SUNY: Series in Buddhist Studies. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Why did I never read this before? Well, one good reason is the timing of its publication – just prior to my departure for fieldwork and during my preparation for exams. Another might be because some of the work is covered in more detail elsewhere. But there are some absolutely excellent essays in this thoughtful collection which is dedicated to Frank Reynolds, who should get more credit than he receives (and that’s still a lot!) for his contributions to the field of Buddhist studies. My favorite three essays in the collectinon (favorite has nothing to do necessarily with quality here, and implies nothing about the other essays) are by Liz Wilson (“Beggars can be choosers: Mahakassapa as a selective eater of offerings”), Jonathan Walters (“Communal karma and karmic community in Theravada Buddhist history”), and Anne M. Blackburn (“Localizing lineage: Importing higher ordination in Theravadin South and Southeast Asia”).

Crosby, K. 1999. History versus modern myth: the Abhayagirivihara, the Vimuttimagga and Yogavacara meditation. Journal of Indian Philosophy 27:503-550.
This article does an excellent job of confronting studies of (esp. Cambodian) Theravada which conclude that specific Sinhalese sects (now deemed ‘heretical’) are the source of ‘heterodox’ practices in the Theravada mainland. I’m not qualified to judge this debate: from what I gather about the sources for the argument, no one could be qualified to judge the debate, except to say that the thesis must remain unproved (as they say in the Scottish courts). But Crosby does an excellent job of showing both the historical development of the arguments in favor, the lacunae that have emerged in the building of these arguments, and the argument’s limitations.

Castoriadis Studies

Naranch, L. E. 2002. The imaginary and a political quest for freedom. differences: A journal of feminist cultural studies 13:64-82.
Never knew about this article, which is a shame, because it’s a very concise and clear review of some of Castoriadis’ most central concepts, inside of an argument which attempts to operationalize Castoriadis’ thought for feminist theory. It’s the best review of his thought I’ve read since Hans Joas’ article. I brought copies to my WPC class which is currently reading his classic:

Castoriadis, C. 1975. The imaginary institution of society. Cambridge: MIT Press.
What can I say about this work, except that it remains, in my opinion, the most relevant text of sociological analysis I have read. This is my fifth time through, and I’ve gained a great deal by working through it with my excellent classmates. His rigorous approach to conceptualization, his commitment to a praxis (theoretical praxis in this case) which is analytical without being closed, and his deeply human arguments on behalf of a new form of rationality in social and philosophical praxis are unparalleled.
Castoriadis, C. 1997. World in fragments. Writings on politics, society, psychoanalysis, and the imagination. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
I suppose what I could say about the previous book is that if you’re still confused, he clarifies a lot in this collection of essays, which I’ve just worked through. The following essays are especially excellent:

  • The imaginary: creation in the social-historical domain
  • Psychoanalysis and politics
  • From the monad to autonomy
  • Merleau-Ponty and the weight of the ontological tradition
  • Institution of society and religion

Whitebook, J. 1995. Perversion and utopia: a study in psychoanalysis and critical theory. Cambridge (MA): Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
After reading a snarky debate on this book a long while ago, I’ve now finally read the book itself, and should clarify something. Castoriadis’ customary translator, D.A. Curtis wrote a vituperative response to the original review, accusing it of underhandedly attempting to undermine the acceptance of Castoriadis’ work in the anglophone world. The author responded, claiming that the book was only partly about Castoriadis and that Curtis and his co-author were being paranoid. Having now read the book, I agree more than I did previously with Curtis. Part of the problem is that it Whitebook doesn’t make his commitment to Castoriadis’ thought crystal clear – partly because he clearly doesn’t agree in every respect with him. But reading through the book what is clear is that this is a serious engagement with psychoanalysis and Frankfurt school thought which emerges from an almost exclusively Castoriadis-based perspective, at least in terms of the author’s relationship to those he criticizes. Curtis was right to criticize the original reviewer, and the reviewer was disingenuous, or else hadn’t read the book very closely.

Fun

McDonald, I. 2006. River of Gods. Pyr.
You simply must keep reading books outside of your field. This was my most recent, after finally finishing Lewis Hyde’s Trickster makes this world, which took a lot longer than I expected – I was having trouble picking it up for some reason. McDonald’s book suffered no such delays. A story of India in 2047, as the line between human, machine, and god leads to the end of the age of Kali, this book is a roaring tour through an English-colonized author’s imagination of an English-colonized Indian future.

Just In

Dangl, B. 2007. The price of fire. Resource wars and social movements in Bolivia. Oakland (CA): AK Press

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4 thoughts on “Reading

  1. FatPat says:

    Hi Eric,

    very interesting page and being able to see how you process-wise develop your ideas on the topic is great. Also some great stuff I can pick up on concerning Theravada, death and the imaginary.

    Keep on rolling🙂

  2. mango says:

    Hola,

    Great blog. I see you received the book on Bolivia, The Price of Fire. Were you going to be reviewing it? I’d like to hear what you think about that book. Gracias, MM

  3. Erik says:

    Hey, thanks Mango – I haven’t actually had a chance to read The Price of Fire yet! It’s distressing on one level, but the reason is that I’ve actually been writing my dissertation, which is, on balance, pretty good news! Have you read it? I hope to get to it in about a month, I think. Cheers!

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