Reading Roll Call (May 2012)

At the beginning of each month, how about we have an open thread where everyone posts something they’ve read over the last month that’s knocked their socks off?

For example, this last month I’ve finally got around to reading Sidney Mintz’s “Sweetness and Power.” I think I’ve read bits and pieces in classes, and I’ve heard a wide array of people wax poetic about it for years, but this is the first time I’ve read it cover-to-cover. Talk about an elegant and compelling argument…and it makes me realize that despite my interests in prehistoric subsistence trends, I really am not as well read as I should be in “nutritional anthropology.”





6 comments on “Reading Roll Call (May 2012)

  1. MC Sanger says:

    I am currently making my way (slowly I have to admit) through Talal Asad’s Genealogies of Religion. I have read portions of it before – but never the whole thing. I find it an important piece for my own work as it dissects the western understanding of religion as an essential and universal category of human experience (a la Rappaport) and instead argues that we, as anthropologists, are fundamentally missing the point. I am reading this in conjunction with Levi Strauss’ Savage Mind – an oldie, but one of my favorites. The two books work well together in that they both offer insights into the creation of ontologies that are fundamentally different than one another.

  2. victoriagd says:

    My reading has been a bit slowly recently, but I am about to embark on a summer adventure called “studying for my quals” and I should be able to discuss some memorable texts soon!

    In the meantime, I would love to give a shout-out to an piece from last year’s American Antiquity (76:4) by Sarah Peelo. Her article, “Pottery-Making in Spanish California: Creating Multi-Scalar Social Identity through Daily Practice”, has been a strong source of inspiration for me as I try to think about appropriate and feasible ways to approach identity in the past. Specifically, I am inspired by her six step model that breaks down the steps of ceramic production and considers identity through the processes of learning and producing. This idea is not unique as scholars of behavioral archaeology, practice theory, and technological style have been suggesting ways to approach identity in material culture production for decades. Peelo’s study, however, is an elegant and modern application of these concepts at a Spanish mission. I should also mention that she primarily investigates plainware in this study, which is inspiring for those of us that work with relatively plain ceramic assemblages (e.g., Thoms Creek and Stallings Island ceramics for this archaeologist).

    Props to Maureen Meyers for pointing me towards this piece in a particularly bleak moment of proposal writing!

    • Alice Wright says:

      Oooh, thanks for that rec Viki. Sounds like a must read!

    • MC Sanger says:

      This sounds like a must read for sure! I had not come across it even though I am pursuing something similar with the ceramics from several Late Archaic shell rings. I think that it escaped my notice because SAA doesn’t make its content available until a year or two after physical publication. Damn American Antiquity for not offering their most recent publications online! By holding back research from an interested public for several years the journal threatens to make itself even more out of date than it already is.

  3. Alice Wright says:

    Monuments, Empires, and Resistance: The Araucanian Polity and Ritual Narratives, by Tom Dillehay (2007). I picked this up based on a recommendation from Victor Thompson, and it has been a real asset for tackling certain issues of monumentality that I am (supposed to be) addressing in my dissertation — i.e., ways to look at monuments that don’t fall back on simply labor estimates or other suspiciously unidimensional factors. The book is just epic in terms of detail and density, and has succeeded in giving me quite a bit of ethnohistory envy. But, taking a step back from the South American case study at hand, it remains “good to think with” when it comes to the Eastern Woodlands. In particular, I’ve warmed to Dillehay’s approach to “mound literacy” as a useful concept to apply to Middle Woodland earthwork constructions, like those associated with Hopewell.

    • MC Sanger says:

      I also read Dillehay 2007 recently and found it to be extremely useful for thinking about monuments not as simple heaps of dirt on the landscape, but as actual actors in a social universe. Dillehay blends together the best aspects of practice theory, ethnography, structuralism, and empirical research. The book definitely raises the bar for those of us who are interested in talking about large-scale constructions in the past.

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