Anthropology books?

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daylen
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Anthropology books?

Post by daylen » Tue Mar 28, 2017 7:14 pm

Is anyone else into anthropology books that look in depth at how a particular item/concept/activity affects human history?

For example, books that I have read or am reading:
Sapians
Collapse
Guns, Germs, and Steel
Debt: The first 5000 years

Books I would like to read:
The Origins of Political Order
Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
The Code Book
Cod: A Biography of a Fish that Changed the World
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
Salt: A World History
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce
Plague's Progress: A Social History Of Man And Disease

I find reading this kind of stuff much more interesting than reading about a specific era or society. Each book helps to piece together the giant puzzle of human history while simultaneously learning about how human societies function in general. Anyone else enjoy this approach to learning about history? Feel free to add to the list!


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Re: Anthropology books?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Wed Mar 29, 2017 8:25 am

I enjoy this genre of books, but I might suggest a related exercise. Go through any one of these titles and make a list of all the other, especially original, works the author references, quotes or includes in bibliography. Then make your way, reading through this list while creating another such list for each reference. This will create a sort of root structure.Then take any real object in your real world and trace it back yourself through the creation of a similar root structure. Then, you could either write your own book about that object OR just be happier due to greater comprehension :D

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Smashter
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Re: Anthropology books?

Post by Smashter » Wed Mar 29, 2017 9:28 am

https://www.amazon.com/World-Until-Yest ... 0143124404

This is full of fascinating tales about hunter-gatherer tribes. It dispels a lot of the "kumbaya" type notions which put forth the idea that hunter-gatherers had idyllic societies. I was actually in the "everything was better before agriculture" camp at one point. I still think there were tremendous benefits to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, but the issue is much more nuanced than I realized.

One of the most memorable (and darkly funny) parts of the book was the description of a battle between two hunter-gatherer tribes in New Guinea in the 1950's or 60's. The warring tribes would not only try to kill each other, but would constantly shout insults at their opponent while doing so. Stuff like "you are sub-human scum who can never please his woman." I thought it was so silly that they were constantly insulting the sexual prowess of their enemies in the midst of a heated battle.

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Re: Anthropology books?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Wed Mar 29, 2017 9:41 am

Smashter said: I thought it was so silly that they were constantly insulting the sexual prowess of their enemies in the midst of a heated battle.
Obviously, you have never been in charge of maintaining authority over a group of 13/14 year old inner-city/immigrant children. There's generally only about half-a-second lag between insult and injury. Human males don't really fight for resources. They fight to maintain respect/dominance.

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Dragline
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Re: Anthropology books?

Post by Dragline » Wed Mar 29, 2017 1:38 pm

Yes, I like to read these sometimes. The most recent one I read was "The Secret of Our Success: . . ." by J. Henrich.

I also find Ian Morris (e.g., "War, What is it Good For") to be quite interesting, especially this lecture and his explanation of the chart that appears at 9:27: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4KjyQAoyVo

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daylen
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Re: Anthropology books?

Post by daylen » Wed Mar 29, 2017 3:29 pm

@7w5 Good idea! I can see it now... "Early Retirement: A Micro History" :lol:

My guess would be that retirement in general has a short history, depending on how you define retirement.

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Re: Anthropology books?

Post by jacob » Wed Mar 29, 2017 3:56 pm

Retirement/pf/fi/re/fire/... has a long long history(*) I'm not aware of anyone having actually done the research/review. You might wanna contact JD Roth/Dragline/Alain de Botton/Anyone else(+). I'd also be interested in diverting some mental cycles away from my current project to write up a current summary. Maybe I can throw some clout behind it but I'm not going to "drive it".

(*) It's a generational thing appearing every 40 years: 1970, 1930, 1890, 1840, ... Stoics.
(+) This WILL require someone _driving_ the effort and making it happen. I'll provide work for free but I'm not going to be the whip/engine.

Going down the tree is a really good idea. You'll often find the best insights from early sources as early writers/researchers spend more time mapping out accuracy than drilling down on precision. However, this will take a lot of time (think PhD dissertation) and so not recommended unless you're naturally into it.

NB: Now recruiting grad students for potential project(?) Must possess writing ability as well as extreme levels of frustration tolerance! PM me ... if I get enough enthusiam, I'll try to make some arrangements.

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Re: Anthropology books?

Post by C40 » Wed Mar 29, 2017 5:31 pm

I read this book and enjoyed it:
https://www.amazon.com/Life-Ancient-Rom ... ome+cowell

It was more like the micro approach rather than the extreme macro approach in Sapiens. I should try to find books like that focusing on other culture and times. When I searched for it on Amazon, I saw there are a bunch of different books with nearly the same title, so I imagine there are many books focusing on other places/times.

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daylen
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Re: Anthropology books?

Post by daylen » Wed Mar 29, 2017 5:46 pm

@jacob You mean like actual students in graduate school?

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Re: Anthropology books?

Post by jacob » Wed Mar 29, 2017 6:01 pm

No ... more like anyone who's spent 3000+ hours on this and who's willing to spend some more.

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Re: Anthropology books?

Post by disparatum » Wed Mar 29, 2017 6:22 pm

jacob wrote:
Wed Mar 29, 2017 3:56 pm
NB: Now recruiting grad students for potential project(?) Must possess writing ability as well as extreme levels of frustration tolerance! PM me ... if I get enough enthusiam, I'll try to make some arrangements.
Jacob: PM coming soon. It will give me another reason to ignore my dissertation.

I also wanted to throw out a few of my own suggestions:

I recently read a series of two books (well, still reading the second) of his on consumption -
- Stuff: https://www.amazon.com/Stuff-Daniel-Mil ... 0745644244
- Consumption and Its Consequences: https://www.amazon.com/Consumption-Its- ... 0745661084

The love of Marxist and Hegelian dialectic is strange, but I think that is a somewhat common mental model that anthropologists have of the world. In any case, he offers a valuable perspective on materialism. Some insights from the second book listed above:
- Material culture tends to be symbolic before it is functional, ie useless shit has a social and symbolic role and gift-giving of symbolic goods (think the electric egg cookers that jacob has mentioned) is a vital part of primitive societies.
- The perception that production = good, while consumption = evil has quite ancient roots.
- The habit of complaining about consumption before consuming (think of the upper middle class dinner party where everyone derides walmart hoarders before digging into their feast of organic, free-range whatever) is a ritual that goes back thousands of years as we have quite persisently used the critique of consumption to confirm ourselves as essentially good and moral beings.

Also, in the vein of anthropology, I would recommend:
- Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond: https://www.amazon.com/Evicted-Poverty- ... 0553447432

It is a sociologist's ethnography of low income renters in Milwaukee circa 2014. It is quite impressive from an academic perspective and kind of an inspiration for me, but it questions a number of theories that we've developed on poverty and poverty culture and is very, very readable. I might even have heard about it on the forum but can't remember.

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Dragline
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Re: Anthropology books?

Post by Dragline » Wed Mar 29, 2017 8:21 pm

jacob wrote:
Wed Mar 29, 2017 3:56 pm
Retirement/pf/fi/re/fire/... has a long long history(*) I'm not aware of anyone having actually done the research/review. You might wanna contact JD Roth/Dragline/Alain de Botton/Anyone else(+). I'd also be interested in diverting some mental cycles away from my current project to write up a current summary. Maybe I can throw some clout behind it but I'm not going to "drive it".

(*) It's a generational thing appearing every 40 years: 1970, 1930, 1890, 1840, ... Stoics.
(+) This WILL require someone _driving_ the effort and making it happen. I'll provide work for free but I'm not going to be the whip/engine.

Going down the tree is a really good idea. You'll often find the best insights from early sources as early writers/researchers spend more time mapping out accuracy than drilling down on precision. However, this will take a lot of time (think PhD dissertation) and so not recommended unless you're naturally into it.

NB: Now recruiting grad students for potential project(?) Must possess writing ability as well as extreme levels of frustration tolerance! PM me ... if I get enough enthusiam, I'll try to make some arrangements.
I ain't driving it either. But your enterprising grad student might begin with Ben Franklin's Autobiography and the stuff he references - I recall some weird old book from the 1600s. It might have been something by Pufendorf, but I think it was more obscure. Empire of Things, which traces consumerism for the past 500 years is also probably fertile ground.

Here's my quick and dirty essay with the obligatory Alain Botton video at the end:

http://www.prospectingmimeticfractals.c ... -frugality

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cmonkey
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Re: Anthropology books?

Post by cmonkey » Thu Mar 30, 2017 11:48 am

I also enjoy this genre. I'm currently reading through Guns, Germs and Steel and The World Until Yesterday is next.

Charles C. Mann has quite a few books on my list as well including 1491 and 1493.

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Re: Anthropology books?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Thu Mar 30, 2017 3:55 pm

This sounds like a fascinating project, but I have been inspired by a recent post by Riggerjack on the topic of interpretive dance. So, I shall (with Jacob's permission of course), be otherwise engaged in the writing and production of "ERE: The Musical!" I'm still in the brainstorming phase, but it's all coming together pretty fast. The curtains open on a slumped, shrouded figure in rocking chair under grim florescent lights. The orchestra cleverly integrates Disney 3 Pigs snatch of "He built his house of straw. He built his house of straw..." into otherwise somber piece. "Belt AND Suspenders" to be performed by shirtless middle-aged male chorus, all with the approximate musculature and paunch of late 90s Alex Baldwin, will be the lively number the audience will find themselves whistling as they exit the theater. And, there will be an homage to this dance scene of allurement from "Metropolis" that will feature holographic imagery from commercials for consumer goods from the early 20th century until present.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZ97wzMOOS0

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daylen
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Re: Anthropology books?

Post by daylen » Thu Mar 30, 2017 4:05 pm

You lost me with that last post... :P

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Re: Anthropology books?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Tue Apr 04, 2017 5:40 am

Just silliness. I think a serious history or anthropological research on the topic of retirement would be fascinating. I think an exploration of some of the literature of the era when the last bastions of the nobility were faltering might be useful. IOW, contrast "Ragged Dick" with "The Cherry Orchard." There is one frequently anthologized short story, which I can't summon up from the depths of memory, concerning a genteel young man who chooses to subsist on a moderate inherited pension rather than invest in career, and then comes to regret his choice when he falls madly in love and lacks the means to compete with his peers. I am stuck on thinking Thomas Mann was the author, but not....maybe somebody else can recall.

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