the faculty bookshelf

The People of Sunghir: Burials, Bodies, and Behavior in the Earlier Upper Paleolithic
Jesus in Our Wombs: Embodying Modernity in a Mexican Convent
Remapping Bolivia: Resources, Territory, and Indigeneity in a Plurinational State
On British Islam: Religion, Law, and Everyday Practice in Shariʿa Councils
African Medical Pluralism
Nomads in Postrevolutionary Iran: The Qashqa'i in an Era of Change
Regulating Romance
Pastoralist Landscapes and Social Interaction in Bronze Age Eurasia
From a Trickle to a Torrent Education, Migration, and Social Change in a Himalayan Valley of Nepal
Tibetan Diary: From Birth to Death and Beyond in a Himalayan Valley of Nepal
Minds Make Societies: How Cognition Explains the World Humans Create
The Fracture of an Illusion; Science And The Dissolution Of Religion
Broccoli & Desire
Tobacco Capitalism Growers, Migrant Workers, and the Changing Face of a Global Industry
Regulating Style
Blaming Islam
Tears for My Sisters: The Tragedy of Obstetric Fistula

The People of Sunghir: Burials, Bodies, and Behavior in the Earlier Upper Paleolithic

In this latest volume in the Human Evolution Series, Erik Trinkaus and his co-authors synthesize the research and findings concerning the human remains found at the Sunghir archaeological site. It has long been apparent to those in the field of paleoanthropology that the human fossil remains from the site of Sunghir are an important part of the human paleoanthropological record, and that these fossil remains have the potential to provide substantial data and inferences concerning human biology and behavior, both during the earlier Upper Paleolithic and concerning the early phases of human occupation of high latitude continental Eurasia. But despite many separate investigations and published studies on the site and its findings, a single and definitive volume does not yet exist on the subject. This book combines the expertise of four paleoanthropologists to provide a comprehensive description and paleobiological analysis of the Sunghir human remains.
Since 1990, Trinkaus et al. have had access to the Sunghir site and its findings, and the authors have published frequently on the topic. The book places these human fossil remains in context with other Late Pleistocene humans, utilizing numerous comparative charts, graphs, and figures. As such, the book is highly illustrated, in color. Trinkaus and his co-authors outline the many advances in paleoanthropology that these remains have helped to bring about, examining the Sunghir site from all angles.

Jesus in Our Wombs: Embodying Modernity in a Mexican Convent

In Jesus in Our Wombs, Rebecca J. Lester takes us behind the walls of a Roman Catholic convent in central Mexico to explore the lives, training, and experiences of a group of postulants―young women in the first stage of religious training as nuns. Lester, who conducted eighteen months of fieldwork in the convent, provides a rich ethnography of these young women's journeys as they wrestle with doubts, fears, ambitions, and setbacks in their struggle to follow what they believe to be the will of God. Gracefully written, finely textured, and theoretically rigorous, this book considers how these aspiring nuns learn to experience God by cultivating an altered experience of their own female bodies, a transformation they view as a political stance against modernity. 

Lester explains that the Postulants work toward what they see as an "authentic" femininity―one that has been eclipsed by the values of modern society. The outcome of this process has political as well as personal consequences. The Sisters learn to understand their very intimate experiences of "the Call"―and their choices in answering it―as politically relevant declarations of self. Readers become intimately acquainted with the personalities, family backgrounds, friendships, and aspirations of the Postulants as Lester relates the practices and experiences of their daily lives. Combining compassionate, engaged ethnography with an incisive and provocative theoretical analysis of embodied selves, Jesus in Our Wombs delivers a profound analysis of what Lester calls the convent's "technology of embodiment" on multiple levels―from the phenomenological to the political.

Remapping Bolivia: Resources, Territory, and Indigeneity in a Plurinational State

The 2005 election of Evo Morales to the presidency of Bolivia marked a critical moment of transformation--a coca farmer and peasant union leader became the first indigenous president in the history of the Americas. Gathering work from a new generation of anthropologists and scholars in related disciplines who have been doing fieldwork in the "post-Evo" era, Remapping Boliviareflects shifting paradigms in Latin Americanist and indigenous-related research.

On British Islam: Religion, Law, and Everyday Practice in Shariʿa Councils

On British Islam examines the history and everyday workings of Islamic institutions in Britain, with a focus on shariʿa councils. These councils concern themselves with religious matters, especially divorce. They have a higher profile in Britain than in other Western nations. Why? Taking a historical and ethnographic look at British Islam, John Bowen examines how Muslims have created distinctive religious institutions in Britain and how shariʿa councils interpret and apply Islamic law in a secular British context.

Bowen focuses on three specific shariʿa councils: the oldest and most developed, in London; a Midlands community led by a Sufi saint and barrister; and a Birmingham-based council in which women play a leading role. Bowen shows that each of these councils represents a prolonged, unique experiment in meeting Muslims' needs in a Western country. He also discusses how the councils have become a flash point in British public debates even as they adapt to the English legal environment.

On British Islam highlights British Muslims' efforts to create institutions that make sense in both Islamic and British terms. This balancing act is rarely acknowledged in Britain—or elsewhere—but it is urgent that we understand it if we are to build new ways of living together.

African Medical Pluralism

In most places on the African continent, multiple health care options exist and patients draw on a therapeutic continuum that ranges from traditional medicine and religious healing to the latest in biomedical technology. The ethnographically based essays in this volume highlight African ways of perceiving sickness, making sense of and treating suffering, and thinking about health care to reveal the range and practice of everyday medicine in Africa through historical, political, and economic contexts.

Nomads in Postrevolutionary Iran: The Qashqa'i in an Era of Change

Examining the rapid transition in Iran from a modernizing, westernizing, secularizing monarchy (1941-79) to a hard-line, conservative, clergy-run Islamic republic (1979-), this book focuses on the ways this process has impacted the Qashqa’i―a rural, nomadic, tribally organized, Turkish-speaking, ethnic minority of a million and a half people who are dispersed across the southern Zagros Mountains.

 

Analysing the relationship between the tribal polity and each of the two regimes, the book goes on to explain the resilience of the people’s tribal organizations, kinship networks, and politicized ethnolinguistic identities to demonstrate how these structures and ideologies offered the Qashqa’i a way to confront the pressures emanating from the two central governments.

 

Existing scholarly works on politics in Iran rarely consider Iranian society outside the capital of Tehran and beyond the reach of the details of national politics. Local-level studies on Iran―accounts of the ways people actually lived―are now rare, especially after the revolution. Based on long-term anthropological research, Nomads in Postrevolutionary Iran provides a unique insight into how national-level issues relate to the local level and will be of interest to scholars and researchers in Anthropolgy, Iranian Studies and Middle Eastern Studies.

Regulating Romance

In Regulating Romance: Youth Love Letters, Moral Anxiety, and Intervention in Uganda’s Time of AIDS (Vanderbilt University Press), author Shanti Parikh draws on two decades of ethnographic research and over 300 youth love letters to provide a rare window into young people’s romantic desires within the context of a moral panic around HIV and youth sexuality. In chapters entitled “Unbreak my heart,” “I miss you like a desert missing rain,” and “You’re just playing with my head,” she invites readers into the world of secret longings, disappointments, and anxieties of young Ugandans.

Pastoralist Landscapes and Social Interaction in Bronze Age Eurasia

Offering a fresh archaeological interpretation, this work reconceptualizes the Bronze Age prehistory of the vast Eurasian steppe during one of the most formative and innovative periods of human history. Michael D. Frachetti combines an analysis of newly documented archaeological sites in the Koksu River valley of eastern Kazakhstan with detailed paleoecological and ethnohistorical data to illustrate patterns in land use, settlement, burial, and rock art. His investigation illuminates the practical effect of nomadic strategies on the broader geography of social interaction and suggests a new model of local and regional interconnection in the third and second millennia B.C.E. Frachetti further argues that these early nomadic communities played a pivotal role in shaping enduring networks of exchange across Eurasia.

From a Trickle to a Torrent Education, Migration, and Social Change in a Himalayan Valley of Nepal

By Geoff Childs (Author), Namgyal Choedup (Author)

What happens to a community when the majority of young people leave their homes for the opportunity of obtaining an education? From a Trickle to a Torrent documents demographic and social consequences of educational migration from Nubri, a Tibetan enclave in the highlands of Nepal. The authors explore parents’ motivations for sending their children to distant schools and monasteries, social connections that shape migration pathways, young people’s estrangement from village life, and dilemmas that arise when educated individuals are unable or unwilling to return and reside in their native villages. Drawing on several years of research, this study documents a transitional period when the future of a Himalayan society teeters on the brink of irreversible change.

Tibetan Diary: From Birth to Death and Beyond in a Himalayan Valley of Nepal

In this rich and deeply personal account of life in the highlands of Nepal, Geoff Childs chronicles the daily existence of a range of people, from venerated lamas to humble householders. Offering insights into the complex dynamics of the ethnically Tibetan enclave of Nubri, Childs provides a vivid and compelling portrait of the ebb and flow of life and death, of communal harmony and discord, and of personal conflicts and social resolutions. Part ethnography, part travelogue, and part biography, Tibetan Diary is a one-of-a-kind book that conveys the tangled intricacies of a Tibetan society. 

Childs's immensely readable and informative narrative incorporates contemporary observations as well as vignettes culled from first-person testaments including oral histories and autobiographies. Examining the tensions between cultural ideals and individual aspirations, he explores certain junctures in the course of life: how the desire to attain religious knowledge or to secure a caretaker in old age contrasts with social expectations and familial obligation, for example. The result is a vivid and unparalleled view of the quest for both spiritual meaning and mundane survival that typifies life in an unpredictable Himalayan environment.

Minds Make Societies: How Cognition Explains the World Humans Create

Integrating recent insights from evolutionary biology, genetics, psychology, economics, and other fields, Boyer offers precise models of why humans engage in social behaviors such as forming families, tribes, and nations, or creating gender roles. In fascinating, thought-provoking passages, he explores questions such as, Why is there conflict between groups? Why do people believe low-value information such as rumors? Why are there religions? What is social justice? What explains morality? Boyer provides a new picture of cultural transmission that draws on the pragmatics of human communication, the constructive nature of memory in human brains, and human motivation for group formation and cooperation.

The Fracture of an Illusion; Science And The Dissolution Of Religion

Pascal Boyer argues that religion is largely an illusion. The anthropologist traces religion's cognitive and evolutionary aspects. By "religion" he means a kind of existential and cognitive "package" that includes views about supernatural agency (gods), notions of morality, particular rituals and sometimes particular experiences, as well as membership in a particular community of believers. The package, however, does not really exist as such. Notions of supernatural agents, of morality, of ethnic identity, or ritual requirements and other experience, all appear in human minds independently. This implies that there is no such thing as a conflict between science and religion. Boyer takes the reader onto a journey through science and the dissolution of religion.

Broccoli & Desire

By Edward F. Fischer and Peter Benson

This book takes a surprising look at the hidden world of broccoli, connecting American consumers concerned about their health and diet with Maya farmers concerned about holding onto their land and making a living.

Compelling life stories and rich descriptions from ethnographic fieldwork among supermarket shoppers in Nashville, Tennessee and Maya farmers in highland Guatemala bring the commodity chain of this seemingly mundane product to life. For affluent Americans, broccoli fits into everyday concerns about eating right, being healthy, staying in shape, and valuing natural foods. For Maya farmers, this new export crop provides an opportunity to make a little extra money in difficult, often risky circumstances. Unbeknownst to each other, the American consumer and the Maya farmer are bound together in webs of desire and material production.

Tobacco Capitalism Growers, Migrant Workers, and the Changing Face of a Global Industry

Tobacco Capitalism tells the story of the people who live and work on U.S. tobacco farms at a time when the global tobacco industry is undergoing profound changes. Against the backdrop of the antitobacco movement, the globalization and industrialization of agriculture, and intense debates over immigration, Peter Benson draws on years of field research to examine the moral and financial struggles of growers, the difficult conditions that affect Mexican migrant workers, and the complex politics of citizenship and economic decline in communities dependent on this most harmful commodity.

Benson tracks the development of tobacco farming since the plantation slavery period and the formation of a powerful tobacco industry presence in North Carolina. In recent decades, tobacco companies that sent farms into crisis by aggressively switching to cheaper foreign leaf have coached growers to blame the state, public health, and aggrieved racial minorities for financial hardship and feelings of vilification. Economic globalization has exacerbated social and racial tensions in North Carolina, but the corporations that benefit have rarely been considered a key cause of harm and instability, and have now adopted social-responsibility platforms to elide liability for smoking disease. Parsing the nuances of history, power, and politics in rural America, Benson explores the cultural and ethical ambiguities of tobacco farming and offers concrete recommendations for the tobacco-control movement in the United States and worldwide.

Regulating Style

Fashion knockoffs are everywhere. Even in the out-of-the-way markets of highland Guatemala, fake branded clothes offer a cheap, stylish alternative for people who cannot afford high-priced originals. Fashion companies have taken notice, ensuring that international trade agreements include stronger intellectual property protections to prevent brand “piracy.” In Regulating Style, Kedron Thomas approaches the fashion industry from the perspective of indigenous Maya people who make and sell knockoffs, asking why they copy and wear popular brands, how they interact with legal frameworks and state institutions that criminalize their livelihood, and what is really at stake for fashion companies in the global regulation of style.

Blaming Islam

Why fears about Muslim integration into Western society—propagated opportunistically by some on the right—misread history and misunderstand multiculturalism.

Tears for My Sisters: The Tragedy of Obstetric Fistula

I wrote “Tears for My Sisters: The Tragedy of Obstetric Fistula” to help bring greater public awareness to the heart-wrenching reality of obstetric injury among the world’s poorest women,” author Dr. L. Lewis Wall said. “The discrepancies in maternal health, childbirth injuries and death between the women of advanced industrial countries and those women among the “bottom billion” is greater than almost any other public health indicator.