Archive for March, 2007

The Dawn of Human Culture

March 30, 2007

From the book jacket:

“The premier anthropologist in the country today.” -Evolutionary Anthropology on Richard Klein

High above the western shore of Lake Naivasha, a blue pool on the parched floor of East Africa’s Great Rift Valley, sits a small rockshelter carved into the Mau Escarpment. Maasai pastoralists who once occupied this region in central Kenya called the place Enkapune Ya Muto, or ‘Twilight Cave.’ People have long sought shelter there. The cave’s sediments record important cultural changes during the past few thousand years, including the first local experiments with agriculture and with sheep and goat domestication. Buried more than three meters deep in the sand, silt, and loam at Enkapune Ya Muto, however, lie the traces of an earlier and even more significant event in human prehistory. Tens of thousands of pieces of obsidian, a jet-black volcanic glass, were long ago fashioned into finger-length knives with scalpel-sharp edges, thumbnail-sized scrapers, and other stone tools, made on the spot at an ancient workshop. But what most impressed archeologist Stanley Ambrose were nearly six hundred fragments of ostrich eggshell, including thirteen that had been fashioned into disk-shaped beads about a quarter-inch in diameter. Forty thousand years ago, a person or persons crouched near the mouth of Enkapune Ya Muto to drill holes through angular fragments of ostrich eggshell and to grind the edges of each piece until only a delicate ring remained. Many shell fragments snapped in half under pressure from the stone drill or from the edge-grinding that followed. The craftspeople discarded each broken piece and began again with a fresh fragment of shell. “Ambrose believes that these ancient beads played a key role in the survival strategy of the craftspeople and their families. In the Kalahari Desert of Botswana, !Kung San hunter-gatherers still practice a system of gift exchange known as hxaro. Certain items, such as food, are readily shared among the !Kung but never exchanged as gifts. The most appropriate gifts for all occasions just happen to be strands of ostrich eggshell beads. The generic word for gift is synonymous with the !Kung word for sewn beadwork. Although the nomadic !Kung carry the barest minimum of personal possessions, they invest considerable time and energy in creating eggshell beads. “No one knows whether the toolmakers at Enkapune Ya Muto or the other ancient African sites intended their ostrich eggshell beads to be social gifts. But if these beads were invested with symbolic meaning similar to that of beads among the !Kung, then Twilight Cave may record the dawning of modern human behavior.”

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Coping with Poverty

March 30, 2007

From the book jacket:

Conservatives often condemn the poor, particularly African-Americans, for having children out of wedlock, joblessness, dropping out of school, or tolerating crime. Liberals counter that, with more economic opportunity, the poor differ little from the nonpoor in these areas. In answer to both, Coping with Poverty points to the survival strategies of the poor and their multiple roles as parents, neighbors, relatives, and workers. Their attempts to balance multiple obligations occur within a context of limited information, social support, and resources. Their decisions may not always be the wisest, but they “make sense” in context.

Contributors use qualitative research methods to explore the influence of community, workplace, and family upon strategies for dealing with poverty. Promising young scholars delve into poor black inner-city neighborhoods and suburbs and middle-income black urban communities, exploring experiences at all stages of life, including high-school students, young parents, employed older men, and unemployed mothers. Two chapters discuss the role of qualitative research in poverty studies, specifically examining how this research can be used to improve policymaking.

The volume’s contribution is in the diversity of experiences it highlights and in how the general themes it illustrates are similar across different age/gender groups. The book also suggests an approach to policymaking that seeks to incorporate the experiences and the needs of the poor themselves, in the hope of creating more successful and more relevant poverty policy. It is especially useful for undergraduate and graduate courses in sociology, public policy, urban studies, and African-American Studies, as its scope makes it the basic reader of qualitative studies of poverty. Sheldon Danziger is Director of the Poverty Research and Tranining Center and Professor of Social Work and Public Policy, University of Michigan. Ann Chih Lin is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, University of Michigan.

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City of Bits

March 28, 2007

From the book jacket:

Entertaining, concise, and relentlessly probing, City of Bits is a comprehensive introduction to a new type of city, an increasingly important system of virtual spaces interconnected by the information superhighway. William Mitchell makes extensive use of practical examples and illustrations in a technically well-grounded yet accessible examination of architecture and urbanism in the context of the digital telecommunications revolution, the ongoing miniturization of electronics, the commodification of bits, and the growing domination of software over materialized form.

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The Human Bone Manual

March 28, 2007

From the book jacket:
Building on the success of their previous book, White and Folkens’ The Human Bone Manual is intended for use outside the laboratory and classroom, by professional forensic scientists, anthropologists and researchers. The compact volume includes all the key information needed for identification purposes, including hundreds of photographs designed to show a maximum amount of anatomical information.* Features more than 500 color photographs and illustrations in a portable format; most in 1:1 ratio

* Provides multiple views of every bone in the human body

* Includes tips on identifying any human bone or tooth

* Incorporates up-to-date references for further study

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Arc of Justice : A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age

March 27, 2007

From the book jacket:

In 1925, Detroit was a smoky swirl of jazz and speakeasies, assembly lines and fistfights. The advent of automobiles had brought workers from around the globe to compete for manufacturing jobs, and tensions often flared with the KKK in ascendance and violence rising. Ossian Sweet, a proud Negro doctor-grandson of a slave-had made the long climb from the ghetto to a home of his own in a previously all-white neighborhood. Yet just after his arrival, a mob gathered outside his house suddenly, shots rang out: Sweet, or one of his defenders, had accidentally killed one of the whites threatening their lives and homes.

And so it began-a chain of events that brought America’s greatest attorney, Clarence Darrow, into the fray and transformed Sweet into a controversial symbol of equality. Historian Kevin Boyle weaves the police investigation and courtroom drama of Sweet’s murder trial into an unforgettable tapestry of narrative history that documents the volatile America of the 1920s and movingly re-creates the Sweet family’s journey from slavery through the Great Migration to the middle class. Ossian Sweet’s story, so richly and poignantly captured here, is an epic tale of one man trapped by the battles of his era’s changing times.

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The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Hunters and Gatherers

March 26, 2007

From the book jacket:
Hunting and gathering is humanity’s first and most successful adaptation, occupying fully 90 per cent of human history. Until 12,000 years ago all humanity lived this way. Surprisingly, in an increasingly urbanized and technological world dozens of hunting and gathering societies have persisted and thrive on five continents. Case studies of over fifty of the world’s hunting and gathering peoples, written by leading experts, tell a story of resilience in the face of change, of ancient ways now combined with the trappings of modernity. Divided into seven world regions, each section includes a regional introduction and an archaeological overview. Thematic essays discuss prehistory, social life, gender, music and art, health, religion and indigenous knowledge. The final section surveys the complex histories of hunter-gatherers’ encounters with colonialism and the State, and their ongoing struggles for dignity and human rights as part of the worldwide movement of indigenous peoples.

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Smithsonian Intimate Guide to Human Origins

March 23, 2007

From the book jacket:

New discoveries in the field of human evolution are changing our understanding of human origins almost daily. In 2004, for example, researchers working on the Indonesian island of Flores announced that they had found the remains of tiny hominids that stood only three feet tall and had brains the size of our own. These little fossils — dubbed Homo floresiensis — are now the subject of one of the fiercest controversies in human evolution.

What does all this new knowledge about our species mean? That’s exactly what acclaimed science writer Carl Zimmer tackles in this accessible, up-to-the-minute guide to human origins.

Zimmer offers an entertaining and illuminating journey through our ancestry — beginning sixty-five million years ago with the first primates and ending today, as we enter a new phase of evolution. Along the way he re-examines the major steps in human evolution, as hominids began to stand upright, fashion tools and develop consciousness. What’s most intriguing, Zimmer concludes, is that fossils are no longer the sole source of information about our origins. Part of the story of where we came from turns out to be inscribed in our DNA!

The second in a series of Smithsonian Intimate Guides to important scientific subjects, this clear and concise overview of the latest discoveries in human evolution will appeal to the general reader and expert alike.

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First Farmers

March 23, 2007

Book Description

First Farmers examines the reasons for the multiple primary origins of agriculture, looks at relations between hunter-gatherers and farmers, and addresses issues of agricultural adoption, the origins and dispersal histories of language families, and the dispersal histories of biological populations. Bellwood offers discussion of regional agricultural origins in, and dispersals out of, these areas: the Middle East, central Africa, China, New Guinea, Mesoamerica, and the northern Andes. The linguistic survey covers the origins and dispersals of major language families such as Indo-European, Austronesian, Sino-Tibetan, Niger-Congo, and Uto-Aztecan.

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Door in the Mountain

March 22, 2007

Book Description

Since the 1965 publication of her first book, Dream Barker, selected for the Yale Younger Poets Award, Jean Valentine has published eight collections of poetry to critical acclaim. Sparse and intensely-felt, Valentine’s poems present experience as only imperfectly graspable. This volume gathers together all of Valentine’s published poems and includes a new collection, “Door in the Mountain.” Valentine’s poetry is as recognizable as the slant truth of a dream. She is a brave, unshirking poet who speaks with fire on the great subjects–love, and death, and the soul. Her images–strange, canny visions of the unknown self–clang with the authenticity of real experience. This is an urgent art that wants to heal what it touches, a poetry that wants to tell, intimately, the whole life.

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Bury the Chains

March 22, 2007

Bury the chains

From the book jacket:

We cannot imagine citizen activism without boycotts, mass mailings, political posters, lapel buttons, or media campaigns. Yet all these weapons were invented or perfected by a printer, a lawyer, a cleric, several merchants, and a musician who first convened in a London bookshop in 1787. Their goal: to end slavery in the largest empire on earth.

They combined fiery devotion with uncanny skill at stoking public opinion. Within five years, more than 300,000 Britons were boycotting the chief slave-made product, sugar, and London”s smart set was sporting antislavery badges created by Josiah Wedgwood. This crusade was spearheaded by a striking array of personalities, among them Olaudah Equiano, an ex-slave whose memoir made him famous; John Newton, a former slave ship captain who wrote “Amazing Grace”; and Thomas Clarkson, a pioneering investigative journalist who worked for fifty years to see the day when a slave whip and chains were formally buried in a Jamaican churchyard.

Like Hochschild”s classic King Leopold’s Ghost, Bury the Chains abounds in atmosphere, high drama, and nuanced portraits of epic heroes and villains. Again Hochschild gives a little-celebrated historical watershed its due at last.

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