Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Rene’ Dubos: Friend of the Good Earth: Microbiologist, Medical Scientist, Environmentalist

June 6, 2007

 From the book jacket:

Rene Dubos, Friend of the Good Earth: Microbiologist, Medical Scientist, Environmentalist is a biography of one of the most influential scientists in recent history. Documenting his life from his birth in 1901 or his death in 1982, this book examines the intriguing career of Dubos and his impact on science, medicine, society and the environment.

Dubos’ science is presented in the context of 20th Century biology, medicine and ecology. The ecological approach that led to his discovery of the first antibiotic was the foundation for his career as a medical scientist and environmentalist. The issues he raised, including antibiotic resistance, the interrelatedness of environmental health to human health, and the potential danger of relying too heavily on vaccines and drugs to eradicate disease, continue to be provocative and increasingly relevant today. A prolific author and a passionate humanist, Dubos served as the conscience of the environmental movement and founded the popular motto “Think globally, act locally.”

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Sustainable communities and the challenge of environmental justice

May 1, 2007

Sustainable Communities and the Challenge of Environmental Justice

From the book jacket:

Environmental justice and sustainability have evolved over the past two decades to provide new and exciting directions for public policy and planning, but the relationship between their movements has traditionally been uneasy. What might, at first glance, seem like an obvious case for coalition is fraught with ideological and other concerns. How has it come to this, and how can we move forward?

Sustainable Communities and the Challenge of Environmental Justice argues that there exists an area of theoretical and practical compatibility between these movements, a critical nexus for a broad social movement to create just and sustainable communities for all people. Agyeman shows how these two related movements can potentially work together by providing practical examples of organizations which employ the types of strategies he advocates. This book is vital to the efforts of community organizers, academics, policymakers, and everyone interested in more livable communities.

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The Jill Principle: A Woman’s Guide to Healing Your Spirit After Divorce or Breakup

May 1, 2007

From the book jacket:

If you’re contemplating a break-up, are in the midst of one, or eve if the relationship is technically “over,” reaching a place of peace and strength may seem a long way off, but you can use this time of upheaval and change to reconnect with your spirit and reclaim your true self. Michele Germain, a psychotherapist who specializes in divorce recovery, believes many long-term relationships fail due to unresolved “historical wounds” and unrealistic expectations. Emphasizing the body-mind-spirit connection, Germain offers an effective, holistic approach to healing.

The Jill Principle presents a step-by-step process that begins with recognizing the trauma of divorce, releasing emotional wounds from childhood, and eliminating negative self-talk. Guided medications, bioenergetic exercises, and other techniques help you identify and overcome buried pain and create lasting health and vitality in your body and soul. Moving personal accounts, including Germain’s own story, illustrate how the practices in this book have helped hundreds of women recover from crisis and find new opportunities for self expression and true happiness.

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Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, & Power

April 25, 2007

From the book jacket:
Chicken–both the bird and the food–has played multiple roles in the lives of African American women from the slavery era to the present. It has provided food and a source of income for their families, shaped a distinctive culture, and helped women define and exert themselves in racist and hostile environments. Psyche A. Williams-Forson examines the complexity of black women’s legacies using food as a form of cultural work. While acknowledging the negative interpretations of black culture associated with chicken imagery, Williams-Forson focuses her analysis on the ways black women have forged their own self-definitions and relationships to the “gospel bird.”Exploring material ranging from personal interviews to the comedy of Chris Rock, from commercial advertisements to the art of Kara Walker, and from cookbooks to literature, Williams-Forson considers how black women arrive at degrees of self-definition and self-reliance using certain foods. She demonstrates how they defy conventional representations of blackness in relationship to these foods and exercise influence through food preparation and distribution.

Understanding these phenomena clarifies how present interpretations of blacks and chicken are rooted in a past that is fraught with both racism and agency. The traditions and practices of feminism, Williams-Forson argues, are inherent in the foods women prepare and serve.

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Evolution and Christian Faith: Reflections of an Evolutionary Biologist

April 24, 2007

From the book jacket:
“I’m an evolutionary biologist and a Christian,” states Stanford professor Joan Roughgarden at the outset of her groundbreaking new book, Evolution and Christian Faith: Reflections of an Evolutionary Biologist. From that perspective, she has written an eloquent and persuasive discourse on reconciling evolutionary biology and the Bible.

Perhaps only someone with Roughgarden’s unique academic standing could examine so well controversial issues such as the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, or the potential flaws in Darwin’s theory of evolution. Certainly Roughgarden is uniquely suited to reference both the minutiae of scientific processes and the implication of Biblical verses. Whether the topic is mutation rates and lizards or the hidden meanings behind St. Paul’s letters, Evolution and Christian Faith distils complex arguments into everyday understanding. Roughgarden has scoured the Bible and scanned the natural world, finding examples time and again, not of conflict, but of harmony.

The result is an accessible and intelligent context for seeing a Christian vision of the world within evolutionary biology. In the ongoing debates of religion versus science, Evolution and Christian Faith will be seen as a work of major significance, written for contemporary readers who wonder how-or if-they can embrace scientific advances while maintaining their traditional values.

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The Future of Marriage

April 2, 2007

The future of marriage

From the book jacket:

With precision and passion, David Blankenhorn offers a bold new argument in the debate over same-sex marriage: that it would essentially deny all children, not just the children of same-sex couples, their birthright to their own mother and father. If we change marriage, we change parenthood–for all families. Altering marriage to accommodate same-sex couples would mean weakening in culture and eliminating in law the idea that children need both their mother and their father.

The Future of Marriage analyzes recent survey data from 35 countries, offering the first scientific evidence that support for marriage is weakest in those nations where support for gay marriage is strongest. Blankenhorn explains how same-sex marriage would transform our most pro-child social institution into a purely private relationship (“an expression of love”) between adults, defined by each couple as they wish. Changing marriage laws to include same-sex couples, he argues, would require us to “deinstitutionalize” marriage, “amputating from the institution one after another of its core ideas, until the institution itself is like a room with all the furniture removed and everything stripped from the walls.”

For Blankenhorn, the main question concerning the future of marriage in the United States is not whether we will adopt gay marriage. The main question is whether the social institution of marriage will become stronger or weaker. If we wish to strengthen marriage on behalf of children, there is no shortage of ideas for doing so. What matters is whether we as a society regard this as a worthy and urgent goal.

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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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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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Veiled Sentiments

March 19, 2007

From the book jacket:

Lila Abu-Lughod lived with a community of Bedouins in the Western Desert of Egypt for nearly two years, studying gender relations and the oral lyric poetry through which women and young men express personal feelings. The poems are haunting, the evocation of emotional life vivid. But her analysis also reveals how deeply implicated poetry and sentiment are in the play of power and the maintenance of a system of social hiearchy. What begins as a puzzle about a single poetic genre becomes a reflection on the politics of sentiment and the relationship between ideology and human experience. 

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