Jared Diamond has created a lot of heat in the anthropological blogosphere in the last few months. So much heat in fact, that Rex at Savage Minds is now in a position to write a “review of the reviews” in an April 2013 post here. Quite and achievement for a 512 page book published on December 31, 2012! When do reviewers have time to read such a book, and also come up with a thoughtful review?
I still haven’t read Diamond’s new book (though I have read most of his earlier books), so won’t comment on the book itself. However, I have read a number of the reviews, and think that Rex’s viewpoint on that subject is well-worth following up on, as he frames the argument about Diamond’s book as that between the traditionalist (Boasian) school of anthropology, and the more recent activist school which sees anthropology as a field which give voices to the disadvantaged. He points out that both approaches are guilty of excesses and omissions. In doing so, Rex comes down on the side of the slower less emotional and “scientific” Boasian school.
I suspect in the long run Rex’s view will prevail as the heat of the publisher’s promotions, and the emotional reaction of Diamond’s self-described opponents shifts to the next controversy. As for the book itself, I guess its success will depend on whether it stands the test of time, which will be determined more like whether people like me read it sometime in the next decade or not. In the meantime, we have a review of the reviews such as Rex writes, or for that matter the reviews themselves.
Tony Waters is czar and editor of Ethnography.com. He came to us from the Sociology department at California State University at Chico where he has been a professor since 1996. In 2016 though he suddenly found himself with a new gig at Payap University in northern Thailand where he is on the faculty of the Peace Studies Department. He has also been a guest professor in Germany, and Tanzania. In the past, his main interests have been international development and refugees in Thailand, Tanzania, and California. This reflects a former career in the Peace Corps (Thailand), and refugee camps (Thailand and Tanzania). His books include: Crime and Immigrant Youth (1999), Bureaucratizing the Good Samaritan (2001), The Persistence of Subsistence Agriculture: Life Beneath of the Marketplace (2007), When Killing is a Crime (2007), and Schooling, Bureaucracy, and Childhood: Bureaucratizing the Child (2012). His hobby is trying to learn strange languages–and the mistakes that that implies. Tony is a prolific academic, you can read more of his work at academia.edu.or purchase one (or more!) of his books from Amazon.com.