Reading List

Anthropology: Verso Student Reading

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Do you have designs on infiltrating Facebook headquarters with your undercover investigative anthropological fieldwork? Or perhaps you are embarking on module one of Social Theory. Either way, here's the list for you! From Ed Morales' exploration of Latinx political identities to Lizzie O'Shea's look at how radical history can change our interaction with technology to Benedict Anderson's essential text on global nationalism, look no further for your anthropology fix.

When we talk about technology we always talk about the future—which makes it hard to figure out how to get there. In Future Histories, Lizzie O’Shea argues that we need to stop looking forward and start looking backwards. Weaving together histories of computing and social movements with modern theories of the mind, society, and self, O’Shea constructs a “usable past” that help us determine our digital future.

Adam Smith and Karl Marx recognized that the best way to understand the economy is to study the most advanced practice of production. Today that practice is no longer conventional manufacturing: it is the radically innovative vanguard known as the knowledge economy. In every part of the production system it remains a fringe excluding the vast majority of workers and businesses. This book explores the hidden nature of the knowledge economy and its possible futures.

In this personal portrait of Edward Said written by a close friend, Dominique Eddé offers a fascinating and fresh presentation of his oeuvre from his earliest writings on Joseph Conrad to his most famous texts, Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism. Eddé weaves together accounts of the genesis and content of Said’s work, his intellectual development, and her own reflections and personal recollections of their friendship, which began in 1979 and lasted until Said’s death in 2003. 

In this groundbreaking discussion, Ed Morales explains how Latinx political identities are tied to a long Latin American history of mestizaje—“mixedness” or “hybridity”—and that this border thinking is both a key to understanding bilingual, bicultural Latin cultures and politics and a challenge to America’s infamously black–white racial regime. This searching and long-overdue exploration of the meaning of race in American life reimagines Cornel West’s bestselling Race Matters with a unique Latinx inflection.

 Rather than looking at surrogacy through a legal lens, Lewis argues that the needs and protection of surrogates should be put front and center. Their relationship to the babies they gestate must be rethought, as part of a move to recognize that reproduction is productive work. Only then can we begin to break down our assumptions that children “belong” to those whose genetics they share. Taking collective responsibility for children would radically transform our notions of kinship, helping us to see that it always takes a village to make a baby.

As a young man, Maurice Godelier was Claude Lévi-Strauss’s assistant. Since then, Godelier has drawn on this experience to develop a profound and intimate grasp on the writings of his former teacher, one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century. Meticulously researched, Lévi-Strauss: A Critical Study of His Thought will prove indispensable to students of Lévi-Strauss and to structural anthropologists more generally. It is a compelling and comprehensive study destined to become the definitive work on the evolution of Lévi-Strauss’s ideas, at the heart of which lies his analysis of kinship and myth.

In The Social Photo, social theorist Nathan Jurgenson develops bold new ways of understanding the transformations wrought by image-making and sharing technologies and the cultural objects they have ushered in: the selfie, the faux-vintage photo, the self-destructing image, the food photo. Jurgenson shows how these devices and platforms have remade the world and our understanding of ourselves within it.

In City of Quartz, Davis reconstructs L.A.’s shadow history and dissects its ethereal economy. He tells us who has the power and how they hold on to it. He gives us a city of Dickensian extremes, Pynchonesque conspiracies, and a desperation straight out of Nathaniel Westa city in which we may glimpse our own future mirrored with terrifying clarity.

According to the United Nations, more than one billion people now live in the slums of the cities of the South. In this brilliant and ambitious book, Mike Davis explores the future of a radically unequal and explosively unstable urban world. From the sprawling barricadas of Lima to the garbage hills of Manila, urbanization has been disconnected from industrialization, and even from economic growth. Davis portrays a vast humanity warehoused in shantytowns and exiled from the formal world economy. He argues that the rise of this informal urban proletariat is a wholly unforeseen development, and asks whether the great slums, as a terrified Victorian middle class once imagined, are volcanoes waiting to erupt.

The full magnitude of Benedict Anderson’s intellectual achievement is still being appreciated and debated. Imagined Communities remains the most influential book on the origins of nationalism, filling the vacuum that previously existed in the traditions of Western thought. Cited more often than any other single English-language work in the human sciences, it is read around the world in more than thirty translations.

The three-volume text by Henri Lefebvre is perhaps the richest, most prescient work about modern capitalism to emerge from one of the twentieth century's greatest philosophers and is now available for the first time in one complete volume. Written at the birth of post-war consumerism, Critique was an inspiration for the 1968 student revolution in France. It is a founding text of cultural studies and a major influence on the fields of contemporary philosophy, geography, sociology, architecture, political theory and urbanism.

The Grapes of Wrath brought national attention to the condition of California’s migrant farmworkers in the 1930s. Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers’ grape and lettuce boycotts captured the imagination of the United States in the 1960s and ’70s. Yet today, the stories of the more than 800,000 men, women, and children working in California’s fields—one third of the nation’s agricultural work force—are rarely heard, despite the persistence of wage theft, dangerous working conditions, and uncertain futures. This book of oral histories makes the reality of farm work visible in accounts of hardship, bravery, solidarity, and creativity in California’s fields, as real people struggle to win new opportunities for future generations.

This immersive and engrossing oral history collection gives voice to the continuing struggle of Haitian people to live, love and prosper while trying to rebuild their city and country after disasters both natural and man-made.

In this groundbreaking work, French legal scholar Alain Supiot examines the relationship of society to legal discourse. He argues that the law is how justice is implmented in secular society, but it is not simply a technique to be manipulated at will: it is also an expression of the core beliefs of the West. We must recognize its universalizing, dogmatic nature and become receptive to other interpretations from non-Western cultures to help us avoid the clash of civilizations.

B.R. Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste is one of the most important, yet neglected, works of political writing from India. Written in 1936, it is an audacious denunciation of Hinduism and its caste system. Ambedkar – a figure like W.E.B. Du Bois – offers a scholarly critique of Hindu scriptures, scriptures that sanction a rigidly hierarchical and iniquitous social system. The world’s best-known Hindu, Mahatma Gandhi, responded publicly to the provocation. The hatchet was never buried.

Close to Home is the classic study of family, patriarchal ideologies, and the politics and strategy of women’s liberation. On the table in this forceful and provocative debate are questions of whether men can be feminists, whether “bourgeois” and heterosexual women are retrogressive members of the women’s movement, and how best to struggle against the multiple oppressions women endure.

What is the specificity of the human race within nature? How is its history to be explained? What impact do material realities, natural and man-made, have on human beings? What role does thought, in all its dimensions, play in the production of social relations? How are the human sciences to be advanced today? These are among the crucial questions confronted by Godelier in this key book of contemporary social theory. 

What does it feel like to find the city’s edge, to explore its forgotten tunnels and scale unfinished skyscrapers high above the metropolis? Explore Everything reclaims the city, recasting it as a place for endless adventure. Plotting expeditions from London, Paris, Berlin, Detroit, Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Bradley L. Garrett has tested the boundaries of urban security in order to experience the city in ways beyond the everyday. 

Noise Uprising brings to life the moment and sounds of a cultural revolution. Between the development of electrical recording in 1925 and the outset of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, the soundscape of modern times unfolded in a series of obscure recording sessions, as hundreds of unknown musicians entered makeshift studios to record the melodies and rhythms of urban streets and dancehalls. 

From the sierras of New Mexico to the streets of New York and LA by night—"a sort of luminous, geometric, incandescent immensity"—Baudrillard mixes aperçus and observations with a wicked sense of fun to provide a unique insight into the country that dominates our world. In this new edition, leading cultural critic and novelist Geoff Dyer offers a thoughtful and perceptive take on the continued resonance of Baudrillard’s America.

The System of Objects is a tour de force—a theoretical letter-in-a-bottle tossed into the ocean in 1968, which brilliantly communicates to us all the live ideas of the day. Pressing Freudian and Saussurean categories into the service of a basically Marxist perspective, Baudrillard offers a cultural critique of the commodity in consumer society. 

***Not available in North America***

From 1971 until his death in 1984, Foucault gave public lectures at the famous Collège de France. These seminal events, attended by thousands, created the benchmarks for contemporary social enquiry. The lectures comprising Abnormal begin by examining the role of psychiatry in modern criminal justice, and its method of categorising individuals who “resemble their crime before they commit it.” Building on the themes of societal self-defence developed in earlier works, Foucault shows how defining “normality” became a prerogative of power in the nineteenth century, shaping the institutions—from the prisons to the family—meant to deal with “monstrosity,” whether sexual, physical, or spiritual. 

Inspired by Antonio Gramsci’s writings on the history of subaltern classes, the authors in Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial sought to contest the elite histories of Indian nationalists by adopting the paradigm of ‘history from below’. 

Distilling a lifetime of learning and travel, Ryszard Kapuściński takes a fresh look at the Western idea of the Other: the non-European or non-American. Considering the concept through the lens of his own encounters in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and considering its formative significance for his own work, Kapuściński outlines the development of the West’s understanding of the Other from classical times through the Age of Enlightenment and the colonial era to the postmodern global village. 

Banned by the Freud institute in Vienna, this controversial lecture eventually became Edward Said’s final book. Freud and the Non-European builds on Said’s abiding interest in the psychoanalyst’s work to examine Freud’s assumption that Moses was an Egyptian and from there explore the limits of identity. Such an unresolved, nuanced sense of identity, Said argues, might one day form the basis for a new understanding between Israelis and Palestinians.

In what is the most comprehensive and accessible survey of the field to date, Bart Moore-Gilbert systematically examines the objections that have been raised against postcolonial theory, revealing the simplifications and exaggerations on both sides of the argument. He provides a detailed institutional history of the ways in which the relationship between culture and colonialism was traditionally studied in the West, then traces the emergence of alternative forms of postcolonial analysis of such questions. He gives an extremely careful presentation of the complex and elusive work of the three principal representatives of postcolonial theory, Gayatri Spivak, Edward Said and Homi Bhabha, and considers the criticisms they have faced, from an alleged Eurocentrism to an obfuscatory prose style. 

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All our student reading is 50% off as part of our Back to University/School sale. Ends September 30, 23:59 EST. See all our student reading lists here.