Reading the classics: Ideology, tautology, and memory

In a 1986 New York Review of Books essay that would become the opening section of his 1991 book, Italo Calvino asks “Why read the classics?” He organizes his answer as a list of definitions. The items in the list blend into each other, deepening a case for reading books that “learned” people claim to have read,... Continue Reading →

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Blurred lines: development, human rights, humanitarianism

Last week, we read Bornstein and Redfield's introductory chapter to Forces of Compassion. In it, the authors outline a distinction among development, human rights, and humanitarianism. The temporal orientation, disciplinary foci, and the professions associated with each of these forms of social action seem to distinguish them from each other. The authors state, for example,... Continue Reading →

On bureaucracy

Last week in my anthropology and global social problems class, students learned about bureaucracy and how anthropologists engage with the concept. We read the introduction to Hummel's famous book on The Bureaucratic Experience, which is a pretty good primer on how bureaucracy transforms social action, human relations, and bureaucrats themselves. We started class with this... Continue Reading →

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