Why America's Top Pundits Are Wrong: Anthropologists Talk Back

Catherine Besteman, Editor, Hugh Gusterson, Editor University of California Press $23.95 (282p) ISBN 978-0-520-24356-9
Columnists like Thomas Friedman and popularizing scholars like Samuel Huntington digest a large amount of cultural information for mass audiences, but this thorough deconstruction (though not of their most recent work) aims to make readers more cautious when departing from primary sources. Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations, Gusterson notes acidly, cited no foreign language sources and hardly any anthropologists. Regarding Friedman's The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Ellen Hertz and Laura Nader deftly adopt the columnist's breezy, acronym-coining style, damning him as ignoring real people but talking ""to the global representatives of Madison Avenue."" In another essay stimulated by Friedman, Carolyn Nordstrom charges that the author--as well as many others--paint globalization as a positive force but ignore crime, smuggling and other global illegalities. As for Dinesh D'Souza's Virtue of Prosperity, Kath Weston delineates his technique: ""Interview and observe the affluent ... then condescend to ventriloquize the poor."" Stefan Helmreich and Heather Paxon find that the authors of A Natural History of Rape dismiss, problematically, the distinction between ""rape"" in humans and ""rape"" in scorpionflies. Earlier versions of some essays were presented at the American Anthropological Association meetings in 2000; look for their names in letters to the editor boxes across the country.
Reviewed on: 01/17/2005
Release date: 01/01/2005
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