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Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  379 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
A wheel turns because of its encounter with the surface of the road; spinning in the air it goes nowhere. Rubbing two sticks together produces heat and light; one stick alone is just a stick. In both cases, it is friction that produces movement, action, effect. Challenging the widespread view that globalization invariably signifies a "clash" of cultures, anthropologist Ann ...more
Paperback, 344 pages
Published November 28th 2004 by Princeton University Press (first published November 8th 2004)
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Community Reviews

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Dec 05, 2008 Naeem rated it liked it
Recommends it for: sara-maria, nethra, rebecca troutman, julie, Steph, jack, Betsy
Recommended to Naeem by: Manu Samnotra (see, I am willing to admit it.)
Friction has a compellingly simple but important premise: universals - like capitalism, modernity, environmentalism, feminism - don't travel abstractly as mere ideologies. Rather, they travel through people, through institutions, through stories, through cultures. And along the way, the friction of travel, the friction of encounter with others, the friction of translation of universals by localities, changes those actually lived universals. It is not a new insight, but it is worth repeating sinc ...more
Sep 15, 2011 John rated it really liked it
Tsing is an anthropologist who uses interrelated ethnographies of 1990s Indonesia to discuss how what she calls "universals"--namely capital, knowledge, and social justice movements--are always necessarily altered when they encounter a specific site. Most interesting idea might be that "scales" that we consider to be pre-set (the community, the nation, the global) are always artificial; universals essentially force the creation of the levels on which they operate. The awkward friction of the uni ...more
May 07, 2010 Liz rated it it was amazing
Shelves: anthropology
This book drove me crazy while reading it...and now I can't get it out of my head. Tsing's writing style is intense and inflected with a personalized version of the Cultural Studies style, and the text packs in more characters than your typical telenovela. That said, the book fascinates. I tore my way through it, attempting to piece together her "fragments," and left with a strange feeling that - perhaps, just maybe - Tsing's ultimate arguments were deceptively simply. So simply and clear, after ...more
May 11, 2010 Scott rated it really liked it
A look at globalization from the local that is South Kalimantan. Overall a discussion of how globalization can be understand as a process of friction (hence the title) between local, state, intra-state, and international forces over matters such as frontier creation, ways of seeing nature, resistance, migration, culture.

Basically Tsing takes a whole boatload of stuff and admirably tries to make sense of it as it is occurring in this one area impacted by timber and mineral extraction.
Mar 07, 2013 Liz rated it liked it
Actual rating: 3.5 stars

I was probably one of the only people in my class to like reading this book, then again a lot of the other students in my class have not encountered a lot of scholars who are steeped in post-modernist thinking (like I have). I liked how Tsing looked at the idea of "Friction" in the global environment, and it was an interesting read.
Nov 05, 2016 Susanne rated it liked it
Great book about what happens to universals and knowledge on a local level and in a local setting.
Nice description of how globalization has entered Indonesia and how has influenced their (economic) culture.

Read this for my MA Cultural Anthropology
Jan 17, 2013 Dagezi rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: all functioning and some non-functional human beings
Serious, compelling anthropology that 1. does not assume the unassaible superiority and invincibility of the european philosophical tradition and 2. occurs in a language that is supple, human and sometimes beguiling. In Tsing's hands that old hobby horse "multi-sited ethnography" is something more than a cliche or convenient euphemism for work lacking depth. Untangling a few of the strands of the manifold web of connections in which contemporary environmental and human politics on the margins of ...more
Feb 14, 2009 g rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spring-2009
this book discloses the particularities of different collaborations that disrupt or develop processes of economic transformations that reflect on landscapes, and at the same time accentuates the role that imagination plays in re-creating the wild as fields of profiteering. it is very well written; the narrative carries the reader through complex issues without sounding too enigmatic, and employs experimental textual arrangements. the author herself does not seem to be situated in a particular lo ...more
Jan 25, 2016 M rated it it was amazing
Tsing invites the reader to reimagine the monochrome globalization of a Thomas Friedman, a Jeff Sachs, or a Hardt & Negri as instead a contingent, kaleidoscopic, and awkward process wherein disparate cultures come together to produce something new. Globalization cannot be the straightforward force for international standardization as is often supposed because the abstract notions at its heart -- freedom, democracy, capitalism -- do not seamlessly travel from Washington to the jungles of Indo ...more
Oct 26, 2015 Brandon rated it it was amazing
I have always approached anthropology with a bit of skepticism, for a host of historical (and likely also personal) reasons, but this book really was a beautifully written, accessible introduction to another way of conceiving of both the discipline and human interactions more broadly. That said, many of Tsing's ideas are not entirely original. Her definition of friction, which she is at pains to distinguish from resistance, is close in many ways to Foucault's notion of power as an always unstabl ...more
Feb 25, 2012 Minli rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Was reading this book on-and-off for a few weeks now, and it's been a few weeks since. I was hoping this would be a more academic, focused book than Friedman's The World is Flat, whose focus on globalization and capitalism is breezy and authoritative. Tsing makes us question globalization's smooth rollout, that universal narrative like manifest destiny in the mid 19th century. She shows us that it's far from inevitable, and with plenty of rich description, ethnography and theoretical analysis, a ...more
Jul 21, 2008 Terri rated it it was amazing
Great book. Does justice to a real account (not just a romanticized version) of the huge amounts of complexities in winning and losing battles for environmental justice...the strange bedfellows, the political opportunities (expected or unexpected), that have to be seized with perfect timing, what's at stake ecologically, culturally, and financially. Exposes some Western myths of "What is the environment," what it means to preserve it" and for whom... and establishes the "vacuous" mountainous reg ...more
Jan 26, 2010 Ako added it
Recommends it for: with caution
Ms. Tsing took on a heavy duty subject to tackle, however, the writing is encumbered with much too many words, as if she is paraphrasing other works. I think she can reflect much more effectively if she were a bit more direct to the point. Her reflections and explanations involved a maze-like experience. Granted it has been praised as poetic, but it can cause one to lose interest. It would be a pity, if one of those who might just really want to help her cause lose the inspiration. I placed the ...more
Nina Haerter
Jan 25, 2013 Nina Haerter rated it liked it
Shelves: anthropology
the book is (by purpose) a puzzle out of many - sometimes ethnographic, sometimes analytical - parts. it is therefore not a very pleasant read. nothing is ever really summarized either. i wish tsing would have been more explicit sometimes and given more information about the actual research process.
i have mainly gained facts about Borneo and its inhabitants, about rainforest destruction, and some history about Indonesia. i haven't gained any true insights, however.
Adam Hoffritz
A great ethnography, a must-read for people who want to understand better the global economic process (or globalization) and the affects of capitalism on ordinary people. For anthropology students the book is a treasure chest. Tzing writes about identity, globalization, nature protection, stories, investment dreams (and traces the across continents) and much more. A little bit hard to read but worth it
Reading a few chapters every few months is probably not the best way to approach politically dense ethnographic analysis. I was following the arguments for most of it, but I honestly cannot say whether or not Lowenhaupt Tsing's analysis of the philosophical interdependence of universal and local makes any sense whatsoever. I take it on faith and read on for the bits about middle-aged chemists who construct personal environmentalisms out of Islam and the global environmental movement.
This books took some time getting into, and was a very dense read, but I have found myself reflecting back on it often. I think about the intersecting layers at play, work that is done within the friction, how it is not always under a negative cloud, and the different needs, purposes, goals of individuals and groups who occupy, or want to occupy, the same space.
Apr 05, 2009 Rebecca marked it as to-read
Looking for more realistic follow ups to The World is Flat. This book looks fantastic and particularly catches my eye because Friedman is constantly celebrating this simplistic idea that globalization levels the playing field by crushing international barriers to trade and other "frictions." I like this positive spin on the idea of friction.
Jul 29, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best ethnographies I've ever read. Tsing, who works with indigenous people in Borneo, shows the global linkages between logging, mining, multinational corporations and virgin Borneo forest. This book has been instrumental to my development as a graduate student. I only hope I can write a quarter as well as Tsing when I have to write my dissertation!
Jun 17, 2008 Pat rated it it was ok
Alright, I began reading this in my last semester and made it half way through. It is so amazingly complicated and complex it is unreadable. The subject matter is fantastic, but the actual writing makes it so structurally ridiculous and the diction used is that of a doctor of Anthropology.
Rahmina Hamsuri
Nov 21, 2007 Rahmina Hamsuri rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves Antrophology
Moving forward on communities surrounding by less of forest resources. Giving most important and original communities in ethnografis aspects, strong characteristically. From Local to Global, From Global to Local

Anna, thanks for an hour discussion on Berkeley last time.
Apr 09, 2012 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Read this with "In the Realm of the Diamond Queen;" it provides a profound portrait of change and the dynamics of globalization.
Aug 10, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it
Great book to read while in Indonesia. Riddled with moments of brilliance, new ways of seeing things, and deep historical understandings of this country. Sangat impressed.
Feb 11, 2012 Crista added it
This book lacks a good editor, but the substance is there, though it asks for a lot of patience and attention to see it.
Feb 04, 2008 sarah rated it it was amazing
really great project that combines globalization theory with first hand accounts, interviews, ethnographic research
Sep 11, 2012 Jeanette rated it really liked it
Interesting read about the problems of globalization and the friction that is created by it. Dense reading but worth the challenge if globalization/ anthropology/ ethnography are of interest to you.
Mitt.ayd rated it really liked it
Jul 10, 2013
Carlee Draper
Carlee Draper rated it it was ok
Mar 01, 2015
Kristen rated it liked it
Nov 19, 2013
eseki rated it it was amazing
Feb 24, 2009
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