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Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection
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Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  278 ratings  ·  30 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
Paperback, 344 pages
Published November 28th 2004 by Princeton University Press (first published November 8th 2004)
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Dec 05, 2008 Naeem rated it 3 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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.
Liz (The Bookish Liz)
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.
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 17, 2013 Dagezi rated it 2 of 5 stars
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
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
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.
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
for school. rainforest conservationist and transnationalism globalization.
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.
Nina Haerter
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
I read this towards the end of the semester so I didn't really finish it thought I look forward to going back to read it at some point. I liked the messiness of Tsing style the way she tries ( mostly successfully) to draw in all kinds of views and information to look at way environmental degradation in one remote part of Indonesia is tied to a range of national and global issues.
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!
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.
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 4 of 5 stars
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.
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.
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.
Read this with "In the Realm of the Diamond Queen;" it provides a profound portrait of change and the dynamics of globalization.
really great project that combines globalization theory with first hand accounts, interviews, ethnographic research
May 27, 2009 nell rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: anthro
The concept sounds fantastic. The writing is barely manageable.
one of the best books i read in college.
satu kata. HUFT
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