For all you would-be philosophers out there, I'm willing to bet you'll find this a fascinating read. For those of you in the social sciences, best ski...moreFor all you would-be philosophers out there, I'm willing to bet you'll find this a fascinating read. For those of you in the social sciences, best skip this one (I'll get to that in a second). Robert Wright is an author who, for his past several books anyway, has taken on the notion of "if God exists, who is he? And how do we know?". While this might sound like a rehash of every 'existence of God' argument you've heard before, it isn't quite in the way you might be expecting.
Using everything from anthropology and sociology to ethnography and history, Wright makes his case for God in a somewhat interesting but problematic way. His thesis is that cultural evolution, much like biological evolution, is a human process governed by laws (complex laws we haven't yet fully unraveled). In the same way that elements can, and do, change from liquids to solids under certain circumstances(the Phase Argument), cultures and societies have evolutionary processes that are immutable, and are simply part of the way the universe works (for those of you familiar with Structuralism, you will have heard this before). It is in these immutable laws of the universe (things that are simply the way they are because that is the way they work, and nothing can or will ever change that (think: water becomes ice at a certain temperature, and always will)) that we find God. God is the architecture on which all things are built. It's an interesting line of thought to trace in the ways in which he does it, but again, if you are particularly savvy to the anthropological lens and current theories of culture, Wright's arguments will get very frustrating very quickly. His links between his deep cosmological structure and culture don't quite work out and, unfortunately, will leave many hanging.
However, if you are interested in the idea that the God of humanity (religion having evolved because it suited our survivability) and the God of nature (the architecture of the universe) coexist in a particular kind of semi-Structuralist thought experiment, give this one a try and see how you feel about it.(less)
As a general philosophy book in what I would call the "popular science" genre, I actually really enjoyed this. It read something like a personal, inte...moreAs a general philosophy book in what I would call the "popular science" genre, I actually really enjoyed this. It read something like a personal, internal, monologue but one that covered the broad brush-strokes of the Ontological Argument (in its multiple variations), cosmological science, and general philosophy. My advice? If existential musings annoy you, do not read this, however, if you enjoy pondering critical thought experiments and can tolerate the short-comings of a slew of modern theorists you'll enjoy this one.(less)
I've read this book more times than I can count and I continue to read a chapter or two here and there when I get the chance. I truly enjoy Feder's ab...moreI've read this book more times than I can count and I continue to read a chapter or two here and there when I get the chance. I truly enjoy Feder's ability to take pseudo-archaeology to task and fully admit that this reveals a bit of schadenfreude on my part that most likely stems from from having heard an endless list of crackpot theories myself through much of my collegiate career in Anthropology. He addresses many of the most popular pseudo-science myths (from aliens, to Atlantis, to the discovery of America) and promptly debunks them with careful research and solid archaeology. Honestly, this is a breath of fresh air after facing so many comments of "but the elitist scientific community just won't listen!". But it isn't all about "taking the magic out of everything". Read the last chapter for his description of several real archaeological mysteries. There is more "magic" in the truth, than any over-wrought falsehood could ever have and Feder's passion for his work is evident in his writing.(less)
To be honest, I had trouble with this book. For at least the first 3/4 of the memoir, I seriously disliked the narrator. While it is clear that Howard...moreTo be honest, I had trouble with this book. For at least the first 3/4 of the memoir, I seriously disliked the narrator. While it is clear that Howard Dully had a traumatic and inexcusable thing done to him, his voice is a hard one to sympathize with. His descriptions of his childhood events, including a good degree of trouble he got himself into, often overuses the phrase "I got bored and then I....". We can't tell what the lobotomy truly did to Howard, because at the age of 12, who knows what he would have been like without it. But I can say that I was often torn between wondering if the narrator was simply operating the best he could from the brain damage from the procedure or if he was just profoundly un-self aware (maybe both?). I can't tell if he gets himself into stupid situations because he's a stupid teenager, or because he's impaired socially and introspectively.
I did, however, find his inclusion of the lobotomist's original notes very interesting. If nothing else, this book is a good look into a medical practice so stunningly blind and inherently vicious as to be compared to Nazi experiments under the eye of Mengele.(less)
I got a hold of this book shortly after it was published. My step-father is the soldier discussed at length in Chapter 4, so I have an intimate connec...moreI got a hold of this book shortly after it was published. My step-father is the soldier discussed at length in Chapter 4, so I have an intimate connection with this book and the stories it tells. A great read if you like war history.(less)
Alright, I admit it, this book was a complete guilty pleasure. I read it as a teenager and as a deeply repressed 15 year old girl I fell in love with...moreAlright, I admit it, this book was a complete guilty pleasure. I read it as a teenager and as a deeply repressed 15 year old girl I fell in love with it. Then again, I generally seem to have a thing for the dark hero type. The best part of this book for me really was the expansion of Erik's (the Phantom) character with the good sense to leave larger parts of his motivations unspoken. This is a lot, seeing that, as a general rule, I despise romance novels as such.(less)
This book is about queer religious lives. As an ethnography of men in the Christian ex-gay movement, Erzen’s work describes the complex and seemingly...moreThis book is about queer religious lives. As an ethnography of men in the Christian ex-gay movement, Erzen’s work describes the complex and seemingly contradictory tensions that exist between Western homosexual identities and conservative American Christianity. In doing so, Erzen introduces a wide variety of men, from those who converted to Christianity and adopted ex-gay causes to those who were raised in conservative households who have endured long-term struggles with same-sex desires. Moreover, these tensions help support the principle thesis of this work: that the men of the ex-gay movement, at least those at New Hope Ministry and others who live in similar kinds of residential ex-gay programs, are queer. They are queer, not just as a matter of sexual orientation, but in the way that they are caught in an ambiguous space between revulsion and pity by gay rights activists and progressive Christians and hatred and exclusion by Christian fundamentalists and conservatives. The identities of ex-gays are perpetually in flux. Yet, at the same time, the ex-gay individuals in Erzen’s account construct a new kind of ex-gay identity. This ethnography also works to demonstrate that black-and-white worldviews, particularly views of sexuality and religion, are often too simplistic and in seeking not to take any particular side, she instead asks why these men find it so important to navigate their desire for religious inclusion and their desire for same-sex relationships through ex-gay frameworks. During her time with New Hope, Erzen meets numerous men who come "with the objective of healing their homosexuality, controlling sexual compulsions, becoming heterosexual, or even marrying someone of the opposite sex" (p. 2). But through participant-observation and her personal relationships with several residents, she comes to conclude that the longed-for complete transformation from homosexual to heterosexual does not happen for those who come to ex-gay ministries. However, change still does occur, not in a move away from same-sex desires (or even behavior in some cases), but rather in a kind of religious transformation. Though most of the men reject the idea of an essential homosexual identity and instead frame their same-sex desires in terms of their feelings or their behaviors, what Erzen’s participants tend to have in common is a sense of being damaged or broken in a way that they seek to heal spiritually. This “woundedness” is then combined with a religious worldview that dictates that positive and morally-correct sexuality only exists inside of married heterosexual relationships. Like coming-out narratives, the religious conversion narratives of the New Hope participants index a troubled time of personal crisis where a process of personal healing and sexual awareness becomes paramount. However, it is a New Hope participant's born-again relationship with Jesus that is the primary way in which they measure their progress. This subjective progress often comes about through activities that help the men "rebuild masculinity”, usually though ritualized gender-performance activities (like sports and camping) that do not always correspond to residents’ own ideas of gender transformation. The ultimate idealized goal for many men in the program is heterosexual marriage, but many New Hope participants come to realize this is not a realistic goal, striving instead for a sense of belonging they have so often lacked. Some participants even remain affiliated with New Hope in the long term, serving as counselors or leaders years later. Erzen concludes hoping that a diversity of sexual identities, including ex-gay identities, might one day become part of a more inclusive culture. While Erzen seeks to further our understanding of queer religious lives in contemporary American culture she also demonstrates how the lives of individuals in ex-gay ministries subvert the larger political goals of the ex-gay movement, particularly regarding rigid religious ideals of masculinity and femininity or in cases where the idea of homosexuality as an "addiction” is rejected. In opposition to the larger ex-gay movement's language of total healing from homosexuality to heterosexuality, ex-gay individuals continue to queer conversations about the nature of sexual and religious change. Thus, these personal transformations are not always so easily translated into monolithic political causes. (less)
For anyone who enjoys the "do animals have culture" debate, this book focuses largely on whether or not certain aspects of primate behavior fit the an...moreFor anyone who enjoys the "do animals have culture" debate, this book focuses largely on whether or not certain aspects of primate behavior fit the anthropologic definitions of culture. On a deeper level, de Waal aims to challenge our perceptions of ourselves by attacking the human desire to see ourselves as "above the beasts". He does so by demonstrating that our distinctions of nature vs. culture often do not hold up (a typical and not unworthy pursuit in anthropological inquiry). So if you are interested in checking out more about the "cultural lens" in terms of the animal kingdom, give it shot.(less)
If you can get a copy of this book. Do it! This book may also have been partially responsible for my decision to go into Anthropology....a decision I...moreIf you can get a copy of this book. Do it! This book may also have been partially responsible for my decision to go into Anthropology....a decision I made after reading it in the 5th grade (but I make no concrete claims).(less)
This book was one of the cornerstone's of my coursework in religious anthropology. Aside from simply being a good read, this book has often sparked th...moreThis book was one of the cornerstone's of my coursework in religious anthropology. Aside from simply being a good read, this book has often sparked the discussion of how biased a social scientist can (and must acknowledge that he is) be. Stoller's take on ethnography is a very deeply invested one (he becomes intimately involved in the culture he is studying) and one can't help but consider whether or not he is the "outsider looking in" or whether he crosses that line to become "the insider looking out". I make no judgement here about which is the better, but the importance of it is that the reader bear this in mind when considering the book.(less)
I'm adding this book because I read it as a part of my undergradute anthropological coursework. Ironically, the course it was assigned for was not tau...moreI'm adding this book because I read it as a part of my undergradute anthropological coursework. Ironically, the course it was assigned for was not taught by an anthropologist (it was taught by a botanist).
The best I can offer you, unfortunately, in terms of this work can be found here:
I swear this book scarred me for life, having read it for the first time around the age of 16. Not only I am continually fascinated by the underlying...moreI swear this book scarred me for life, having read it for the first time around the age of 16. Not only I am continually fascinated by the underlying parallels this book, and my science fiction books, draws with the rise of religious fundamentalism and the oppression of women as a "biological necessity" but I am also loathe to forget the prescient warnings of "those who are first to fall" to the desperation that we must "preserve culture". Our own cultural 'canaries in a coal mine'. Afterwards you'll probably need a good stiff drink, though.(less)