Jessi's Reviews > Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy

Dancing in the Streets by Barbara Ehrenreich
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's review
Jun 29, 2008

it was ok
Recommended for: people who are too cool to dance
Read in July, 2008

i liked the concept, i agreed with many of her argumentsbut could not deal with it's half-assed research and academic posturing. there were all kinds of research problems, logical fallacies, and an almost gratuitous use of the word "masking", but my one major bugaboo, which completely drove me up a wall through the entire book was her frequently bashing of anthropologists for using words she felt were derogatory, without actually bothering to *understand the definitions of the words*.

specifically, liminal does indeed mean "marginal," but not in the sense of "unimportant"; rather, it's more literally "in the margins," or outside the boundaries of clear societal definition. calling something liminal is not to dismiss it as unimportant, but rather to say it exists in an in between, non-definable cultural realm which is typically afforded great significance, power, and respect, and as such tends to make people uncomfortable. for example, menstrual periods, a period of engagement before a wedding, and pregnancy could be described by an anthropologist as "liminal", and surely one would not think they would be dismissing such things as unimportant.

this frequent misuse of the word led me to doubt the accuracy of many of her claims throughout; seeing as the book was pretty much a review of the literature on the subject (which i at least know to be woefully sub-par and poorly understood as far as anthropological writings are concerned) i was left feeling like i didn't come out with much in terms of actual knowledge. i still kind of liked the thing though, as the topic, and several of her observations on the matter, was good food for thought and conversation.
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