Faculty Books

In this powerful, compassionate work, one of anthropology’s most distinguished ethnographers weaves together rich fieldwork with a compelling critical analysis in a book that will surely make a signal contribution to contemporary thinking about violence and how it affects everyday life. Veena Das examines case studies including the extreme violence of the Partition of India in 1947 and the massacre of Sikhs in 1984 after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In a major departure from much anthropological inquiry, Das asks how this violence has entered “the recesses of the ordinary” instead of viewing it as an interruption of life to which we simply bear witness. Das engages with anthropological work on collective violence, rumor, sectarian conflict, new kinship, and state and bureaucracy as she embarks on a wide-ranging exploration of the relations among violence, gender, and subjectivity. Weaving anthropological and philosophical reflections on the ordinary into her analysis, Das points toward a new way of interpreting violence in societies and cultures around the globe. The book will be indispensable reading across disciplinary boundaries as we strive to better understand violence, especially as it is perpetrated against women.


The very form and reach of the modern state are changing radically under the pressure of globalization. Featuring nine of the leading scholars in the field, this innovative exploration of these transformations develops an ethnographic methodology and theoretical apparatus to assess perceptions of power in three regions where state reform and violence have been particularly dramatic: Africa, Latin America, and South Asia. Rather than a geographic border, the term “margin” describes areas far from the centers of state sovereignty in which states are unable to ensure implementation of their programs and policies. Understanding how people perceive and experience the agency of the state; who is of, and not of, the state; and how practices at the margins shape the state itself are central themes.

Drawing on fieldwork in Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Peru, Guatemala, India, Chad, Colombia, and South Africa, the contributors examine official documentary practices and their forms and falsifications; the problems that highly mobile mercenaries, currency, goods, arms, and diamonds pose to the state; emerging non-state regulatory authorities; and the role language plays as cultures struggle to articulate their situation. These case studies provide wide-ranging analyses of the relationship between states and peoples on the edges of state power’s effective reign.


How do race and nature work as terrains of power? From eighteenth-century claims that climate determined character to twentieth-century medical debates about the racial dimensions of genetic disease, concepts of race and nature are integrally connected, woven into notions of body, landscape, and nation. Yet rarely are these complex entanglements explored in relation to the contemporary cultural politics of difference. This volume takes up that challenge. Distinguished contributors chart the traffic between race and nature across sites including rainforests, colonies, and courtrooms.

Synthesizing a number of fields—anthropology, cultural studies, and critical race, feminist, and postcolonial theory—this collection analyzes diverse historical, cultural, and spatial locations. Contributors draw on thinkers such as Fanon, Foucault, and Gramsci to investigate themes ranging from exclusionary notions of whiteness and wilderness in North America to linguistic purity in Germany. Some essayists focus on the racialized violence of imperial rule and evolutionary science and the biopolitics of race and class in the Guatemalan civil war. Others examine how race and nature are fused in biogenetic discourse—in the emergence of “racial diseases” such as sickle cell anemia, in a case of mistaken in vitro fertilization in which a white couple gave birth to a black child, and even in the world of North American dog breeding. Several essays tackle the politics of representation surrounding environmental justice movements, transnational sex tourism, and indigenous struggles for land and resource rights in Indonesia and Brazil.


The cultures and politics of nations around the world may be understood (or misunderstood) in any number of ways. For the Arab world, language is the crucial link for a better understanding of both. Classical Arabic is the official language of all Arab states although it is not spoken as a mother tongue by any group of Arabs. As the language of the Qur’an, it is also considered to be sacred. For more than a century and a half, writers and institutions have been engaged in struggles to modernize Classical Arabic in order to render it into a language of contemporary life. What have been the achievements and failures of such attempts? Can Classical Arabic be sacred and contemporary at one and the same time? This book attempts to answer such questions through an interpretation of the role that language plays in shaping the relations between culture, politics, and religion in Egypt.


The essays in Violence and Subjectivity, written by a distinguished international roster of contributors, consider the ways in which violence shapes subjectivity and acts upon people’s capacity to engage everyday life. Like its predecessor volume, Social Suffering, which explored the different ways social force inflicts harm on individuals and groups, this collection ventures into many areas of ongoing violence, asking how people live with themselves and others when perpetrators, victims, and witnesses all come from the same social space.

From civil wars and ethnic riots to governmental and medical interventions at a more bureaucratic level, the authors address not only those extreme situations guaranteed to occupy precious media minutes but also the more subtle violences of science and state. However particular and circumscribed the site of any fieldwork may be, today’s ethnographer finds local identities and circumstances molded by state and transnational forces, including the media themselves. These authors contest a new political geography that divides the world into “violence-prone areas” and “peaceful areas” and suggest that such descriptions might themselves contribute to violence in the present global context.


Containing Charles Ferguson’s papers on Arabic linguistics, this volume addresses issues of continuing concern in phonology, syntax, historical linguistics, and sociolinguistics. The introduction provides a biographical sketch, including excerpts from interviews with Ferguson in which he discusses his career and dealings with Arabic. A critical overview precedes each of the four sections (Diachronica, Phonology, Register and Genre, and General). This work fills an important gap in the history of linguistics in documenting much of the career and contributions of a formative figure in American linguistics. In addition to updating Ferguson’s articles, the volume preserves Ferguson’s reflections on the events, personalities, relationships, and issues at the time he wrote the articles, as well as on subsequent developments. A unique and fascinating picture of a pioneer linguist.


Through an intensive examination of photographs and engravings from European, Peruvian, and U.S. archives, Deborah Poole explores the role visual images and technologies have played in shaping modern understandings of race. Vision, Race, and Modernity traces the subtle shifts that occurred in European and South American depictions of Andean Indians from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries, and explains how these shifts led to the modern concept of “racial difference.” While Andean peoples were always thought of as different by their European describers, it was not until the early nineteenth century that European artists and scientists became interested in developing a unique visual and typological language for describing their physical features. Poole suggests that this “scientific” or “biological” discourse of race cannot be understood outside a modern visual economy. Although the book specifically documents the depictions of Andean peoples, Poole’s findings apply to the entire colonized world of the nineteenth century.

Poole presents a wide range of images from operas, scientific expeditions, nationalist projects, and picturesque artists that both effectively elucidate her argument and contribute to an impressive history of photography. Vision, Race, and Modernity is a fascinating attempt to study the changing terrain of racial theory as part of a broader reorganization of vision in European society and culture.


Elaborating on the relations between classical and non-classical Arabic, this book is a contribution to Arabic linguistics, sociolinguistics and to studies of the role of gender in variation and change. Classical languages have played crucial roles in the cultural and intellectual life of many societies. While they have virtually disappeared from the linguistic repertoire of some, in others they continued to be a revered norm. In all Arabic-speaking speech communities, classical Arabic is the medium of education and writing, while non-classical varieties dominate the exchanges of daily life. The complex co-existence of these two languages raises many questions. From which Arabic do speakers draw linguistic form for purposes of style shifting? If speakers draw on the resources of both, what sociological and attitudinal factors influence their selections? Detailed analysis of a linguistic innovation of Cairo women of the upper classes confirms the central role played by gender and illustrates that the impasse of sociolinguistic theory with regard to the “linguistic behaviour” of women lies in its treatment of the social meanings of linguistic forms.


An examination of the cultural and historical dimensions of violence in Peru, of how daily forms of violence differ from political violence, and what it means for violence to be an integral part of personal and cultural identity rather than aberrant behaviour.