Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “Rappaccini’s Daughter” is a nineteenth-century moral fable that sets the fruits of experimental knowledge against obligations to humanity, and stages a dramatic encounter between these two apparent goods. In many ways, the moral it offers seems familiar, and could be recognized by anyone with even a passing familiarity with contemporary bioethical debates. It features a mad scientist’s …
Author Archives: Leo Coleman
Material as opposed to what? Three recent ethnographies of welfare, biological labor, and human dignity
Catherine Fennell. Last Project Standing: Civics and Sympathy in Post-Welfare Chicago. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.
Kalinda Vora. Life Support: Biocapital and the New History of Outsourced Labor. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.
Gaymon Bennett. Technicians of Human Dignity: Bodies, Souls, and the Making of Human Dignity. New York: Fordham University Press, 2016
A new …
Why to Read Winnicott after the US Election, and How
Commentary and speculation after this election have focused on voters’ motives and emotional states, and, especially in the day or two after the result, why experts didn’t know in advance how this would turn out. Why did public opinion polling skew the way it did? What does this teach us about voting and its psychological and social dimensions? These questions …
Descombes’ The Institutions of Meaning
The Institutions of Meaning: A Defense of Anthropological Holism
translated by Stephen Adam Schwartz. Harvard University Press, 2014. 392 pp.
How is what is “in” our minds, as thought, also something that we share, communicate, and can understand? This question, however posed, must be fundamental for any anthropological approach to mental life. In the course of …
Universes of Kinship
Translated by Nora Scott. London: Verso. 615pp. + index. US$49.95 / £30.00 (hardcover)
Maurice Godelier opens his magisterial tour of the “universe of kinship” with the observation that formal anthropological kinship theory has long been left for dead. What follows is a dazzling analysis that revisits ethnographic data on marriage, descent, siblinghood, …
From Honey to Ashes: The Intellectual Journeys of Levi-Strauss
Review of Claude Levi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory, by Patrick Wilcken.
The Penguin Press, 2010. 416 pages. $29.95 (hardcover).
Leo Coleman (The Ohio State University)
At a wedding I recently attended, one of the toasts included reference to a set of life-resolutions the bride had made with her high-school friends: To travel abroad, to learn another language, and …