Dominic Pettman Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing has just published a brilliant book on the global trade in a certain kind of mushroom. Each spreads through aspirations to fulfill universal dreams and schemes. And so she focuses on what she calls zones of awkward engagement or cultural friction. It is not a question of preferring the local, the different, the marginal or the specific to the abstract, the global or the universal. In that sense this is not postcolonial theory. But on the other hand, this is not one of those approaches, Marxist for example, where the totality is the first and last cause of what happens in local situations.
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Reviews 3 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. In response, environmental movements arose to defend the rainforests and the communities of people who live in them. The book also proposes a highly original perspective of the global thrust of capital.
For an Indonesian reader, her work is a gift; it hints at the feasibility of hope—or at least the mingling of despair and hope. For a thinking activist, it suggests a fresh theory of action. One of the most important books in anthropology to appear in the past decade, it defines a field rather than simply fitting into one. This is the first sustained ethnography by a major anthropologist of Indonesia to address the post-Soeharto period.
For those of us now attempting to come to terms with a strange political landscape of instability, Tsing offers both illuminating insight and useful tools. Ethnographically rigorous, brilliantly perceptive, and passionately engaged, this is the kind of writing we would all like to be able to produce. One of the many enjoyable aspects of Friction is its continuation of the story Tsing introduced in her previous book, of the original and creative program of scholarship she is famously known for.
This will be a much-discussed contribution to the anthropology of cosmopolitanism and transnational interconnection.
Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection
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 Anna Tsing here develops friction in its place as a metaphor for the diverse and conflicting social interactions that make up our contemporary world. She focuses on one particular "zone of awkward engagement"--the rainforests of Indonesia--where in the s and the s capitalist interests increasingly reshaped the landscape not so much through corporate design as through awkward chains of legal and illegal entrepreneurs that wrested the land from previous claimants, creating resources for distant markets. In response, environmental movements arose to defend the rainforests and the communities of people who live in them.
Review: Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection by Anna Tsing
In doing so, Tsing aims to answer questions about global connectedness. Who speaks for nature? And what kinds of social justice makes sense in the twenty-first century? These universals are challenged by Tsing as she believes globalization is not about homogenizing the world but instead understanding that we are actually NOT all the same. And thus it is necessary to begin again, and again, in the middle of things.