Book Beat: August 2000

Recent publications from CLAS faculty

On the Move: How and Why Animals Travel in Groups

On the Move: How and Why Animals Travel in GroupsSue Boinski, Department of Anthropology and Paul A. Garber
(University of Chicago, 2000)
Available through Amazon

Getting from here to there may be simple for one individual. But as any parent, scout leader, or CEO knows, herding a whole troop in one direction is a lot more complicated. Who leads the group? Who decides where the group will travel, and using what information? How do they accomplish these tasks?

On the Move addresses these questions, examining the social, cognitive, and ecological processes that underlie patterns and strategies of group travel. Chapters discuss how factors such as group size, resource distribution and availability, the costs of travel, predation, social cohesion, and cognitive skills affect how individuals as well as social groups exploit their environment. Most chapters focus on field studies of a wide range of human and nonhuman primate groups, from squirrel monkeys to Turkana pastoralists, but chapters covering group travel in hyenas, birds, dolphins, and bees provide a broad taxonomic perspective and offer new insights into comparative questions, such as whether primates are unique in their ability to coordinate group-level activities.

- Publisher

Passport Photos

Passport PhotosAmitava Kumar, Department of English
(University of California Press, 2000)
Available through Amazon

Passport Photos, a self-conscious act of artistic and intellectual forgery, is a report on the immigrant condition. Organized as a passport, this multi-genre book combines theory, poetry, cultural criticism, and photography, as it explores the complexities of the immigration experience, intervening in the impersonal language of the state. Passport Photos joins books by writers such as Edward Said and Trinh T. Minh-ha in the search for a new poetics and politics of diaspora. Seeking to link cultural, political, and aesthetic critiques, it weaves together issues as diverse as Indian fiction written in English, signs put up by the Border Patrol at the Tijuana border, ethnic restaurants in New York City, and the history of Indian indentureship in Trinidad.

- Publisher


If the immigration officer asks me a question—his voice, if he's speaking English, deliberately slow, and louder than usual—I do not, of course, expect him to be terribly concerned about the nature of language and its entanglement with the very roots of my being. And yet it is in language that all immigrants are defined and in which we all struggle for an identity. That is how I understand the postcolonial writer's declaration about the use of a language like English that came to us from the colonizer.

Those of us who do use English do so in spite of our ambiguity towards it, or perhaps because of that, perhaps because we can find in that linguistic struggle a reflection of other struggles taking place in the real world, struggles between the cultures within ourselves and the influences at work upon our societies. To conquer English may be to complete the process of making ourselves free.

Speaking With Vampires: Rumor and History in East and Central Africa

Speaking With Vampires: Rumor and History in East and Central Africa Luise White, Department of History
(University of California Press, 2000)
Available through Amazon

During the colonial period, Africans told each other terrifying rumors that Africans who worked for white colonists captured unwary residents and took their blood. In colonial Tanganyika, for example, Africans were said to be captured by these agents of colonialism and hung upside down, their throats cut so their blood drained into huge buckets. In Kampala, the police were said to abduct Africans and keep them in pits, where their blood was sucked. Luise White presents and interprets vampire stories from East and Central Africa as a way of understanding the world as the storytellers did. Using gossip and rumor as historical sources in their own right, she assesses the place of such evidence, oral and written, in historical reconstruction.

White conducted more than 130 interviews for this book and did research in Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia. In addition to presenting powerful, vivid stories that Africans told to describe colonial power, the book presents an original epistemological inquiry into the nature of historical truth and memory, and into their relationship to the writing of history.

- Amazon Review

"It took courage, determination, and a clear mind to make us see unexpected aspects of colonial history, not beneath, but through, stories of bloodsuckers and cannibals. Luise White's book convincingly demonstrates that these tales of the fantastic can be sources of history-writing, giving us access to realities that are ignored by those who uncritically accept the injunctions of scientific realism." (Johannes Fabian, author of Remembering the Present)

- Publisher

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