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December 30th, 2013

Reading List: Most-Read Sociology and Anthropology Book Reviews of 2013

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Blog Admin

December 30th, 2013

Reading List: Most-Read Sociology and Anthropology Book Reviews of 2013

1 comment

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Since launching in April 2012 we’ve published reviews of over 900 books from across the social sciences. Here are the top five most-read sociology and anthropology reviews from 2013, covering our relationships with media, race, and power. Thank you to all of our generous reviewers for their time and enthusiasm.

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Symbolic Power, Politics and Intellectuals: The Political Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu by David L. Swartz

Power is the central organizing principle of all social life, from culture and education to stratification and taste. And there is no more prominent name in the analysis of power than that of Pierre Bourdieu. In Symbolic Power, Politics, and Intellectuals, David L. Swartz delves into Bourdieu’s work to show how central – but often overlooked – power and politics are to an understanding of sociology. This book can be regarded as a superb piece of analysis, as well as a great read, and one which successfully sheds light on a neglected aspect of Bourdieu’s work, concludes Luke McDonagh.

In this new, highly readable book, David L. Swartz aims to highlight what he describes as the inherently political nature of Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology, something which he claims has been neglected in most studies of Bourdieu. According to Swartz, Bourdieu had a dual vision: first, he saw sociology as being a type of ‘scientific’ examination of power relations in society (something which he acknowledges has been well documented), and second, Bourdieu saw sociology as being a type of political engagement in itself, something which Swartz argues has been missed by a great deal of political sociologists and political scientists. In fact, Swartz argues that Bourdieu himself rejected the academic division between sociology, political sociology and political science, and Bourdieu’s own sociology does not neatly fit these categories. Read the full review…

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Our Racist Heart? An Exploration of Unconscious Prejudice in Everyday Life by Geoffrey Beattie

Few people today would admit to being a racist, or to making assumptions about individuals based on their skin colour, or on their gender, or social class. In this book, Geoffrey Beattie asks if prejudice is still a major part of our everyday lives. Beattie suggests that implicit biases based around race are not just found in small sections of our society, but that they also exist in the psyches of even the most liberal, educated and fair-minded of us. Eona Bell finds a convincing account of the importance of psychological research in understanding a phenomenon which has very real, and often devastating effects on the life chances of people in stigmatised social groups.

The publication of this book is certainly timely, given the findings of a recent report by the University and College Union, based on statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, which revealed the shockingly low representation of women and Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) people in professorial posts at UK universities. Significant gender and race pay gaps were also uncovered. While the existence of such inequality will come as no surprise to many, the raw figures are startling and have already prompted wider media debate around the issue. Read the full review…

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Racist Trademarks: Slavery, Orient, Colonialism and Commodity Culture by Malte Hinrichsen

bengiSince the beginning of commodity culture, products have been marketed with images reflecting racist concepts of otherness. Using the prominent examples of three companies – Uncle Ben’s, Sarotti and Banania – Malte Hinrichsen examines how racist trademark figures were established in the U.S., Germany and France and built on nation-specific processes of racial stereotyping. Bengi Bezirgan thinks this book might call the attention of anyone interested in various forms of racial exclusion.

Based on his award-winning dissertation, Malte Hinrichsen’s first book Racist Trademarks: Slavery, Orient, Colonialism and Commodity Culture is published as a part of the Racism Analysis research series on racial discrimination and its changing historical, ideological, and cultural patterns. As the name of the book suggests, Hinrichsen tracks the footprints of racist trademarks in advertising among different historical and contextual backgrounds. In order to indicate how racism and racial images are (re)produced and consumed within visual and discursive fields in commodity culture, the author examines Uncle Ben’s in the United States, Sarotti-Mohr in Germany, and Banania’s Tirailleur Sénégalais in France. Read the full review…

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Migration and New Media: Transnational Families and Polymedia by Mirca Madianou and Daniel Miller

The way in which transnational families maintain long-distance relationships has been revolutionised by the emergence of new media such as email, instant messaging, and social networking sites. Drawing on a long-term ethnographic study of prolonged separation between migrant mothers and their children who remain in the Philippines, this book discusses the impact of new media on the nature of mediated relationships. It brings together the perspectives of both the mothers and children and seeks to show how the very nature of family relationships is changing. Nicole Shephard recommends Migration and New Media to academic audiences concerned with issues as diverse as migration, motherhood, and technology.

How do transnational families draw on new media to care for each other? As Mark Poster (in Into the Universe of Technical Images; p. ix) has pointed out, the “immense implication of the dramatic spread of media in everyday life is beginning to dawn on most of us. Yet much remains to be done in theorising information media and studying it empirically”. In Migration and New Media: Transnational Families and Polymedia, Mirca Madianou and Daniel Miller go a long way towards both; contributing original empirical research on use of digital media in everyday transnational life, as well as convincingly theorising mediated relationships. Read the full review…

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German Europe by Ulrich Beck

Germany’s power relative to other European states has grown as a result of the Eurozone crisis. Ulrich Beck’s latest book asks whether the country’s dominant position within the European Union means that we’re now living in a German Europe. Professor of Sociology William Outhwaite finds Beck’s book to be rich in ideas, but questions whether the responsibility for austerity policies should be specifically ascribed to Germany.

The most controversial thing in this short but important book is the title and the argument elaborated in chapter  2: ‘Europe’s New Power Coordinates: The Path to a German Europe’. The rest of the book is short enough not to require summary, yet sufficiently rich in ideas to make such a summary difficult.

There can be little doubt that Beck has the right conceptual tools to analyse the current EU crisis: risk society, globalisation (these two combined in world risk society), cosmopolitanism, sub-politics and so on. He neatly wields these concepts in his diagnosis and prescription for Europe. His critique of austerity policies is a familiar one and his plea for a social (and social democratic) contract for a peoples’ Europe as opposed to a bureaucratic one is also fairly uncontroversial. Read the full review….

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