Book Roast

The Truth Behind Migrant Workers: an Anthropologist’s Perspsective

Ioulia FentonBOOK REVIEW

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Workers in the United StatesUniversity of California Press

This week, INESAD’s Ioulia Fenton published a book review on the popular anthropology blog PopAnth of a gripping new anthropological book entitled Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies:

As I began my journey to becoming an anthropologist, one of the first pieces of wisdom shared with me by a professor was: “Be prepared, because you will spend a lot of time explaining what it is that you do.” And this has generally been the case as most people struggle to visualize the daily life of an anthropologist. While some have a vague idea that anthropology is an academic discipline requiring fieldwork, most fall back on popular stereotypes presented in the media: “So, are you basically like Indiana Jones?” a business student asked me.

While this kind of generalisation may upset some anthropologists, it does reveal a certain basic truth: anthropologists do have a special sense of adventure for venturing into the unknown, facing the feared, and discovering treasures of knowledge to bring to the world.

However, most anthropologists would stop short of putting themselves in mortal danger, except for the hardy few who would halt at nothing to get to their truths. Seth Holmes, Associate Professor of Medical Anthropology and Public Health at University of California Berkeley, is one such Indiana Jones type and his latest book “Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States” is a gripping tail of danger, social oppression, struggle, and resistance. Read More »

Be The Change You Want To See: From Environmental Depression to Inspired Action in Six Books

I tend to get pretty down after reading many economic, international development and environmental books—factual, fiction or otherwise. If you do not know what I mean, I highly recommend reading Daniel Quinn’s 1992 novel Ishmael. Set up as a conversation between a teacher and student, where the former happens to be a hyper-intelligent, talking gorilla, the book slowly takes the reader through environmental philosophy on how we have managed to get ourselves into the present day environmental mess. Read More »

Book Roast: The Cartoon Introduction to Economics

“What’s the difference between a recession and a depression,” asks a member of the public. “A recession is when you lose your job; a depression is when I lose mine,” replies an economist.

This is just one of numerous little jokettes that colour the pages of The Cartoon Introduction to Economics—a brilliant must-have for any student or teacher of economics or, indeed, anyone else interested in getting to know or simply recapping on the basics of a field that is currently positioned at the center of local, national and global decision-making. Read More »

Book Roast: Ecoliterate—A Book Of Inspiration for Practical Action

One of the hardest things to do for anyone interested in issues of environmental sustainability is to translate ideas and complaints into practical, positive, change-making action. For those who try to teach the next generation of environmental and social leaders in schools, in communities, or even online, this is even more important—merely talking about problems is likely to inspire only the students’ depression and frustration at lack of solutions. Luckily, Ecoliterate, a new book by psychologist Daniel Goleman and Lisa Bennett and Zenobia Barlow of the Center of Ecoliteracy—an organization that supports and advances education for sustainable living—is a deep well of ideas for those seeking inspiration.

Read More »

Book Roast: “Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know”

In this 2010 book Robert Paarlberg takes a Q & A approach to a broad set of food and agriculture topics, covering aid and trade, obesity and famine, organic farming and genetically engineered (GE) organisms, and the food system’s effects on health and environment, among others. The work is a self-proclaimed attempt at “rebalancing some debates around food and farming” for “an aware audience of non-specialists.” And on the whole, its strength lies in its accessible style and the common myths it dispels: how buying local produce, for example, is not necessarily more environmentally friendly or the fact that global market food prices do not automatically increase local consumer costs.

For all its breadth, however, the book is beset by problems. Read More »

Book Roast: “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made us Human”

Meat made us smarter! At least that is what the mainstream explanation has been for the development of larger brains in humans and our subsequent distancing from other earthly life-forms and eventual domination over our planet.  This is posited to have happened because through eating meat humans were able to consume a lot more calories than the traditional raw plant-based diets of early gathering societies. This, in turn, allowed for our stomachs to shrink as ‘we didn’t need a giant vegetable processor anymore’ (a sort of evolutionary, natural and slow equivalent of today’s stomach stapling) that allowed for more energy to be channelled to building other organs such as the brain. The brain, incidentally, uses an incredible 20 times the amount of energy as typical muscle mass. Real food for thought for those trying to diet, but I digress. Arguably, meat eating also meant that less time could be spent gathering and more time thinking up new and crafty ways to catch pray such as sharpening spears and rock-launching devices. Increasing presence of meat in the human diet from roughly 1.5 million years agois, thus, said to have set in motion the final stage of human evolution to bigger-brained, smarter creatures. Read More »


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