What I'm reading

Academic texts I have known and loved

I have a habit of telling everybody what I’m reading online, but not so much about what I’m reading for research. Here is a short list of books and papers that I’ve come across over the last ten years and that I consider to be personal landmarks for one reason or another.

Looking back over the list, I’m almost disappointed in myself. If I was really out to impress others I would have added lots of monumental tomes staking out various important paradigm shifts and intellectual turns and been more attentive to diversity.

But that wasn’t the aim of the exercise. Texts are listed here because the authors have influenced my thinking in some way, or presented a Big Idea that has captured my imagination, or they may simply have an engaging writing style that has sucked me in despite making poor arguments for which I have decided to forgive them.

These are all the works that I can think of off the top of my head. I will update this post as I think of more.


Theory and method

Proust, Marcel. 1904. “La mort des cathédrales [The death of cathedrals].” Le Figaro, 16 August. (This descends into an uninteresting political rant, but the image of the reenacted Mass is haunting and it churns up all my contradictory feelings about cultural revitalisation)

Deloria Jnr, Vine. [1969] 1988. Anthropologists and other friends. In Custer died for your sins: An Indian manifesto. New York: Macmillan.

Geertz, Clifford. 1973. The interpretation of cultures: Selected essays. New York: Basic Books.

Ortner, Sherry B. 2006. Anthropology and social theory: Culture, power, and the acting subject. Durham & London: Duke University Press. (A boring book name for an exhilirating collection. Chapter one: ‘Reading America: Preliminary Notes on Class and Culture’ pairs really well with Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Fleishman is in trouble)

Robbins, Joel. 2013. “Beyond the suffering subject: Toward an anthropology of the good.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 19 (3):447-462.


Collins, David. [1788-1801] 1900. An account of the English colony in New South Wales. Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin, N.Z.; Melbourne and London: Whitcombe and Tombs Limited.

Cook, James. [1770-1771] 1821. The three voyages of Captain James Cook round the world. Vol 2. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown.

Leach, E. R. [1954] 1970. Political systems of highland Burma: A study of Kachin social structure. London: The Athlone Press.

Lander, Christian. 2008. Stuff white people like: A definitive guide to the unique taste of millions. New York: Random House.

Oppermann, Thiago C. 2015. Fake it until you make it: Searching for mimesis in Buka Village politics. Oceania, 85(2), 199-218.

Sarró, Ramon. 2020. “How to do things with secrets: Secrecy and historical imagination among the Baga of Guinea.” Ethnos:1-15.

Stasch, R. 2009. Society of Others: Kinship and mourning in a West Papuan place. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Tsing, Anna. 1993. In the realm of the diamond queen: Marginality in an out-of-the-way place. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Anderson, Benedict. 1972. “The idea of power in Javanese culture.” In Culture and politics in Indonesia, edited by Claire Holt, Benedict Anderson and James Siegel. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

Anderson, Benedict. [1983] 2003. Imagined communities: Reflections on the origins and spread of nationalism. Pasig City: Anvil Publishing.

Clendinnen, Inga. [2003] 2005. Dancing with strangers. Melbourne: Text Publishing.

Dening, Greg. 1996. Performances. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Haicheng, Wang. 2014. Writing and the ancient state: Early China in comparative perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Harrison, Rodney 2006. “An artefact of colonial desire? Kimberley Points and the technologies of enchantment.” Current Anthropology 47 (1):63-88. doi: 10.1086/497673.

Hemley, Robin. 2004. Invented Eden: The elusive, disputed history of the Tasaday. Pasig City: Anvil Publishing.

Hobsbawm, Eric, and Terence Ranger, eds. 1983. The invention of tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hokari, Minoru. 2011. Gurindji journey: A Japanese historian in the outback. Sydney: UNSW Press.

Sahlins, Marshall. 2012. “Alterity and autochthony: Austronesian cosmographies of the marvelous.” Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 2 (1):131-160.

Scott, James C. 2009. The art of not being governed: An anarchist history of Upland Southeast Asia. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Sturtevant, David R. 1976. Popular uprisings in the Philippines, 1840–1940. New York: Cornell University Press.

Thomas, Megan C. 2012. Orientalists, propagandists and ilustrados: Filipino scholarship and the end of Spanish colonialism. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.

Linguistics, linguistic anthropology, anthropology of literacy

Blommaert, Jan. 2013. Writing as a sociolinguistic object. Journal of Sociolinguistics. 1-19.

Hanks, William F. 2010. Converting words: Maya in the age of the cross. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Fleming, Luke. 2017. “Artificial language, natural history: Speech, sign, and sound in the emergence of Damin.” Language & Communication 56:1-18.

Gal, Susan, and Judith T Irvine. 1995. “The boundaries of languages and disciplines: How ideologies construct difference.” Social research 62 (4):967-1001.

Houston, Stephen D. 2004. “The archaeology of communication technologies.” Annual review of anthropology:223-250.

Kulick, Don, and Christopher Stroud. 1993. “The incorporation of literacy into the communicative repertoire.” In Cross-cultural approaches to literacy, edited by Brian Street, 30-61. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press.

Postill, John. 2003. “Knowledge, literacy and media among the Iban of Sarawak. A reply to Maurice Bloch.” Social Anthropology 11 (1):79-99

Smalley, William A., Chia Koua Vang, and Gnia Yee Yang. 1990. Mother of writing: The origin and development of a Hmong messianic script. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Street, Brian. 1984. Literacy in theory and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Street, Brian. 1993. “Introduction: The new literacy studies.” In Cross-cultural approaches to literacy, edited by Brian Street, 1-21. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press.

Thomason, Sarah. 2007. “Language contact and deliberate change.” Journal of Language Contact, Thema I I (I):41-62.

Veselinova, Ljuba 2003. Suppletion in verb paradigms: Bits and pieces of a puzzle. Doctoral dissertation, Linguistics, Stockholm University, Stockholm.

Wray, Alison, and George W Grace. 2007. “The consequences of talking to strangers: Evolutionary corollaries of socio-cultural influences on linguistic form.” Lingua 117 (3):543-578.

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One thought on “Academic texts I have known and loved

  1. Pingback: Thoughts on ‘proto-writing’ in the Upper Palaeolithic | Brave new words

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