Review: Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection by Anna Tsing

In her book Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection, Anna Tsing utilizes Arjun Appadurai’s framework on Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy and his theory on “scapes” to inform her own work in discussing “friction”. Appadurai’s work provides an analytical structure through which to understand the global imagined landscapes that show the fluidity of a cultural state.

Tsing uses the term “friction” as a metaphor to describe the differences that arise and make up the contemporary world in a political, social, and economic regard. In doing so, Tsing aims to answer questions about global connectedness. For her main argument she uses her fieldwork in Indonesia’s rain forest industry and its environmental and political engagement during the 1980’s and 1990’s as an example. She seeks to answer the questions of “Why is global capitalism so messy? Who speaks for nature? And what kinds of social justice makes sense in the twenty-first century?” (p. 2) These questions are answered through a series of chapters that are named around what Tsing considers metaphors for universals truths: Prosperity, Knowledge, and Freedom, along with seven subchapters arranged within each section to reinforce her points.

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Review: My Cocaine Museum by Michael Taussig

Michael Taussig’s book, My Cocaine Museum, is an experimental text that seeks to explore the “imagined realities” of the cocaine industry in Colombia. Opening with a history of Colombia’s gold industry and its similarities to the cocaine trade, Taussig presents his readers with a “human history as natural history”, stressing the historical and symbolic likenesses between gold and cocaine production. Written in a non-traditional style of ethnographic writing that reads like a fictional narrative, misgivings arise through the course of the text if it is viewed through a strictly traditional lens. Although the majority of the book adheres to a distinct framework in its literal style, at times its linearity becomes hard to follow as Taussig goes back and forth between gold’s significance, cocaine’s relation to gold, and anecdotal stories told by Colombian informants who often seem to serve more as decorative enhancements to Taussig’s main points of cocaine and Colombian history than first-hand sources of information.

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