Posted at 10:30 AM Nov 25, 2009
By Andrea Grimes
Big nightmare: your doctoral dissertation becoming a bestseller, ultimately to be scrutinized within an inch of its life by nitpickers the world over with only a limited understanding of anthropology.
Bigger nightmare: your doctoral dissertation becoming a bestseller, ultimately to be scrutinized within an inch of its life by nitpickers
the world over with only a limited understanding of anthropology, and also you gave birth to the first black(ish) president of the United States and are now dead and no longer available to defend said dissertation.
If you have the bigger nightmare, you are Barack Obama's mom, S. Ann Dunham, who famously raised her son in Indonesia while she was doing her field research. According to Publisher's Weekly, Duke University Press will print a revised edition of Surviving Against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia. Masses, meet ethnography!
[Some bigshot] said that Duke University Press's anthropology list was focused on books about "how conventional foreign aid has not worked and how it should be rethought," and Dunham's book is a perfect fit for its program. He hailed the importance of Dunham's scholarly work in Indonesia--she spent nearly 15 years in the field--and called the book, "a forerunner of much of today's work on using direct micro-credits and small loans. The book is about what small villagers can do entrepreneurially to help themselves. Her message is very accessible: trust people in small villages to be able to do good things if they have resources."I can't wait to read it, and not just because I have a wannabe academic stake in it. (Ahemm.) Is Dunham a structuralist? A functionalist? To what extent is she present in her research? Will the book itself be overshadowed by the president and people's reactions to what (they think) it says about him?