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Cognitive Anthropology - The Life and Thoughts of Zach

Jan. 25th, 2004

09:27 pm - Cognitive Anthropology

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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 26th, 2004 06:05 pm (UTC)
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Have you read Always Coming Home. It's LeGuin's "Anthropology of the Future". The book is a collection of snippets: poetry, short stories, plays, ethnographic notes about customs and rituals and dances and the language and social organization. The snippets are all woven together by a 4 part narrative. The book describes a culture in a post-apocalyptic California future where society has restructured into a fairly utopian tribal style. But as with all her utopias, the structure is at it's breaking point as an agressive oppressive expansionist (essentially fascist) tribe from the north threatens to take over everything.

It's a fantastic book but very strange to read. You really can read it in any order (except the 4 part narrative should be read in order but the in between parts you can skip around and read out of order). I've read it several times and I don't think I've ever read it straight through. Very innovatively non-linear for a book written in the early 80s.

It's companion essay is "A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be" which was LeGuin's meditation on the "problem of utopia" (and an excellent survey of pre-1980s western utopian literature) in which she suggests a distinction between "hot" progress oriented utopias and "cold" sustainability oriented utopias. In a lot of ways this book was the first of the "new" kind of feminist-ecological utopias.
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From:aethyric
Date:January 26th, 2004 08:09 pm (UTC)
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not yet. got hung up on other stuff after TLHoD and the dispossessed for awhile. i keep getting smacked upside the head finding her books in random strange places (the poetry section, the kids' section). you got me wanting to read changing planes after the other day's post, too. i'll have to look into these, since i'm all enamoured with the things i've read so far.
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From:sarpo
Date:January 27th, 2004 06:15 pm (UTC)
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Great book. Did you take 'Utopia' with me at IMSA? I can't remember.

I flipped through your copy of Culture in Mind when I visited. The notes in the margins completely looked like my friend (who's a cognitive science student with degrees in linguistics and symbolic systems)'s handwriting - and I thought it would have been crazy whacked if that had been her book previously. But, she doesn't remember reading it, so probably not.

It's too bad she didn't come down with me - you guys would have loved discussing this kind of stuff.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 27th, 2004 06:22 pm (UTC)
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Yes! Utopia totally hooked me on LeGuin. That conversation we had about "A Non-Euclidean View of California as a Cold Place to Be" crystalized a huge number of understandings in my head.

Since then I've managed to read every single novel that LeGuin has written. There's just a few short stories and childrens books that I haven't tracked down yet. I'm really as obsessed with her as I am with Linguistics.

I'm glad my bathroom gave you SOME goodness.

You'll have to introduce me to your friends when I come visit some day. Or bring them when you come paint my house.
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