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An Ethnography of Global Connection
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

Co-Winner of the 2005 Senior Book Prize, American Ethnological Association

Paperback | 2004 | $35.00 | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691120652
344 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 3 halftones. 2 line illus.
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A wheel turns because of its encounter with the surface of the road; spinning in the air it goes nowhere. Rubbing two sticks together produces heat and light; one stick alone is just a stick. In both cases, it is friction that produces movement, action, effect. Challenging the widespread view that globalization invariably signifies a "clash" of cultures, anthropologist Anna Tsing here develops friction in its place as a metaphor for the diverse and conflicting social interactions that make up our contemporary world.

She focuses on one particular "zone of awkward engagement"--the rainforests of Indonesia--where in the 1980s and the 1990s capitalist interests increasingly reshaped the landscape not so much through corporate design as through awkward chains of legal and illegal entrepreneurs that wrested the land from previous claimants, creating resources for distant markets. In response, environmental movements arose to defend the rainforests and the communities of people who live in them. Not confined to a village, a province, or a nation, the social drama of the Indonesian rainforest includes local and national environmentalists, international science, North American investors, advocates for Brazilian rubber tappers, UN funding agencies, mountaineers, village elders, and urban students, among others--all combining in unpredictable, messy misunderstandings, but misunderstandings that sometimes work out.

Providing a portfolio of methods to study global interconnections, Tsing shows how curious and creative cultural differences are in the grip of worldly encounter, and how much is overlooked in contemporary theories of the global.


"Friction is an original, nuanced, and elegant work of ethnography and a significant contribution to the areas of globalization; environment and natural resource wars; the politics of indigenous peoples, NGOs, and development; and the sociology of expert versus local knowledge."--Michael Goldman, American Journal of Sociology

"By providing generous anecdotes and personal reflections amid more complex, insightful political commentary and social theory, [Tsing] achieves a writing style that is both pleasurable and informative."--Laura L B Graham, Environment & Planning


"Friction is not only an engrossing display of ethnographic reports on the destruction of Kalimantan forests and local attempts to resist it. The book also proposes a highly original perspective of the global thrust of capital. Anna Tsing is at best when she describes the way capital produces an expanding 'frontier culture': a dense and murky story of fragments and fluidity, of hurdles and clashes that disrupt the neo-liberal theater of clarity. For an Indonesian reader, her work is a gift; it hints at the feasibility of hope--or at least the mingling of despair and hope. For a thinking activist, it suggests a fresh theory of action. Introducing the notion of 'engaged universals,' it brings home the role of 'utopian critiques.'"--Goenawan Mohamad, author of Conversations with Difference

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Table of Contents:

Preface ix
Introduction 1

PART I: Prosperity
"Better you had brought me a bomb, so I could blow this place up" 21

Chapter 1: Frontiers of Capitalism 27
"They communicate only in sign language" 51
Chapter 2: The Economy of Appearances 55

PART II: Knowledge
"Let a new Asia and a new Africa be born" 81

Chapter 3: Natural Universals and the Global Scale 88
"Dark rays" 113
Chapter 4: Nature Loving 121
"This earth, this island Borneo" 155
Chapter 5: A History of Weediness 171

PART III: Freedom
"A hair in the flour" 205
Chapter 6: Movements 213
"Facilities and incentives" 239
Chapter 7: The Forest of Collaborations 245
Coda 269
Notes 273
References 297
Index 313

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