In doing so, Tsing aims to answer questions about global connectedness. Who speaks for nature? And what kinds of social justice makes sense in the twenty-first century? These universals are challenged by Tsing as she believes globalization is not about homogenizing the world but instead understanding that we are actually NOT all the same. And thus it is necessary to begin again, and again, in the middle of things. Stepping outside of localities, Tsing uses environmental politics to see how well universals work in tracing global connections.

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Reviews 3 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. In response, environmental movements arose to defend the rainforests and the communities of people who live in them. The book also proposes a highly original perspective of the global thrust of capital.

For an Indonesian reader, her work is a gift; it hints at the feasibility of hopeā€”or at least the mingling of despair and hope.

For a thinking activist, it suggests a fresh theory of action. One of the most important books in anthropology to appear in the past decade, it defines a field rather than simply fitting into one. This is the first sustained ethnography by a major anthropologist of Indonesia to address the post-Soeharto period. For those of us now attempting to come to terms with a strange political landscape of instability, Tsing offers both illuminating insight and useful tools.

Ethnographically rigorous, brilliantly perceptive, and passionately engaged, this is the kind of writing we would all like to be able to produce. One of the many enjoyable aspects of Friction is its continuation of the story Tsing introduced in her previous book, of the original and creative program of scholarship she is famously known for.

This will be a much-discussed contribution to the anthropology of cosmopolitanism and transnational interconnection.


Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection

Dominic Pettman Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing has just published a brilliant book on the global trade in a certain kind of mushroom. Each spreads through aspirations to fulfill universal dreams and schemes. And so she focuses on what she calls zones of awkward engagement or cultural friction. It is not a question of preferring the local, the different, the marginal or the specific to the abstract, the global or the universal.


Savage Minds

Rather, they travel through people, through institutions, through stories, through cultures. And along the way, the friction of travel, the friction of encounter with others, the friction of translation of universals by localities, changes those actually lived universals. She tells the story of how environmentalism travels in this frictional manner. The setting is Kalimantan, Indonesia in the s. Tsing hangs out with the indigenous people who live the forests; she hangs out with university students from Java who belong to environmentalist clubs and travel to Kalimantan; she hangs out with government bureaucrats in Jakarata; she hangs out in workshops and conferences sponsored by international NGOs. And her patient, non-judgemental hanging out allows her to tell really well told stories. These various groups all do very different things in the name of the environment.


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

Reading on, I find myself jotting down phrases that seem to me to capture something important. Rex may see echoes of Sahlins. Not having read the Sahlins to which he alludes, I react to them with naive interest. Prosperity separates haves and have-nots within local conditions for the enforcement of property rights.


Anna Tsing


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