Making Things Better: A Workbook on Ritual, Cultural Values, and Environmental Behavior

ISBN : 9780199969364

A.David Napier
208 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Jan 2014
Oxford Ritual Studies
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In Making Things Better, A. David Napier demonstrates how anthropological description of non-Western exchange practices and beliefs can be a tonic for contemporary economic systems in which our impersonal relationship to "things" transforms the animate elements of social life into inanimate sets of commodities. Such a fundamental transformation, Napier suggests, makes us automatons in globally integrated social circuits that generate a cast of a winners and losers engaged in hostile competition for wealth and power. Our impersonal relations to "things"-and to people as well-are so ingrained in our being, we take them for granted as we sleepwalk through routine life. Like the surrealist artists of the 1920s who, through their art, poetry, films, and photography, fought a valiant battle against mind-numbing conformity, Napier provides exercises and practica designed to shock the reader from their wakeful sleep. These demonstrate powerfully the positively integrative social effects of more socially entangled, non-Western orientations to "things" and to "people." His arguments also have implications for the rights and legal status of indigenous peoples, which are drawn out in the course of the book.


Preface: Thing in Themselves
Preamble to the Workbook: Rights or Rites?
Part 1: Things and People
Exercise #1: Shaping Behavior
Chapter 1: Meaning and Property
Practicum #1: Securing Indigenous Rights
Part II: Things and Places
Exercise #2: Creating Local Value
Chapter 2: A Sense of Place
Practicum #2: Valuing Indigenous "Property"
Part III: Things Across Cultures
Exercise #3: Giving and Receiving
Chapter 3: Exchange and Value
Practicum #3: Responding to Global Forces, or, "Kula International"
Part IV: Realizing Ritual
Exercise #4: Changing Paradigms
Chapter 4: Why Animism Matters
Practicum #4: Assessing Cognitive Diversity
Part V: Epilogue
Postscript: The Value of Public Anthropology

About the author: 

A. David Napier is Professor of Medical Anthropology at University College London and founding Director of the University's Centre for Applied Global Citizenship.

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