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Excursions Hardcover – October 24, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Jackson . . . demonstrates, supremely, the deep understanding that can emerge from a long career of anthropological engagement and the artistry with which insight into the human condition can be delivered.” - Nigel Rapport, Social Anthropology


“Jackson strives to do what few anthropologists have done, certainly not as determinedly: to allow the potential wisdom that lies ever more deeply buried in anthropology’s routine formulations to come to the fore.” - Vincent Crapanzano, Current Anthropology


Excursions may cross genres, venturing into the poetic and the literary, but, in my view this makes it all the more powerful as a work of anthropology –
beautifully and compellingly written, absorbing reading, it fulfils its promise of opening up anthropology to the rich possibilities of ‘epiphany’ and ‘event’, and suggesting new ways of thinking about phenomena, ‘even though these may entail no causal explanation or certain knowledge’ (p. xv).” - Julie Scott, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute


“There is an egalitarian spirit running through the essays, mixing the thought of Adorno, Arendt, and Benjamin with that of Kuranko storytellers or
Maori mythology, and these with Jackson’s first person narrative, such that each is brought to illuminate the other. Travel writing, yes, but travel writing reaching for universality. Anthropology, yes, but anthropology reaching for universality. . . . Jackson’s arguments, although borne lightly by a filigree of close observation of singular experiences, are as weighty as those of many illustrious forebears.” - Michael Carrithers, American Ethnologist


Excursions may cross genres, venturing into the poetic and the literary, but, in my view this makes it all the more powerful as a work of anthropology—beautifully and compellingly written, absorbing reading, it fulfills its promise of opening up anthropology to the rich possibilities of ‘epiphany’ and ‘event’, and suggesting new ways of thinking about phenomena. . .” - Julie Scott, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute


“Excursions is another beautifully meandering meditation from a grand wanderer in the landscape of contemporary anthropology. Michael Jackson knows about deep ethnography, having done his fair share of it with admirable verve. But he is more unique among anthropologists in his courage to engage fleeting everyday fragments of the here and there, and to mine the ephemera of momentary experience for their deep resonances with core existential questions.”—Steven Feld, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Music, The University of New Mexico


“Michael Jackson has long been recognized as one of our liveliest and most powerful thinkers, a scholar who engages with the phenomena—human, cultural, historical, interactive—at the core of cultural anthropology. With this remarkable book, he makes a significant contribution to current and future discussions about the hallmarks, trajectory, and promise of our field.”—Don Brenneis, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz


“Novelist, poet, and extraordinary ethnographer, Michael Jackson has built a life around excursions and conversations in Africa, the South Pacific, Europe, and North America. The upshot is a book rich in existential insights, Continental philosophy grounded in local worlds, and painterly perceptions of the multiple ways that nature expresses human feelings and values. The chapter on Walter Benjamin is brilliantly executed as are those on Sierra Leonian and Maori friends. Walk with Jackson down these very different roads and he will bewitch you into seeing and feeling life come alive as it really is lived—lives of others and magically your own as well. A beautiful work.”—Arthur Kleinman, Professor of Anthropology and Psychiatry, Harvard University


Excursions may cross genres, venturing into the poetic and the literary, but, in my view this makes it all the more powerful as a work of anthropology—beautifully and compellingly written, absorbing reading, it fulfills its promise of opening up anthropology to the rich possibilities of ‘epiphany’ and ‘event’, and suggesting new ways of thinking about phenomena. . .”
(Julie Scott, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute)

“Jackson . . . demonstrates, supremely, the deep understanding that can emerge from a long career of anthropological engagement and the artistry with which insight into the human condition can be delivered.”
(Nigel Rapport, Social Anthropology)

“Jackson strives to do what few anthropologists have done, certainly not as determinedly: to allow the potential wisdom that lies ever more deeply buried in anthropology’s routine formulations to come to the fore.”
(Vincent Crapanzano, Current Anthropology)

“There is an egalitarian spirit running through the essays, mixing the thought of Adorno, Arendt, and Benjamin with that of Kuranko storytellers or Maori mythology, and these with Jackson’s first person narrative, such that each is brought to illuminate the other. Travel writing, yes, but travel writing reaching for universality. Anthropology, yes, but anthropology reaching for universality. . . . Jackson’s arguments, although borne lightly by a filigree of close observation of singular experiences, are as weighty as those of many illustrious forebears.”
(Michael Carrithers, American Ethnologist)

From the Publisher

"Michael Jackson has long been recognized as one of our liveliest and most powerful thinkers, a scholar who engages with the phenomena--human, cultural, historical, interactive--at the core of cultural anthropology. With this remarkable book, he makes a significant contribution to current and future discussions about the hallmarks, trajectory, and promise of our field."--Don Brenneis, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz

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More About the Author

Michael Jackson is a New Zealand-born writer, presently Distinguished Professor of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. He has published over thirty books of poetry, fiction, ethnography and memoir, and is internationally renowned for his innovations in ethnographic writing, his pioneering use of phenomenological and pragmatist methods in anthropology, and his contributions to existential anthropology and religious studies. In New Zealand, he is best known for his poetry and creative non-fiction (Latitudes of Exile was awarded the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1976, and Wall won the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry in 1981). Since 1969 he has conducted extensive fieldwork among the Kuranko of Sierra Leone, the Warlpiri and Kuku-Yalanji of Australia, and with African migrants in Europe. Perhaps the most central question in his work has been how human beings everywhere seek, separately and in concert with others, to strike a balance between a sense of closure and openness, between acting and being acted on, between acquiescing in the given and shaping their own destinies. Most of his books explore the ways in which inherited customs, habits and dispositions both constrain activity and consciousness and are reconstructed, resisted and replenished in quotidian practices, rites, narratives, and unspoken experience. In his view, one of the most urgent tasks of anthropology is to close the gap between theoretical and practical knowledge, and between the academy and the wider world, exploring the immediate, intersubjective underpinnings of abstract forms of understanding, disclosing the subject behind the act, and the vital activity that lies behind the fixed and seemingly final form of things. At the same time as one explores and discloses connections between worldviews and lifeworlds, one endeavors to test and critique one's views--whether personal, theoretical, ethical or political--through an engagement with others. One's goal is never absolute knowledge, but rather a deepened pragmatic understanding of the possibilities of human coexistence in a pluralistic world.

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