- Paperback: 422 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; First edition (January 5, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520250621
- ISBN-13: 978-0520250628
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #599,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas First Edition
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From the Inside Flap
"This book is as wondrous as the otherworldly creatures whose apperception it recounts, from one of the most innovative cultural anthropologists writing today. Helmreich shows how the water covering the earth demands of scientists a planetary optic haunted always by the figure of that which lies just outside the limits of the imagination―the alien. Deep-sea creatures turn out to be connected to networks of knowledge, economy, politics, and culture that reshape everything from the shifting shorelines of Georgian barrier islands to the postcolonial futures of Hawai'i. Alien Ocean challenges longstanding constructs of causation, system, and replication that are the foundation of scientific knowledge itself."―Bill Maurer, University of California, Irvine
"Taking us from laboratory workbenches to the cramped confines of the Alvin submarine, Helmreich immerses readers in his ethnographic account of a scientific field, marine microbiology, concerned with questions of fundamental importance―what is life? what is a planet? is there a difference? Alien Ocean―inviting and challenging in its empirical and theoretical scope, in its humor and serious play, in its deft handling of scientific material―will set a new standard for the anthropology of science."―Mike Fortun, author of Promising Genomics: Iceland and DeCODE Genetics in a World of Speculation
Top customer reviews
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Helmreich's method of viewing anthropology through microbial research is to tell of his experience relating to different researchers, describing their research in their words as well as his own, and applying what he has learned to anthropology. Helmreich's strongest points in the book are born from his skill in describing not only the physical research and how it affects our lives, but how his experiences felt and the very personal emotions in encompassing the possibilities that might emerge from microbial research. Another of the book's strong points is the number of anthropological subjects it relates to microbial research and vice versa briefly but effectively. Helmreich manages to discuss genomics, bioinformatics, remote sensing, cybernetics, gender biasing, sociology, racism, the history of the south Georgia islands, Gaia theory, evolutionary theory, extraterrestrial life, blue-green capitalism, the tree of life, and Hawaiian politics.
Microbial research is relevant to anthropology, but beware Helmreich's tendency to delve into anthropological thought and academic vocabulary. Alien Ocean is not suited for readers seeking a hyper technical discussion of microbial research but is extremely effective in backing up Helmreich's main anthropological point. Stefan Helmreich has done an admirable job of composing a book that people with an interest in microbiology or anthropology will enjoy.