Sylvia Whitman, the current owner of the Shakespeare and Company Bookshop (by the way, love their motto, which is simply great: “Be not inhospitable to strangers, let them be angels in disguise“), has a weekly appearance on France 24, recommending books. I decided it’s time I share some of what I think are the loveliest books I’ve read/heard about so far. At first, I wanted to have it as a book list on the human body, but eventually I settled for books that I find as a good inspiration for writing archaeology (with the human body being included). So here they are, 5 of them, in random order.
1. The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice. By Annemarie Mol.
The book is an ethnography of atherosclerosis in a Dutch Hospital. What I liked about it is that it’s a good reading on what ontologies of the body are all about: how under the name of the same disease are gathered various signs, symptoms, personal experiences, medical charts, instruments etc. In the end, there is no straightforward diseased body, but one multiple, so to speak.
In the same time, the book’s layout is quite original. The text is divided in 2 parts: 2/3 of the page are occupied by the body of text, no references included. The lower 1/3 deals with the references that are used in that chapter, but it does not simply mention them, but discusses them (where the author doesn’t agree, or the limitations of that perspective etc.). Basically the reader ends up with 2 texts that can be read almost independently.
2. Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed. By Carl Zimmer.
This is not a simple book that collects tattoos. It is a collection of stories and fragments from the history of science. One favourite piece (about a H2O related tattoo): some chemists from the Stanford Univ. “bounced X-rays off of a spray of liquid water” which revealed that “water is akin a night club for molecules”, some huddle together, some swarm and bounce around, as if they are hitting “the dance floor”. And the story ends “The social life of water may go a long way to account for its uniqueness”.
3. Prehistoric Figurines: Representation and Corporeality in the Neolithic. By Douglas Bailey
Because it talks about prehistoric figurines by looking at: Barbie dolls, scale, Georgia O’Keeffe portraits, Napoleon’s paintings, Disneyland. Not only that it chooses to draw connections outside what might be considered a strict archaeological domain, but it also tackles relevant issues such as: “Visual rhetoric, truth and the body”, subverting reality, body parts-fragmentation-anthropomorphism and so on. Quite an inspiration for the imagination.
4. Building Stories. By Chris Ware
Even though I haven’t seen it live, because it sounds like an awesome book! It
seems like you get to build the story out of multiple, intertwining little stories. They come up in little sheets, wide sheets, various sizes and shapes. And they all seem to revolve around a building, the central witness. The building you get to build through them 🙂 (here is a more detailed description of the book: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/column/166841-the-conscious-materiality-of-chris-wares-building-stories
5. Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. By Bruno Latour
Instead of any comment, I am attaching a fragment from the book:
In case you try any of them, enjoy! And I am certainly looking forward to hearing any suggestions 🙂