Imaginary Ethnographies

Literature, Culture, and Subjectivity

Gabriele Schwab

Columbia University Press

Imaginary Ethnographies

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Pub Date: September 2012

ISBN: 9780231159494

240 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£24.00

Pub Date: September 2012

ISBN: 9780231159487

240 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£70.00

Pub Date: September 2012

ISBN: 9780231530804

240 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£24.00

Imaginary Ethnographies

Literature, Culture, and Subjectivity

Gabriele Schwab

Columbia University Press

Through readings of iconic figures such as the cannibal, the child, the alien, and the posthuman, Gabriele Schwab analyzes literary explorations at the boundaries of the human. Treating literature as a dynamic medium that "writes culture"—one that makes the abstract particular and local, and situates us within the world—Schwab pioneers a compelling approach to reading literary texts as "anthropologies of the future" that challenge habitual productions of meaning and knowledge.

Schwab's study draws on anthropology, philosophy, critical theory, and psychoanalysis to trace literature's profound impact on the cultural imaginary. Following a new interpretation of Derrida's and Lévi-Strauss's famous controversy over the indigenous Nambikwara, Schwab explores the vicissitudes of "traveling literature" through novels and films that fashion a cross-cultural imaginary. She also examines the intricate links between colonialism, cannibalism, melancholia, the fate of disenfranchised children under the forces of globalization, and the intertwinement of property and personhood in the neoliberal imaginary. Schwab concludes with an exploration of discourses on the posthuman, using Samuel Beckett's "The Lost Ones" and its depiction of a future lived under the conditions of minimal life. Drawing on a wide range of theories, Schwab engages the productive intersections between literary studies and anthropology, underscoring the power of literature to shape culture, subjectivity, and life.
Though a series of interrelated essays, this is a powerful book presenting a unified argument...Highly recommended. Choice
Imaginary Ethnographies reads, most beautifully, like a literary–critical analogue of science fiction gesturing toward new worlds and new forms Cultural Critique
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Part I: Writing
1. Another Writing Lesson: Lévi-Strauss
2. Traveling Literature
3. Restriction and Mobility: Desire
Part II: Cannibals
4. The Melancholic Cannibal: Juan José Saer's The Witness and Marianne Wiggins's John Dollar
5. War Children in a Global World: Richard Powers's Operation Wandering Soul
6. Ethnographies of the Future: Personhood
Part III: Coda
Cosmographical Meditations on the Inhuman: Samuel Beckett's The Lost Ones
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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Winner, 2017 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

About the Author

Gabriele Schwab is Chancellor's Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine, and a faculty associate in the Department of Anthropology. She is also a trained psychoanalyst, and is affiliated with the New Center for Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles. Her books in English include Haunting Legacies: Violent Histories and Transgenerational Trauma and Accelerating Possessions: Global Futures of Property and Personhood (coedited with Bill Maurer).