A sharp, wide-ranging historical study.

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REDEFINING REASON

THE STORY OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY "PRIMITIVE" MENTALITY DEBATE

A history of social anthropology and its pursuit of “reason” through the 20th century.

Neuropsychologist Patterson takes on the daunting task of tracing science’s view of reason as it relates to anthropology, from the time of Darwin to the present day. In doing so, he unveils a number of internecine arguments within the scientific community, as well as the hand-wringing in Western culture that has led to a near abandonment of the study of reason altogether. Patterson’s tale begins with Victorian-era anthropologists in the field who studied “savage” or “primitive” peoples in a race against time—before their cultures would be dramatically changed by encroaching Western ways. Critically influenced by Darwin, Patterson explains that, “At heart, early professional anthropology was a scientific search for human origins and evolutionary history.” In studying indigenous peoples, these scientists took for granted that European-based cultures were superior and that Europeans were more mentally advanced than “primitive” peoples. As the 20th century unfolded, however, various influential scholars and the schools of thought they initiated changed these assumptions. By 1950, some scholars were questioning whether social anthropology could even be considered one of the sciences. Sartre questioned the field’s reliance on reason as a measure of people’s abilities, and by the 1960s and 1970s, the Eurocentric character of traditional anthropology was under severe attack, leaving the whole field with a “crisis of representation” it is still battling to this day. Patterson provides a wealth of information in an approachable but sometimes melodramatic form (“The maw of eternity had simply opened and claimed him within a few blinks of an eye”). Though open to the general reader, Patterson’s work will best lend itself to students of anthropology or sociology, and it will be a worthwhile reference for the often intractable arguments affecting such fields and the sometimes larger-than-life personalities who have shaped them.

A sharp, wide-ranging historical study.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-1453589397

Page Count: 396

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.

CODE TALKER

A firsthand account of how the Navajo language was used to help defeat the Japanese in World War II.

At the age of 17, Nez (an English name assigned to him in kindergarten) volunteered for the Marines just months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Growing up in a traditional Navajo community, he became fluent in English, his second language, in government-run boarding schools. The author writes that he wanted to serve his country and explore “the possibilities and opportunities offered out there in the larger world.” Because he was bilingual, he was one of the original 29 “code talkers” selected to develop a secret, unbreakable code based on the Navajo language, which was to be used for battlefield military communications on the Pacific front. Because the Navajo language is tonal and unwritten, it is extremely difficult for a non-native speaker to learn. The code created an alphabet based on English words such as ant for “A,” which were then translated into its Navajo equivalent. On the battlefield, Navajo code talkers would use voice transmissions over the radio, spoken in Navajo to convey secret information. Nez writes movingly about the hard-fought battles waged by the Marines to recapture Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and others, in which he and his fellow code talkers played a crucial role. He situates his wartime experiences in the context of his life before the war, growing up on a sheep farm, and after when he worked for the VA and raised a family in New Mexico. Although he had hoped to make his family proud of his wartime role, until 1968 the code was classified and he was sworn to silence. He sums up his life “as better than he could ever have expected,” and looks back with pride on the part he played in “a new, triumphant oral and written [Navajo] tradition,” his culture's contribution to victory.

A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-425-24423-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dutton Caliber

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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