TWILIGHT ZONES

THE HIDDEN LIFE OF CULTURAL IMAGES FROM PLATO TO O.J.

An attentive critique of both mass-media and philosophical ideologies gets trapped somewhere between the personal and the theoretical. Bordo intermittently lives up to her claim to limn a ``hidden'' life of images—as when she pursues the underlying meanings attached to slenderness in the recent wave of ultra-skinny models, or in her analyses of the representation of sexual harassment and of the continuing sub rosa ghettoization of feminism within ``advanced'' postmodern scholarship. Often, though, as when Bordo (Philosophy/Univ. of Kentucky; Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body, 1993) turns to cosmetic surgery or the O.J. Simpson case, she is content with more obvious interpretations, wordily entangled in a suffocating self-narration. The cultural landscape Bordo paints consists largely of the world of produced images in the background and her own reactions in the foreground, and although she pays lip service to the intervening complexity of actual lives and social forces, it has no substantial presence in the book. Thus, a ubiquitous advertising campaign like ``Just Do It'' can be simply read as an encompassing ``ideology'' embraced by contemporary society—exaggerating its real importance and thereby, perhaps, that of criticism like her own. It becomes positively depressing to realize that it's likely, judging by an excruciating essay on the role of theory in her work, that she is in fact among the academic cultural critics who are relatively dedicated to the connection of their work to the real world. A final chapter expanding on the personal references that inflect the whole book's tone, a collective memoir by Bordo and her sisters, is strangled at birth by the mandated topics of ``bodies, place and space.'' As ripe for scrutiny as the avalanche of images around us is, it seems that the prolific academic cultural-studies industry is capable of blowing up nearly as much snow as it clears away. (31 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-520-21101-4

Page Count: 279

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1997

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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