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Nature, Culture, and Society
Anthropological Perspectives on Life


  • Date Published: December 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107085848

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About the Authors
  • Life is currently one of the most active zones of politics and economic production, as biological material is increasingly the subject of engineering, banking, reproduction, and exchange. These developments represent some of the most challenging issues facing humanity in the twenty-first century and call for new forms of engagement - and new anthropologies of life. Reflecting upon the changing human condition, Palsson addresses various conflated zones of life at particular times and scales, from the genome to the human body and the global environment. Using a 'biosocial' perspective, he argues, will help us to capture the hybrid nature of life, enhancing our sensitivity to differences and similarities in hierarchies, the reproduction of bio-objects and the exchange between humans, other species, and the environment. Engaging with topical issues on the public agenda, from personal genomics to human-animal relations to the global environment, the book sets out a compelling case for meaningful change.

    • Incorporates developments from the humanities, social sciences and life sciences
    • Provides a broad coverage of a range of fundamental issues
    • Presents a theory of 'biosocial relations', which helps readers engage with biopolitics and bioethics
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'The fruit of more than twenty years' thought, this important collection of Gisli Palsson's essays offers a sustained and invigorating inquiry into the politics, practices, logics, and varied anthropologies of life itself. Written with Palsson's characteristic erudition and care, what emerges is not only a comprehensive accounting of where we've been but a timely and provocative proposal for the development of new concepts, new forms of academic labor, and a new environmental ethics.' Hugh Raffles, New School for Social Research, New York

    'In this imaginative, thoroughly grounded book, Gisli Palsson argues that life is not an essence. Rather, life emanates from the biosocial relations in which bodies are embedded. Anthropologies of life, perpetually in the making, have transformed nature since the dawn of human existence. Today, biomes, ecosystems, and Earth itself exhibit the effects of human activity comparable to geologic transformations of the past. Insightful and thought-provoking reading.' Margaret Lock, McGill University, Montréal

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2015
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107085848
    • length: 234 pages
    • dimensions: 236 x 160 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.49kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    Part I. Selves:
    2. Spitting image: decode me!
    3. Labouring lives: genomic stuff
    4. What's in a genome? Indigenous encounters
    5. Name talk: technologies of belonging
    Part II. Bodies:
    6. Human variation: shifting perspectives
    7. Nim Chimpsky et al.: human-animal relations
    8. Lucy in the sky: celestial bodies
    Part III. Biospheres:
    9. Enskilment at sea: situated knowledge
    10. Environmental relations: political economies
    11. Modernity and beyond: the grand aquarium
    12. Housekeeping: oikos and the anthropocene
    13. Afterword.

  • Author

    Gisli Palsson, University of Iceland, Reykjavik
    Gisli Palsson is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Iceland and Visiting Professor at King's College London. He has conducted fieldwork in Iceland, Cape Verde, the Canadian Arctic and the Virgin Islands. Palsson has written extensively on topics relating to social, cultural and biological anthropology, including the new genetics, environmental politics and the politics of language.

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