You've probably answered some of these before but... What is your favorite anthropological or historical work that you've ever read? How about non-anthropology? Favorite fiction?
I don’t know if I have the energy to bust out a huge spiel about why I like each, but I’ll do my best (also, having finished, I see that it’s more of a recommendations list, but whatever)
Marcel Mauss - The Gift (should be required reading/discussion for all university students)
Georges Bataille - The Accursed Share (for same reason as above book; deeply unsettling and challenging, but not quite as pithy as The Gift)
Michael Taussig - The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America (the most accessible book by my favorite contemporary anthropologist)
Jean Baudrillard is of course huge for me. Seduction is probably my favorite overall book of his, even though I’m still trying to understand all of it. Impossible Exchange is very good as well. For beginners I’d recommend Screened Out and Passwords, though the latter is best read alongside an additional Baudrillard book.
Nathaniel Philbrick - Mayflower and In the Heart of the Sea (NP is the best popular historian around. Incredible writer and tight on his facts. Mayflower explodes the Plymouth Colony myth in all kinds of interesting ways [especially the snarky Liberal readings of it] and In the Heart of the Sea is a grim account of a 19th century whaling accident)
Leo Steinberg - The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and Modern Oblivion (In a similar way to Mayflower, this book really rattles you from modern readings of religious art and brings you into a very weird space)
Robert Alter’s translation of The Five Books of Moses (I’ve talked this up before but it really is an amazing way to approach and learn about the Torah, from probably the most unfuckwithable secular Hebrew scholar in America)
John Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath (my favorite novel…yeah.)
It is no coincidence that the silent letter H in the name Rihanna resembles the Hagalaz-rune (ᚺ), the hailstorm rune, of unexpected disruption and destruction- the silence of Hagalaz is the security of personal energies from harm and disaster
Your thoughts on alien abduction and contactee narratives?
Absolutely fascinating. I can’t get enough of that stuff. I can’t say that I’m a “believer” but, like so many (OK, all) social and cultural phenomena, putting the focus on “belief” is, from the point of view of analysis, low level Mickey-Mouse shit. I think UFOlogy is arresting, both from a historical and socio-cultural perspective (contactee narratives as well as the broader pop-culture structures) but also, personally, because it taps into a deep vein of terror that’s rooted somewhere in my childhood. There’s something really chilling/exhilarating about the twilight language of abduction stories; the cold, matter-of-fact way they’re reported in print form and the well-worn surrealist tropes of TV shows like Sightings (which I still watch regularly on YouTube). Add to that the real teeth-grinding horror of “authentic footage” - the tension between their banal openings, the familiarity of the camera grain and the family picnics/vacations/birthday parties they depict, and the reality-shredding shoe you know is going to drop, sooner or later.