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Social Science


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Human Geography

see Regional Geography, Physical Geography, Geography

Scenes from the High Desert: Julian Steward's Life and Theory by Virginia Kerns  ( University of Illinois Press) Julian Steward (1902-72) is best remembered in American anthropology as the creator of cultural ecology, a theoretical approach that has influenced generations of archaeologists and cultural anthropologists. This hybrid biography considers the intellectual and emotional influences of Steward's remarkable career and provides insights into the theoretical development of anthropology during his lifetime. Scenes from the High Desert locates the concept of cultural ecology as a social theory within the context of Steward's lived experience and personal construction of meaning. Kerns explores the scholar's early life in the American West, his continued attachments to western landscapes and inhabitants, his research with Native Americans, and the writing of his classic work, Theory of Culture Change. Extracting the personal and professional experiences that shaped his ideas on labor, technology, and the natural world, Kerns focuses particularly on the ideas and experiences that gave rise to Steward's theory of cultural ecology and most influenced American anthropology. Through her exploration of Steward's career and his particular interest in men's labor, Kerns illustrates how Steward's concept of the patrilineal band was central to his intellectual work and grounded in his own social experiences and autobiographical memory, especially memories of place. With fluid prose and rich detail, Scenes from the High Desert captures the essence and breadth of Steward's career while carefully measuring the ways he reinforced the male-centered structure of mid-twentieth-century American anthropology.

Kerns suggests that emotion- and image-laden memories and personal meaning played a highly creative role in what Steward thought of as purely "scientific" and "objective" lines of argument. Personal memories from his early life made certain ideas real to him, imbuing them with felt truth. His theory od cultural ecology also provided a way of ordering and making sense of his social experiences as a man, especially those that took place during a critical time in his life, which he remembered as a period of transformation and self-­definition.

In asserting this, Kerns is not asserting that cultural ecology was "subjective" and "unscientific" because Steward, like everyone, had values and beliefs that made complete "objectivity" unlikely. Rather, Kerns aims to demonstrate that autobio­graphical memory and the personal construction of meaning had a direct and creative influence on Steward's intellectual work as an anthropologist, most obviously by channeling his attention, sensitizing him to certain aspects of human social life, and deflecting his attention from others. Like every person, his vision was highly selective, as were his memories, and this necessarily influenced his theoretical work. Kerns main point is that his work was not simply an act of the imagination nor primarily a product of empirical research; instead, his most important concepts and ideas derived largely from autobiographical memory. Memory images of known people and places and events from his own life, not images of imagination, played the major part in the construction of cultural ecology. This biography is likely to renew interest in Steward’s theory and also deepen the self-reflexive image of American anthropological discourse.

Human Geography in Action 2nd edition by Michael Kuby, Patricia Gober, John Harner (0471400939) (Wiley) This book/CD package takes an active learning approach to human geography. Computerized activities expose readers to GIS, spreadsheets, simulation and graphing without having to learn four different complex software packages. The exercises explore AIDS, population growth, jobs, environmental change, baseball and other interesting topics. Human Geography in Action teaches readers how to collect, analyze, interpret and present information. [Review pending]

Human Geography in Action workbook-style text contains 13 activities that challenge students to collect, manipulate, display, and interpret geographic information. Activities in areas such as housing segregation in Northern Ireland and AIDS epidemiology teach basic concepts. Each chapter follows a consistent format, with goals, background information, key terms, and step-by-step instructions. Worksheets have room for answers, and are perforated for easy removal. The CD- ROM contains seven interactive projects. [Review pending]

Exploring Geographical Information Systems, 2nd Edition by Nicholas R. Chrisman (0471314250) (Wiley) An exploration of geographic information and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) that expands the discussion beyond the normal input-processing-output sequence. The text uses geographical information and case studies to organize an in-depth introduction to the principles and applications of GIS. The author first examines the manipulations that support analytical uses of GIS, including measurement and frameworks, representations, data quality, transformation and operations, parametric mapping, simple logic and overlay, taxonomy, distance transformations and surfaces. He then moves on to a discussion of operations that connect the practical exercises in the book to professional applications of GIS techniques in bureaucratic, social and cultural contexts. [Review pending]

Geographical Information Systems GIS: Modeling in Raster 1st edition by Michael N. Demers (0471319651) (Wiley) The primary focus of this text is on the process of cartographic modeling and GIS modeling. The text goes beyond cartographic modeling to incorporate supplementary or complementary technologies and logics to show that spatio-temporal modeling is not limited to cartographic modeling, nor to Map Algebra. DeMers consistent, friendly and engaging style has been highly praised by reviewers of this title as well as users of his market leading Fundamentals of Geographic Information Systems. [Review pending]


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