The Bedside Table Review #2

France in the Year 2000

France in the Year 2000 // The Public Domain Review

The Books I Read

Finally disburdened from a more or less heteronomous literature list, Amazon-book-shopping has become an integral part of my daily routine during the first weeks of PhD-life. Whilst my flatmates start grumbling about the constant parcel influx to our apartment, the growing book-stack on my bedside table gradually develops into a major security risk for my sleeping self.

“Luckily” I commute quite a while every day, what helps me a great deal getting all the reads done. I maintain this blog to give as much insights as possible to my PhD project and therefore these reviews shall serve as a log-file for mentionable books that make it from my bedside table through my mind and into the shelf. The list will range from books, which are quite closely related to my research agenda to more casual ones. Although some of the books will be in German, I list them with a short comment and try to link to an English version if available.

Recently, I read:

Luhmann leicht gemacht / Luhmann for Beginners (Margot Berghaus) [German only]

After my previous encounters with Luhmann’s interviews, I decided to get an overview of his holistic hence rather complex theory of (social) systems. A quite proficient Luhmann scholar and friend of mine gave me the recommendation to start off with this beginners guide, focusing on the basic terminology and his work on mass communication, as an exemplar case. Definitely a wise decision to start off smoothly… and hey: the book is packed with scrawly comics somehow mirroring Luhmann’s bureaucratically dry but warm-hearted humour.

Johann Holtrop (Rainald Goetz) [German only]

I was knocked off my socks when I read Goetz’s “loslabern” – an associatively arranged snap-shot of the German feuilleton. After all I liked it… but I love his recent (2012) Johann Holtrop. Goetz tells the rise and fall of a manic supercorp CEO in the midst of the financial crisis, who somehow perceives his life and the whole capitalistic outgrowth around him as a massive bull-ride. Just stay on top. Fullstop. To me, Johann Holtrop is a 10/10. The assemblage and pace of the story, Goetz’s fondness of absurd neologisms and the sober but unique layout nailed it. Get it.

Organizational Ethnography (Daniel Neyland)

Within this cohort definitely the read with the closest link to my PhD efforts. Daniel Neyland (Professor in Sociology at Goldsmiths) guides the reader through the process of doing an organizational ethnography by subdividing it into ten separated “sensibilities”. For each of these steps he gives a brief overview on the relevant literature and engages with one piece of primary literature. As I consider including ethnographic elements into my methodology, this book will help me configure my field research. Definitely a #goodread.

After the Fact (Clifford Geertz)

After finishing Neyland’s methodological book I felt the urge to stick my nose into some more of the primary anthropological literature. Geertz’s work was quite prominently featured so I went for “After the Fact”, in which he looks back on his years in Southeast Asia and North Africa, reflecting on the role of anthropology and the epistemological difficulties that emerged over time. Seriously, Geertz’s manifold linguistic style became quite a challenge for me after some time and I didn’t finish it.

This is Water (David Foster Wallace)

This short piece is a transcript of the speech Foster Wallace gave to the graduates of (liberal arts) Kenyon College, Ohio, in 2005 and apparently the only speech like this he ever gave. In a pretty straight forward (and sometimes almost impudent) rhetoric he tries to point the young audience towards what he regards as the true value of their education: being able to consciously choose how to perceive the others around you. Although the “you can change the world”-climax is an all time classic for commencement speeches, I never heard it from this somehow constructivist point of view. There’s an audio recording of his speech as well.