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Book Review: Out of the Pits: Traders and Technology from Chicago to London, by Caitlin Zaloom

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Out of the Pits: Traders and Technology from Chicago to London, by Caitlin Zaloom.” American Anthropologist 109(4): 782-783, 2007
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  Single Reviews  781 ethicaldilemmas:wecananddoescapethehardshipsinthefieldwhileourcollaboratorsmustcontinuetoendurethem.An important strength of this collection is the ethno-graphic grounding of the chapters, which directly engagerichethnographicunderstandingswithSimmel’swork.Thisbook is a useful addition to the anthropological literatureon travel and tourism, and it is a pleasurable adventure toread. REFERENCES CITED Bruner, Edward M.2004 Culture on Tour: Ethnographies of Travel. Chicago: Uni-versity of Chicago Press.Burrough, Edgar Rice1973[1912] Tarzan of the Apes. New York: Grosset and Dunlap.Norwood, Victor G.1951a The Caves of Death (A Jungle Story Featuring Jacar´e theUntamed). London: Scion.1951b The Untamed. London: Scion.1951c The Skull of Kanaima. London: Scion.1952 The Island of the Creeping Death. London: Scion.1953 Cry of the Beast. London: Scion.Simmel, Georg1911 The Adventure. Electronic document, http://www.erraticimpact.com/ ∼ 20thcentury/html/simmel georg.htm,accessed July 14, 2007.  The First Boat People.  Steve Webb. New York: CambridgeUniversity Press, 2006. 318 pp. RUSSELL L. CIOCHON University of Iowa SCOTT D. MADDUX University of IowaIn 2003, an expedition searching for evidence of early hu-man migration from Asia to Australia stumbled across oneofthemostexcitingpaleoanthropologicaldiscoveriesofthepast50years:thediminutivehumanspecies,  Homofloresien-sis.  Overshadowed by the public and academic focus on the“Hobbit” was the evidence the expedition had srcinallysought: the earliest evidence of seafaring.  The First Boat Peo- ple,  explores the intriguing possibility that, if the Hobbit’s  Homo erectus  ancestors sailed to Flores some 800-plus thou-sand years ago (k.y.a.), they could have eventually made itall the way to Australia.Whilethetitleofthisbooksuggestsadetailedexamina-tion of the evolution of seafaring, the book’s actual discus-sionofwatercraftisrelativelyminimal;theclearfocusofthebook is the peopling of Australia.  The First Boat People  con-tains nine chapters and three comprehensive appendices.Each chapter is divided into headlined sections, serving tobreakanenormousamountofinformationintoeasilyman-ageable units for the reader. The first four chapters discussthemigrationof“erectines” (Homo erectus) outofAfricaandinto various parts of mainland Asia, Sunda (Thai and MalayPeninsulas and Indonesian archipelago), and, eventually,Sahul (New Guinea, Australia, and Tasmania). Chapter 5examines the environmental conditions early migrants toAustralia may have encountered on their arrival to the con-tinent. Chapters 6 and 7 explore, in detail, the skeletal ev-idence for early Australian peoples and the interpretationsdrawn from the two contrasting morphologies seen amongtheseearlyAustralianhominids.Chapter8examinesseveraltime periods during which ecological conditions may havepermittedmigrationsfromSundatoAustralia.Theconclud-ing chapter discusses the greater implications of the peo-pling of Australia for the study of human evolution, andin particular to the support of the “Regional Continuity”model of modern human srcins.Over the course of   The First Boat People,  Webb intro-duces several rather unconventional ideas, including theassertion that the number of humans inhabiting Asia at thebeginning of the Holocene was likely greater than 200 mil-lion. This number is considerably greater than the usual es-timatesoffivetotenmillionhumanslivingacrosstheentireglobeatthestartoftheHolocene(Cavalli-Sforzaetal.1993).Webb rejects the commonly held view that global popula-tion numbers remained extremely low until after the devel-opment of agriculture, approximately ten k.y.a., and pro-poses that population numbers began increasing steadilyaround 500 k.y.a. While we are inclined to agree that theworld’s population was likely greater than five million atthe end of the Pleistocene, the ease with which Webb sim-ply dismisses commonly recognized principles of popula-tion growth as “illogical” is discomforting.Webb also explores the possibility that humans mayhave been present on the Australian continent prior to65k.y.a.,citingevidenceofmegafaunalextinctions,burnedfaunalremains,andevenhumanremainsthatpossiblydateearlierthan65k.y.a.(althoughnopublicationssupportthiscontention). Additionally, Webb even points to 150,000year-oldcharcoalparticlesaspossibleevidenceofmanmadefires in Australia during this time period. In the end, Webbconcludes, “I do not believe we can go on inventing ex-cusestodismissallevidencehowevertenuousthatpointstopeople being in Australia before 65 ky ago” (p. 172). WhileWebb’sargumentisinteresting,webelievethatitisunlikelythat many in the scientific community will be swayed byWebb’s evidence.In addition to supporting some fringe views on hu-man evolution, we found other problems with this book,including errors in the midst of complex arguments, whichat times made comprehension of the author’s intentionsdifficult. One example of a particularly egregious error isfound during the population growth discussion, in whichtherepeatedsubstitutionof“My”for“ky”inevitablyresultsin anatomically modern humans inhabiting Africa aroundtwo m.y.a., and  Homo erectus  thus migrating out of Africaduring the rule of the Roman Empire.However,despitetheseissues,themajorityofthisbookis carefully considered and exceedingly thought provoking.Webb’s exceptional comprehension of the ancient environ-mentofAustraliaandSoutheastAsiashinesthroughoutthebook and provides intriguing scenarios for possible migra-tory routes and timings.  The First Boat People  also presentsa variety of demographic, ecological, and anatomical data  782  American Anthropologist  •  Vol. 109, No. 4  •  December 2007 that may prove useful to many researchers (including twodetailed appendices of cranial vault thickness data for theentire Willandra Lake Hominid collection).Finally, Webb is correct that the discovery of   Homo flo-resiensis  should serve as a reminder that many new and ex-citing discoveries are yet to be made in the study of humanevolution, and that some of the most important discover-ies may just come from a small, underexplored continentnamed Australia. REFERENCE CITED Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi L., Paolo Menozzi, and Alberto Piazza1993 Demic Expansions and Human Evolution. Science259:639–646. People and Forests: Yunnan Swidden Agriculture inHuman–Ecological Perspective.  Yin Shaoting. MagnusFiskesco,trans.Kunming:YunnanEducation,2001.560pp. JOHN A. YOUNG Oregon State UniversityThis book is among only a few emerging English-languageethnographies based on long-term research by Chinese an-thropologists. The author, Yin Shaoting, is professor andchair of the Department of Anthropology at Yunnan Uni-versity, where he has specialized in researching the farm-ing practices and material culture of minority culturesin Yunnan province. The Ford Foundation sponsored theEnglish translation by Magnus Fiskesco and the subsequentpublication of this volume.Yin uses a human-ecological perspective to frame hiswork, with culture as mediator in the relationship betweenhumans and nature. He finds fault with the earlier tradi-tion of ethnology in China, which regarded swidden agri-culture as a “primitive” holdover from a backward anddiscredited past, a perspective that blinded scholars to itshistorical and present significance. His own contemporaryresearch seeks to answer questions that could not be ad-equately addressed by his predecessors: What is swiddenagriculture? Why has it persisted and flourished until now?What changes and developments might be in store for thefuture?The book begins with a brief overview of the historyand methods of studying swidden agriculture among mi-nority groups in southwestern China. Maps are in Chinesewith separate English annotations according to a number-ing system. Numerous photos illustrate various patterns of cultivation on steep, hilly terrain, as well as the materialculture associated with swidden agriculture.Part1focusesonthehistory,geographicaldistribution,and typology—for example, continuous versus noncontin-uous cultivation, degree of importance to livelihood, anddifferent types of fallow regimes—of swidden agriculturespecifically in Yunnan. Part 2 presents case studies fromthe author’s field research on the cultivation techniques of representative groups—the Jingpo, Bulang, Wa, Jinuo, andDulong—alongwithrelatedaspectsoftheirannualcyclesof production, land tenure, social organization, and religiouspractices.Part 3 builds on the case studies to compare the adap-tiveadvantagesanddisadvantagesofdifferenttypesofswid-den systems using indicators such as rapidity of reseedingduring fallow periods, weed and insect control, rate of re-covery of vegetation, and soil fertility. He compares differ-enttypesofcultivationandfallowregimes,cultivationtech-niques, settlement relocation patterns, and, more broadly,human ecological systems in mountains and valleys. Dis-cussionofwhypeoplemoveordonotmovefrommountainareas to valley areas is particularly informative and theoret-ically interesting.In part 4 Yin explores the dynamics of contempo-rary political and population pressure on swidden agricul-ture.CollectivizationduringthecommuneperiodinChinaproduced numerous and severe disruptions in mountainecology. The lesson from this experience is that “foreign”models based on “half-baked science” are not workable. HearguesthatdevelopmentandsurvivalofYunnan’shighlandpeoples first and foremost depend on giving credit to theadaptive advantages of traditional ways of life.The insights in this book are not startling, but theyare well-researched and empirically and logically derived.The author realizes that swidden agriculture will continueto undergo rapid change because of external influences. Toimproveproductivity,herecommendsthatthegovernmentinvest in infrastructure for irrigation. At the same time headvocates for policies cognizant that this ancient and time-testedinstitutionhasanenduringvaluebothinitsinherentwisdom and in providing a foundation for agroforestry andsending “green” unprocessed forest products to market.The amount of detail on material culture and clarity of expression in this book is impressive, but it is not intendedtoentertainthecasualreader.Itisprimarilyareferenceworkfor specialists in highland agriculture or Chinese minoritycultures,ofwhichthereare25representedinYunnan.SincefewanthropologistsoutsideofChinahavestudiedtheswid-den agriculture of Yunnan, this book provides a one-of-a-kind source of information. As more translated works of in-creasingly cosmopolitan Chinese anthropologists becomeavailable in English, they are likely to be similarly in touchwith broader issues outside of China and to make similarlyworthwhile contributions to the discipline worldwide. Out the Pits: Traders and Technology from Chicago toLondon.  Caitlin Zaloom. Chicago: University of ChicagoPress, 2006. 224 pp. MELISSA FISHER Georgetown University Out of the Pits  is a ground-breaking foray into the world of financial markets. Apprenticing herself to traders workingin the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), Caitlin Zaloom usesethnographic and anthropological tools to consider howshifts in the world’s leading financial exchanges are trans-formingthecultureofmarkets,thelaboroffinance,andthe
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