Whenever the Olympic Games convene, we remember that the United States shares the planet with other countries. We also remember that many of the world’s people play team handball.

At the University of Illinois Press, our authors journey by jet, balloon, donkey, clipper ship, and dugout canoe to acquire knowledge they can bring back to you and rest of the wider world. We present a brief lineup of titles that report on fascinating aspects of the human condition beyond swimming pools with unwholesome green water.

kartomiMusical Journeys in Sumatra, by Margaret Kartomi
Although Sumatra is the sixth largest island in the world and home to an estimated 44 million Indonesians, its musical arts and cultures have not been the subject of a book-length study until now.

Having dedicated almost forty years of scholarship to exploring the rich and varied music of Sumatran provinces, Margaret Kartomi provides a fascinating ethnographic record of vanishing musical genres, traditions, and practices that have become deeply compromised by the pressures of urbanization, rural poverty, and government policy. This deeply informed collection showcases the complex diversity of Indonesian music and includes field observations from six different provinces: Aceh, North Sumatra, Riau, West Sumatra, South Sumatra, and Bangka-Belitung. Featuring photographs and original drawings from Kartomi’s field observations of instruments and performances, Musical Journeys in Sumatra provides a comprehensive musical introduction to this neglected, very large island, with its hundreds of ethno-linguistic-musical groups.

cameronOn the Edge of the Auspicious: Gender and Caste in Nepal, by Mary M. Cameron
People of lower caste live throughout the villages of Nepal but have been noticeably absent from ethnographic accounts of the Himalayan region. Starting from the perspective of lower-caste Hindu women, Mary M. Cameron offers a long-overdue study of artisans and farmers in western Nepal.

On the Edge of the Auspicious skillfully shows the connections between caste hierarchy and gender relations leading to domestic, economic, and religious power of lower-caste women. Situating her study in the history of land ownership and contemporary family and work relations, Cameron explains how and why patriarchal ideology associated with high-caste families in Nepal does not apply to women of lower caste. Drawing on data from work, family, and religious domains, this ethnography goes further than other current studies of caste hierarchy in South Asia to show the everyday material and ideological dimensions of domination and lower-caste people’s resistance to them.

seligmanPeruvian Street Lives: Culture, Power, and Economy among Market Women of Cuzco, by Linda J. Seligmann
For more than twenty years Linda J. Seligmann has walked the streets of Peru in city and countryside alike, talking to the women who work in the informal and open-air markets of the Andean highlands of Cuzco. In this readable ethnography, composed of vignettes and accompanied by a superb series of photographs, Seligmann offers a humane yet incisive portrayal of their lives.

Peruvian Street Lives argues that the sometimes invisible and informal economic, social, and political networks market women establish, although they may appear disorderly and chaotic, in fact often keep dysfunctional economies and corrupt bureaucracies from utterly destroying the ability of citizens to survive from day to day. Seligmann asks why the constructive efforts of market women to make a living provoke such negative social perceptions from some members of Peruvian society, who see them as symbols and actual catalysts of social disorder, domestically and publicly.

markowitzComing of Age in Post-Soviet Russia, by Fran Markowitz
Fran Markowitz interviewed more than one hundred Russian teenagers to discover how adolescents have been coping with their country’s seismic transitions. Her findings present a substantive challenge to near-axiomatic theories of human development that regard cultural stability as indispensable to the successful navigation of adolescence.

Markowitz’s fieldwork leads to the surprising conclusion that the disruptions brought by glasnost, perestroika, and the fragmentation of the USSR exerted a greater impact on Western political hopes and on many of Russia’s adults than on young people’s perceptions of their lives. In their remarks on topics ranging from being Russian to religion, sex, music, and military service, the teenagers convey a flexible and optimistic approach to the future and a sense of security deriving from strong family, school, and neighborhood ties. Their perspectives suggest that culture change and social instability may be seen as positive forces, allowing for expressive opportunities, the establishment of individualized identities, and creative, pragmatic planning.

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