Examples of good anthropological writing? In his constant search to find books he can hand to students and say: "Here is anthropology", Christopher Kelty is two books richer in 2007: Global Body Shopping: An Indian Labor System in the Information Technology Industry by Xiang Biao’s and Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico by Joseph Masco.
On Savage Minds he reviews both books.
Xiang’s book, he writes "could serve as an excellent starting point for a new generation of comparative ethnography of quasi-formal labor systems". But what is body shopping? Laborers as a commodity in the new global labour market? A new form of slave trade? The anthropologist explains:
(...) a usually Indian intermediary firm hires a bunch of “qualified” Indian IT employees, deals with immigration and visa issues, and in turn sends them off to work for EU, Aus or US IT firms. Often the intermediary can be taking up to half (or more) of the employee’s wages, but they also take all the risk in terms of immigration and labor-market surpluses. It leads to lots of unemployed Indian IT workers (“benched”) milling about places like Central New Jersey and Southern Silicon Valley waiting for IT firms to take up the slack. There are all kinds of horrible results, but it has been central to making Indian labor so globally visible and accessible in the IT industry…
Whereas Xiang’s book was excellent for its simplicity, Masco’s book Nuclear Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico is excellent for its controlled complexity, he writes. It is "a frankly cosmological book; it is about how the bomb makes us who we are today":
The naive anthropology student might approach New Mexico as a place with many different populations: anglo scientists, pueblo indians, neuvomexicanos, hippie anti-nuke activists — each with their own distinctive lifeworld and worldview. But Masco is having none of that: for him, the bomb is the bomb. It has determined nearly every aspect of our lives (and “our” means basically everyone on the planet) for 50 years… to say nothing of our futures. Thus, in the chapters that explore the lives and thoughts of these different groups, the same cosmological questions about the impact of Nuclear Weapons and the Cold War keep coming up—and keep providing ways to connect these seemingly diverse groups to each other: through the lab, through secrecy and hypersecurity measures, and through politics of race and sovereignty.