‘Direct Action: An Ethnography’ is the latest book by anthropologist David Graeber published by AK Press. Graeber was associate professor of anthropology at Yale until the department declined to renew his contract in 2005. Many academics and supporters claim Graeber’s dismissal was politically motivated. Graeber is a self described anarchist and an active member of various ‘activist’ organisations.
Graeber agreed to leave Yale after a years sabbatical and not before he taught the only explicitly radical-themed course ever taught at Yale – entitled ‘Direct Action and Radical Social Theory.’ He now teaches at the University of London. He’s the author of ‘Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology’, published by Prickly Paradigm Press (where Marshall Sahlins is the Executive Publisher http://www.prickly-paradigm.com/ ); ‘Towards an Anthropological Theory of Value’, my personal favourite, and; ‘Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire’, which is great but could have done with an editor!
The blurb for his new and no doubt exciting book is as follows (from the AK Press website):
‘In the best tradition of participant-observation, anthropologist David Graeber undertakes the first detailed ethnographic study of the global justice movement. Starting from the assumption that, when dealing with possibilities of global transformation and emerging political forms, a disinterested, “objective” perspective is impossible, he writes as both scholar and activist. At the same time, his experiment in the application of ethnographic methods to important ongoing political events is a serious and unique contribution to the field of anthropology, as well as an inquiry into anthropology’s political implications.
The case study at the center of Direct Action is the organizing and events that led to the dramatic protest against the Summit of the Americas in Québec City in 2001. Written in a clear, accessible style (with a minimum of academic jargon), this study brings readers behind the scenes of a movement that has changed the terms of debate about world power relations. From informal conversations in coffee shops to large “spokescouncil” planning meetings and teargas-drenched street actions, Graeber paints a vivid and fascinating picture. Along the way, he addresses matters of deep interest to anthropologists: meeting structure and process, language, symbolism, representation, the specific rituals of activist culture, and much more.’