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Philosophical meditations on a series of journeys the well-known anthropologist has taken around the world

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Preface: theme and variations ix
1. In the Footsteps of Walter Benjamin 1
2. Of Time and the River: the interface of history and human lives 22
3. Imagining the Powers That Be: society versus the state 40
4. On the Work of Human Hands 61
5. Storytelling Events, Violence, and the Appearance of the Past 80
6. Migrant Imaginaries: with Sewa Koroma in southeast London 102
7. A Walk on the Wild Side: the idea of human nature revisited 135
8. From Anxiety to Method: a reappraisal 154
9. Despite Babel: an essay on human misunderstanding 174
10. On Birth, Death, and Rebirth 192
11. Quandaries of Belonging: home thoughts from abroad 216
12. A Critique of Colonial Reason 233
Notes 257
References 271
Index 289

About the Author

Michael Jackson is Distinguished Visiting Professor in World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. His many books of anthropology include Existential Anthropology: Events, Exigencies, and Effects; In Sierra Leone; and At Home in the World. The latter two are both also published by Duke University Press. He is the author of The Accidental Anthropologist: A Memoir; six books of poetry including, most recently, Dead Reckoning; and two novels.


"Novelist, poet, and extraordinary ethnographer, Michael Jackson has built a life around excursions and conversations in Africa, the South Pacific, Europe, and North America. The upshot is a book rich in existential insights, Continental philosophy grounded in local worlds, and painterly perceptions of the multiple ways that nature expresses human feelings and values. The chapter on Walter Benjamin is brilliantly executed as are those on Sierra Leonian and Maori friends. Walk with Jackson down these very different roads and he will bewitch you into seeing and feeling life come alive as it really is lived--lives of others and magically your own as well. A beautiful work."--Arthur Kleinman, Professor of Anthropology and Psychiatry, Harvard University "Excursions is another beautifully meandering meditation from a grand wanderer in the landscape of contemporary anthropology. Michael Jackson knows about deep ethnography, having done his fair share of it with admirable verve. But he is more unique among anthropologists in his courage to engage fleeting everyday fragments of the here and there, and to mine the ephemera of momentary experience for their deep resonances with core existential questions."--Steven Feld, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Music, The University of New Mexico "Michael Jackson has long been recognized as one of our liveliest and most powerful thinkers, a scholar who engages with the phenomena--human, cultural, historical, interactive--at the core of cultural anthropology. With this remarkable book, he makes a significant contribution to current and future discussions about the hallmarks, trajectory, and promise of our field."--Don Brenneis, Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz

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