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Book review Centralizing fieldwork Critical perspectives from primatology biological and social anthropology.

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Book Reviews
Ungar. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
2010. 304 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8018-9668-2. (Hardcover).
It has been a long time since someone tried to produce
a compendium of almost every aspect of the mammalian
dentition. This excellent new account by Peter Ungar
aims to fill this encyclopedic void. As an addict of reference books, the sort who reads encyclopedias in bed, I
hope it succeeds. It is reasonable to ask, at the outset,
what utility is there in a printed encyclopedia in an
internet world, and what could a beautifully bound book
like this offer that the world-wide web cannot? A common answer is that what the latter offers in terms of
instantly-editable, multi-author freedom, it often lacks in
the control of its quality. In which case, reviews of the
printed word, such as this, are all-important. They are,
in fact, essential reading in themselves.
The verdict of this reviewer is that, in terms of information, this book triumphs. Facts, rather than figures, are its
aim and it lays these out admirably. Yet, being surprisingly concise (of its 304 pages, 64 are occupied by references in two-column format), there is inevitably some
missing content. And, in terms of innovation, or even in
pointing a reader toward areas of uncertainty, it lacks
something of a sharp edge. This is clearly deliberate: an
encyclopedia needs to be bunodont (page 15) if it is to
endure. And it also needs to be reference-laden. In both
aspects, this book passes the test and could well survive to
be part of the libraries of the species that follows our own.
The book opens with a chapter on terminology. Any
branch of biology can be bedeviled by nomenclature, but
mastery of the jargon is generally essential and it is
refreshing that terms have been left unabbreviated
throughout much of the book. Acronyms make everything
less readable and memorable. The basis of crown cusp nomenclature, which is generally the sticking point for students, is well-described both here and later on in the
book, but the more basic issue of what to call a tooth categorically—and thus what the dental formula is—is left
alone. That is perhaps a pity because tooth category classification based on considerations of development and evolution may be in conflict with conventional nomenclature.
The book then delves briefly into dental development,
starting with germs, rather than genes. The latter get
rather short-changed. It is either that or there really isn’t
much about dental genetics that wouldn’t be likely to
change rapidly and ‘‘date’’ the book if current findings
were to be emphasized. The book continues with a survey
of the physicochemical properties of food and follows this
with a very interesting account of food acquisition and
processing. Many important trends in the dentition are
discussed here, relating both to how teeth work and how
they are maintained against inevitable wear.
Yet the heart of the book lies beyond this point, dealing with the evolution of the mammalian jaw apparatus,
C 2011
the dentition of fossil mammals, and then for its last
half, with the dentition of living mammals. It was impossible for this reviewer to get through the final part in
detail simply because of its ‘‘dip into it as you need’’ nature. Perhaps the best way to give its flavor is to pick a
mammalian group and examine what is written. At first,
I tried a random approach, but unfortunately pinned the
Tubulidentata (page 148). That group is not exactly in
the mainstream of the subject, but it is perhaps appropriate that an aficionado of encyclopedias should bump
into an aardvark. So, being more directed, what mammals matter the most? What is the crucial lineage that
provides a gage of the book’s quality? What would the
average reader really expect a reviewer to check out?
Well, to save readers one trip to the excellent index, the
camels are dealt with on pages 154–155. They are a very
interesting group of artiodactyls for a variety of reasons.
One is illustrated by Figure 12.1A: how many permanent upper canines does a camel have? Just the one
allotted to them by tradition? Camels live, or often survive, in exceptionally arid conditions, yet they do not
possess the hyper-hypsodont tooth form that you might
expect. Of course, some readers of this journal might
also want to see primates in the limelight. They will not
be disappointed because the descriptions of their teeth
eclipse that of other lineages.
All in all, this is a remarkable book, encompassing an
enormous field. It deals not only with the structure and
function of teeth, but also with the process of feeding and
the value of food. It is doubtful if there has ever been a
precursor to it. Its shortcomings are few. It does not cover
much about the mouth where teeth are located, but there
has to be limits. The figures are very stylized, but could
perhaps be a bit more refined? It might be nice to see the
dental formula in the figures. It would also be useful to
have the common name of the mammal in the captions
alongside the Linnaean binomial. The phrase ‘‘Drawings
positioned to fit within the bounds of this illustration’’
could perhaps be assumed. A scale might have been nice
as an alternative to this. And some numbers somewhere
would be a great addition. The main numbers given in the
text are dates and body weights. Could not some quantification be offered for sizes of teeth or jaw muscles or tooth
tissue properties or foods, and the like? But these are
things to consider for the next edition. Or not, because
the next generation of researchers that this book will
inspire needs to have something left to do.
Department of Bioclinical Sciences
Kuwait University
Safat, Kuwait
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.22005
Published online 20 December 2011 in Wiley Online Library
by Jeremy MacClancy and Agustı́n Fuentes. New York:
Berghan. 2011. 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-84545-690-0 (Hardback).
Centralizing Fieldwork is part of a transdisciplinary anthropology project that views fieldwork as a centralizing
feature anthropologists should re-emphasize. The 16chapter volume focuses mainly on primatology (11 chapters) but also includes chapters on general aspects of anthropological fieldwork, anthropobiology, and socio-cultural anthropology. The editors, MacClancy and Fuentes,
pose their objectives in Chapter 1. First, they note that
fieldwork itself has been understudied, save for the efforts
of social anthropologists. This assertion justifies why the
volume is so heavy on biological anthropology. A second
aim is to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration, especially given the recent tendencies of anthropology departments to split along such lines. They suggest anthropologists reconcile their differences by centering around methodology, rather than along theoretical lines. They briefly
review the history of anthropological fieldwork and compare and contrast national styles of fieldwork. They go on
to discuss ethical and practical issues associated with
fieldwork. As they note, these themes emerge throughout
the various chapters, providing the reader a varied viewpoint according to the author’s experience and philosophy.
Although primatologists author most of the chapters,
their backgrounds provide a rich and varied discussion
that is not to be found elsewhere. The authors’ personal
experiences with the different stages of fieldwork are
invaluable. Sommer provides a very personal glimpse into
primatological fieldwork in Chapter 3, for example. He
reviews the philosophical and methodological approaches
taken in Europe and elsewhere. This comparative theme
is found in a number of chapters and is especially important reading for graduate students. Sommer’s discussion
of the scientific process and ethics is informative and,
again, a common thread found in most chapters, which
itself makes the volume worth reading. Sussman gives
wonderful examples of extensive experience in the field in
Chapter 4. Another primatologist, he again includes a
review of his own personal trajectory. He delves into the
process of choosing methodologies, which is particularly
useful, and goes on to discuss what it means to be an anthropological primatologist. In Chapter 5, Lee solicits
more solid ideas in a focus on primate conservation while
taking into account the people who live alongside them,
in what is referred to as ethnoprimatology. This chapter
is especially relevant given the urgent need to incorporate
conservation into almost every scenario involving primate
fieldwork. Chapters 6 and 7 are written by Japanese primatologists and provide an interesting contrast in the
generational difference between the two. Yamagiwa and
Kutsukake review the philosophical and methodological
differences between Japanese primatology and the subdiscipline elsewhere. The fact that Kutsukake also incorporates methods of Western primatology into his own
research makes these chapters very thought provoking.
Fuentes continues the focus on primatology in Chapter 8,
comparing primatological methods to those used generally in biological anthropology. He also emphasizes ethnoprimatological methods.
Hladik continues the primatological theme in Chapter
11 but moves in a slightly different direction, as he reviews
methods specifically used to assess nonhuman and human
primate feeding behavior. In Chapter 13, MacKinnon
reviews the role of field schools in primatology today. Given
that such opportunities are a relatively recent development
in modern field primatology, her review will be especially
useful for advising students. She discusses ethnoprimatology and ethics as well. Chapter 14 again reverts to a more
philosophical theme, where Jolly draws on her extensive
and impressive career in using story telling as well as science to further primatological studies. She addresses the
issue of scientific objectivity, interpretative writing on primatology, and the political nature of the subdiscipline. In
one of the final chapters (Chapter 15), Asquith places primatological fieldwork within the context of the Anthropological method. She notes, importantly, that the very fact that
primatology juxtaposes ethnological and evolutionary
perspectives has indeed given it a sense of ambiguity.
Chapters that include biological anthropology involving
human subjects range from focusing on quantitative versus
qualitative methods (Rosetta, Chapter 10) to logistics of collecting nutritional data (Hladik, Chapter 11), but all discuss cultural issues associated with fieldwork to some
degree. Harrison (Chapter 2) reviews the challenges of conducting fieldwork with humans in Namibia and Ethiopia in
the 1950s and 1960s. Eggerman and Panter-Brick (Chapter
9) discuss their experiences in the Gambia and Afghanistan in terms of their research process and expound on the
importance of engaging the local community. In Chapter
12, Froment also addresses anthropobiological field studies
in his reflections on the bioethics of human medical and
DNA surveys. He provides an exceptionally useful discussion of potential conflicts between culture and biological
research on humans, which is definitely a must-read for
graduate students in this area of study. In the final chapter
(Chapter 16), MacClancy attempts to popularize fieldwork
by providing examples from primatology and biological anthropology. This is a suggestion that should be taken seriously in light of concerns about primate conservation, on
one hand, and regarding the role of science in today’s society, in general, on the other.
One goal of the book series, The Studies of the Biosocial
Society, is to provide advanced reading for undergraduate
and graduate students, and this volume meets that goal.
Overall, it is something most anthropologists should at least
peruse, and I believe most will find it a nice (necessary?) reminder of the holistic aspect of our discipline. Unfortunately, editing at some level failed to catch numerous typos,
marring an otherwise pleasant, intriguing and informative
read. Finally, while it is the product of mainly biological and
primatological scientists, not mentioning archaeology seems
unusual. However, the editors note that one of their goals is
to try and remedy an imbalance in the examination of fieldwork methods in biological and primatological anthropology, and they have succeeded. They make a valiant attempt
at proposing a common thread among anthropologists, but I
fear most socio-cultural anthropologists will be less convinced. Therefore, the second goal, to further a holistic anthropology, may not enjoy the same level of success. This volume places the task upon the shoulders of biological/primatological anthropologists, however. Switching the focus from
common theory to common method may indeed be provocative enough in today’s anthropology to help reinvent the paradigm of cross-disciplinarity.
Department of Anthropology
Iowa State University
Ames, IA
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.22006
Published online 13 February 2012 in Wiley Online Library
American Journal of Physical Anthropology
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