Writing for Goffman: Coincidence Drives Idea behind ‘Vehicles’

Recently published Vehicles: Cars, Canoes and other Metaphors of Moral Imagination, edited by David Lipset and Richard Handler, offers insight into the vehicle as an object that can move not only people, but also ideas. Following, Handler discusses the origination of the volume, which all came about by way of an interesting connection of coincidence.




This volume came about serendipitously.


My friend David Lipset emailed me in the summer of 2008 with the standard “what are you working on” question. I replied that I was working on a series of essays about the great American sociologist, Erving Goffman. David wrote back to tell me the rather astounding story about his first car, a late-1950s VW Beetle that his father had bought from Goffman, in Berkeley, California, where both of them taught.


The fact that Goffman was an “early adopter” (in the U.S.) of the Beetle explained, I thought, some cryptic comments in Behavior in Public Places, where Goffman described the interactional contempt that drivers of small cars endured.


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International Holocaust Remembrance Day

International Holocaust Remembrance Day, established by the United Nations General Assembly, is an international memorial day on 27 January commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. It commemorates the genocide that resulted in the death of an estimated 6 million Jews, 1 million Gypsies, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.


January 27th, 2015 also marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazis’ most notorious concentration camp, Auschwitz, also known as Auschwitz-Birkenau. Most of about 1.1 million people that passed through the gates between 1940 and 1945 never left, many of them murdered in the camp’s gas chambers. Only some 200,000 are believed to have survived that fate. No one knows how many of the survivors remain alive today, but it’s a group that is dwindling as age takes its toll. To mark the liberation’s anniversary, about 300 former Auschwitz prisoners are travelling to Oświęcim, Poland, to pay tribute on Jan. 27 at Birkenau’s Gate of Death, the unloading ramp at the camp’s rail entrance.


In honor of the UN’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Berghahn has made several relevant journal articles freely available through a special virtual issue. You may access the issue through this link: bit.ly/Holocaust-Remembrance-Day


Berhahn Books would also like to present a selection of relevant titles on the history of the Holocaust and Genocide Studies.


New Transnational Approaches
Edited by Norman J. W. Goda

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Today in History

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, alias Lenin (Russian: Ле́нин) died of a brain hemorrhage on January 21st, 1924 at the age of 54. Lenin was one of the Russian leading political figures and revolutionary thinkers of the 20th century. He masterminded the Bolshevik take-over of power in Russia in 1917 serving as head of government of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and of the Soviet Union from 1922 until his death. Under his administration, the Russian Empire was replaced by the Soviet Union and all wealth including land, industry and business was nationalized.

Lenin had a significant influence not only on the history of Russia but on the international Communist movement and was one of the most influential and controversial figures of the 20th century. Following the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, reverence for Lenin declined among the post-Soviet generations, yet he remains an important historical figure for the Soviet-era generations.


Berghahn Books presents a selection of titles on Russian & Soviet history and culture:


Forthcoming in Paperback!

New Perspectives on Post-Soviet Culture
Mikhail N. Epstein, Alexander A. Genis, and Slobodanka M. Vladiv-Glover
With an Introduction by Thomas Epstein

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Meeting of Minds and Disciplines: Authors Discuss ‘Anthropology & Political Science’

Myron J. Aronoff and Jan Kubik’s  Anthropology and Political Science: A Convergent Approach was published in paperback last November. Following, the co-authors reflect on the conception of the book and their writing process, as well as its reception since the initial publication.





I lived abroad for a dozen years from 1965-1977 having earned a Ph.D. in social anthropology from Manchester University and in political science from UCLA. The Chair of the Department of Political Science at Tel Aviv University, where I had taught for eight years, asked me what I would write about when I returned to the US to take up my position at Rutgers University. I told him that, among other topics, I intended to write an analysis of the convergent approach bridging anthropology and political science that I was developing. I then wrote my third book on Israel and updated and expanded my earlier book on the Israel Labor Party.

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Space and Place

Unlike a painting or a sculpture, architectural sites cannot be work of a single artist. They arise from collaborations among historical figures, architects, engineers, bankers, and many more. Some structures become much more than just a place to live, work, worship or be entertained, instead they become symbols embedded with cultural knowledge, history and social value.


Berghahn is delighted to bring Space and Place Series to your attention. This series provides ethnographically rich analyses of the cultural organization and meanings of these sites of space, architecture, landscape, and places of the body. Contributions examine the symbolic meanings of space and place, the cultural and historical processes involved in their construction and contestation, and how they communicate with wider political, religious, social, and economic institutions.



Volume 15 Forthcoming! 

Histories, Space and the Everyday
Edited by Wladimir Fischer-Nebmaier, Matthew P. Berg, and Anastasia Christou

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The Social Impact of Economic Growth

Editors Susanna Price and Kathryn Robinson explore the social aspects of Chinese economic growth in their soon-to-be-published book, Making a Difference? Social Assessment Policy and Praxis and its Emergence in China. Following, Susanna Price offers further insight into the book’s origins and the impact the book may have on the field of Asian development studies.




Why did we write this book?


We are all familiar with the striking, sometimes wildly exaggerated, news headlines on China’s rapid economic growth, its geo-political consequences and – perhaps less frequently − the possible flow-on implications for liberal democratic governance. We felt that such headlines, focusing on growth, overshadowed an alternative narrative, on the social dimensions of that growth and transformation. It came down to a simple wish: we wanted to tell a different China story that reflected our own experience and practice.

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Simulated Shelves: Browse December’s New Books

We are delighted to present a selection of our newly published December titles from our core subjects of Cultural Studies, History and Politics, along with a selection of our New in Paperback titles.



Essays in the Cultural and Intellectual History of Thinking about War
Peter Paret

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Looking Back through Anthropology

Although nostalgia seems to permeate much of modern (especially Western) society, there are few detailed anthropological accounts of this longing for the past. Editors Olivia Angé and David Berliner seek to fill this gap and explore this phenomenon in their newly published volume, Anthropology and Nostalgia. Following, the editors look back on the creation of their volume and look forward to its reception within the social science community.





What drew you to the study of nostalgia, especially as it relates to the social sciences?


Well, nostalgia is a central notion that permeates present-day discourses and practices. In many parts of the world, there seems to be a current overdose of nostalgia, a reaction to the modern acceleration deployed in universes as diverse as nationalism, heritage policies, vintage consumerism, the tourism industry, and religious and ecological movements.

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Happy New Year from Berghahn!

BB 20 years circle

To all of those who have supported us this past year, as well as the last twenty, we offer our heartfelt thanks.

We are looking forward to another exciting year, and send our best wishes to you and yours in 2015.

—Your colleagues at Berghahn Books & Journals

Prose and Economic Development in an African Village

Paul Clough spent many years studying the economic situation of the Marmara village, in Hausaland, northern Nigeria. His work there began in 1977-1979, then was followed by stints in 1985, 1996, and 1998. In Morality and Economic Growth in Rural West Africa: Indigenous Accumulation in Hausaland, his book based on that fieldwork, the author explores the economic growth and accumulation of this non-capitalistic, polygynous society through boom and bust periods. Following is the author’s reflection on his book, fieldwork, and forged relationships.




What drew you to the field of African studies? Specifically, what drew you to Hausaland in Nigeria?



All of this happened by accident when I was very young. I wanted to be a volunteer, to work in the field of development. Since the Peace Corps in early 1970 would not send me to Latin America (perhaps because I had no Spanish), I managed through other channels to find a teaching post in northern Nigeria. I arrived at Kano Airport in late 1970, when I was only twenty-two, knowing next to nothing about Africa or Hausaland.


But I fell in love immediately.

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