Blatant plug: new book, Brain Rules, by John Medina

book_dvd.jpgThe publisher of John Medina’s new book, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, sent me an email saying that the book might be appropriate for Neuroanthropology. Normally, I wouldn’t plug something I haven’t yet read (and you can be confident that the publisher didn’t bribe me with a review copy, as I don’t have a copy… yet…), but I thought that the website in support of the book itself was worth a look.

The website contains a wealth of Flash-based audio-visual elements from the book, bibliography, graphics, and a host of other resources. I’m struck by several things about it; first, Medina is very savvy — he’s pitched this book brilliantly for a general audience. I don’t mean that as a backhanded compliment; in fact, it’s something that I aspire to in my own writing, and it’s educational to see such a good practitioner. Second, he’s done a great job of distilling some complicated ideas into bullet-point amenable, succinct statements. This sort of nested complexity (because there is more when one scratches the surface) is going to be a hallmark of neuroanthropological work, as we’re going to have to be able to write on several levels at once if we’re to persuade both specialists in the areas we’re writing about and other, non-specialists. For example, if I’m going to discuss brain modularity and it’s relationship to cultural theory, I’m going to have to be able to come up with compelling glosses for very complex research (to appeal to those more interested in cultural theory than modularity, but also vice versa), and deeper explanation so that I don’t get off-sides with the specialists.

Finally, I’m just amazed at the media support for the book — it’s excellent. As a former design ‘consultant,’ I just dig deeply the richness of the website and accompanying material. For example, there’s clever little bits of Medina giving audio versions of some of the book’s main points, but they’re much slicker and better produced than the usual head-on or 45-degree-to-the-side, video-camera-on-tripod, wide-angle-to-catch-powerpoints-and-speaker footage. He comes across as profoundly and engaging and funny. Frankly, he’s providing a really accessible counter-point to some of the simplistic ‘public intellectual’ versions of the brain sciences that we rail against frequently. For those of you with better access to well-stocked bookstores, you might want to check it out.

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Trained as a cultural anthropologist at the University of Chicago, I have gone on to do fieldwork in Brazil and the United States. I have written one book, Learning Capoeira: Lessons in Cunning from an Afro-Brazilian Art (Oxford, 2005). I have also co-authored and co-edited several, including, with Dr. Daniel Lende, The Encultured Brain: An Introduction to Neuroanthropology (MIT, 2012), and with Dr. Melissa Fisher, Frontiers of Capital: Ethnographic Reflections on the New Economy (Duke, 2006). My research interests include neuroanthropology, psychological anthropology, sport, dance, human rights, neuroscience, phenomenology, economic anthropology, and just about anything else that catches my attention.

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