From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

A Reader's Guide to Round and Square

My interests are broad, and I am looking forward to posting on many of my favorite topics—a bit here and a bit there, in a kind of virtual bricolage over the course of the weeks and months. I may well post a "beginnings" entry on The Seven Samurai followed by an analysis of Hank Williams' I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry.  As posts, they appear in sequential order, and might seem to be a confused juxtaposition of themes. That is generally a good thing. It is useful to think about exile and authenticity at the same time, for example.

There is an "architecture" to the site, however, and the following table might make it a bit more transparent for readers. The entries posted each day will appear as a continuous series of unrelated topics. A quick read of the material below, though, will show Round and Square's floor plan.

Topics include Chinese management techniques, my fieldwork on China's sacred mountains, my research on an "accidental ethnographer" from Doylestown, Pennsylvania who traveled the world, and my studies at the Committee on Social Thought with (among others) Allan Bloom.

Essays are posted in smaller sections of 1,000-2,000 words, and then combined into the full essay format (the length of a sizable magazine article, or 10,000-15,000 words). "Breaking the Vessel" appeared originally, over the course of March and April 2011, as a series of entries (Breaking the Vessel 1, Breaking the Vessel 2, and so on). Upon completion, they were "collected" into chapter form for the larger book project on a linked web site. All links will be active by mid-summer (July) 2011.

Each of the essays will have a podcast attached to it that will be available at the end of each month. "Breaking the Vessel" and "Living and Learning"—parts of the longer Chinese management book project—are the first of Round and Square's full-length essays.

Theory Corner and
Fieldnotes from History
"Theory Corner" and "Fieldnotes from History" represent a cross between my teaching and writing interests. I have long been irritated by the obfuscatory prose of so-called "theorists," and have often despaired at the task of acquainting students with their work and of introducing excellent theoretical ideas to colleagues who distrust and resent impossibly dense jargon. This series takes one useful theoretical idea at a time and attempts to explain it in clear and memorable terms...without "dumbing down" the original text. This often leads me to make my own interpretations and critiques, with the goal of interesting the reader to the point that she is motivated to read the original theorist on her own. In time, I see this series between two paperback covers and used in the classroom. That day is a long way off, though.

The fieldnotes are just what you might expect...and a little more. They are actual fieldnotes from earlier phases of my work, posted so that the messiness of work-in-progress (and a solid layer of cluelessness) is readily apparent. The first several batches come from my time in Taiwan from 1985-1987. These will expand over the coming months to include other notes from other times and places (including archival notes from textual research). The term "fieldnotes from history" is broadly-encompassing, and will eventually grow to include examples of field research from anthropologists and travelers in earlier eras—including those of William Edgar Geil (1865-1925), a world traveler and "accidental ethnographer" of a much different era.

And then there are the many topics that interest me. Even these, however, can fit quite nicely under a handful of headings. I am interested in the way things start, continue, and stop (First to Last), the relationship between the ways we speak or write and the ways we behave (Language and Culture), the way texts can look like little "worlds" of meaning (Textual Worlds), and what an anthropologist and historian might learn by looking at the immediate world around him. As time goes on, the blog will engage with more and more items in the news, but it will never be "about" the current news cycle. I leave that to other bloggers with other interests. The refrain here is all ideas, all (of) the time, and everything "out there" is fair game for the warp and woof of Round and Square.

First                     Language                          Current                              Textual
to Last                  and Culture                     Ethnography                       Worlds
Beginnings          Kanji Mastery                  Displays of Authenticity      Hurtin', Leavin'
Middles               Katakana Culture            Exilic Response                  Primary (School)*
Endings              English Grammar*           Seinfeld Ethnography         Calendars*
                           Classical Chinese*          Remonstrance
                                                                   Just Do It (Over)*

*To begin later in 2011