Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cover story: "A Talent for Friendship"

John Edward Terrell has long been recognized as one of the world's leading experts on the peopling of the Oceania and the remarkable biological, cultural, and linguistic diversity of modern Pacific Islanders. He is also a pioneer in the study of global human biogeography, baseline probability analysis, and the application of social network analysis in archaeology and anthropology. Since 1971 he has been the curator of Oceanic archaeology and ethnology at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago where he now holds the endowed Regenstein Curatorship of Pacific Anthropology established there in 2005.

His new book is A Talent for Friendship: Rediscovery of a Remarkable Trait.

Here Terrell explains the connection of the book's cover to the pages within:
Google the word “friendship” for images and you will get back an astonishing number of sweet and often charming pictures of kittens, dogs, babies, bunnies, and people cheek-to-cheek, jumping up and down, strolling off into the sunset by the seashore, and similar visual clichés all resonating with the popular understanding of friendship as a special kind of spiritual relationship between kittens, dogs, babies, bunnies, and the like. My book, however, looks at what it means to be human from a far more inclusive perspective. I argue that our skillful ways of turning strangers into friends—and thereby expanding our social networks beyond the confines of hearth and family—comprise one of the great defining characteristics of our species. Believe me, therefore, it wasn’t easy to find a cover illustration celebrating friendship in this more encompassing fashion. I found the picture we finally used as cover art at the on-line Bridgeman archive. We know nothing about it except the labeling given there: “Group of men and women at picnic, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA, circa 1895.” The designer at Oxford University Press gave the image a more sepia tone to resonate with the subtitle of my book. I like to think there is a nice amount of humor in my book, and I also think this picture raises a nice sense of humorous intrigue.
Learn more about A Talent for Friendship: Rediscovery of a Remarkable Trait at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue