Bookshelf Archive 2012

Faculty books and productions from 2012.

Why Nations Fail book cover

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson 

Why Nations Fail  
Random House, 2012

Daron Acemoglu is the Charles P. Kindleberger Professor of Economics

Proposed: that political institutions, above all, determine the wealth of nations
It is among the most significant questions in history: Why do some nations, become wealthy and powerful, while others remain mired in poverty? In an acclaimed, highly readable new book, economists Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson assert that above all else, political institutions — not culture, geography, or natural resources — determine the wealth of nations.  Info, videos, reviews

Sandy Alexandre
The Properties of Violence:
Claims to Ownership in Representations of Lynching

University Press of Mississippi, 2012

Studying the literary record to understand violence
Alexandre studies the literary record to shed light on the history of violence against blacks in the U.S. She explores the multiple meanings of "property," and, through examination of visual and textual narratives, shows how and why the notion of property — in the context of America's history of violence against blacks — needs to extend beyond ownership in land. 

Story at MIT News

Sandy Alexandre is an Associate Professor of Literature. 

Between Page and Screen book cover

Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse
Between Page and Screen
Siglio Press, 2012

Amaranth Borsuk was Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities, WHS, and CMS for 2010-2012.

Handiwork book cover

Amaranth Borsuk
Slope Editions, 2012

Amaranth Borsuk is Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities, WHS, and CMS.

Nazli Choucri
Cyberpolitics in International Relations
MIT Press, 2012

The new cyberpolitical reality
Until recently, the political impact of cyberspace was thought to be a matter of low politics — background conditions and routine processes and decisions. Now, however, experts have begun to recognize its effect on high politics — national security, core institutions, and critical decision processes. In this book, MIT political scientist Nazli Choucri investigates the implications of this new cyberpolitical reality for international relations theory, policy, and practice.

Story + Video at MIT News 

Nazli Choucri is Professor of Political Science at MIT, Associate Director of MIT’s Technology and Development Program, and Director of GSSD (Global System for Sustainable Development). 

Fotini Christia
Alliance Formation in Civil Wars
Cambridge University Press, 2012

How civil wars evolve
MIT political scientist’s book shows how even the bloodiest conflicts feature pragmatic alliances — not just ancient sectarian divisions. Some of the most brutal and long-lasting civil wars of our time – those in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Lebanon, and Iraq, among others – involve the rapid formation and disintegration of alliances among warring groups, as well as fractionalization within them. Looking closely at the civil wars in Afghanistan and Bosnia and testing against the broader universe of 53 cases of multi-party civil wars, Christia finds that the relative power distribution between and within various warring groups is the primary driving force behind alliance formation, alliance changes, group splits, and internal group takeovers.

Story at MIT News

Fotini Christia is Associate Professor of Political Science.


This Is How You Lose Her book cover

Junot Díaz
This Is How You Lose Her
Penguin Group, 2012

New novel from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Junot Díaz is Rudge (1948) and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at MIT.  

The Handbook of Organizational Economics

Robert Gibbons
with John Roberts
The Handbook of Organizational Economics
Princeton University Press, 2012

The Handbook of Organizational Economics surveys the major theories, evidence, and methods used in the field. It displays the breadth of topics in organizational economics, including the roles of individuals and groups in organizations, organizational structures and processes, the boundaries of the firm, contracts between and within firms, and more.

Robert Gibbons is Professor of Economics in the Department of Economics, and the Sloan Distinguished Professor of Management in the Sloan School of Management. 

Evocations album cover

Mark Harvey
Leo Records, 2012
Performed by The Aardvark Jazz Orchestra

Mark Harvey is Lecturer of Music.

Sally Haslanger
Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique
Oxford University Press, 2012
Winner of the 2014 Joseph B. Gittler Award from the American Philosophical Association

What is "natural" and what is "social"?
"The supposed line between the 'natural' and the 'social' is of crucial importance for theories of justice: the 'natural' is not as fixed as we might think, and the 'social' can be much more fixed than we imagined. Some differences between us must be respected, and others should be overcome —but which are which?"
Interview with Sally Haslanger 

Sally Haslanger is the Ford Professor of Philosophy.

The House Enters the Street Book Cover

Gretchen Henderson
The House Enters the Street
Starcherone Books, 2012

This beautiful novel is simultaneously a love letter to the arts and a complex interweaving of characters, stories, landscapes.

Gretchen E. Henderson is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities

On An Irish Island cover

Robert Kanigel
On An Irish Island
Knopf, 2012

Robert Kangiel is Professor of Science Writing.

What we gain, and what we lose, with technological advances 
On an Irish Island
 is a love letter to a vanished way of life, in which Kanigel, the highly praised author of The Man Who Knew Infinity, tells the story of the Great Blasket, a wild, beautiful island off the west coast of Ireland, renowned during the early 20th century for the rich communal life of its residents and the unadulterated Irish they spoke. With the Irish language vanishing elsewhere, the island became a magnet for scholars and writers during the Gaelic renaissance.

I Married a Travel Junkie book cover

Samuel Jay Keyser
I Married a Travel Junkie
GemmaMedia Books, 2012

Samuel Jay Keyser is de Florez Professor Emeritus and Special Assistant to the Chancellor.

Alan Lightman
Mr. g
Pantheon, 2012

"With echoes of Calvino and Saramago, Mr. g celebrates the tragic and joyous nature of existence on the grandest possible scale."

Alan Lightman is Adjunct Professor in the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, and an active research scientist in astronomy and physics for two decades. Lightman’s earlier novels include Einstein’s Dreams, an international best seller; Good Benito; and The Diagnosis, a finalist for the National Book Award; and Reunion.
Reviews | Interview in The Atlantic

Co-Designers book cover

Yanni Loukissas
Co-Designers: Cultures of Computer Simulation in Architecture
Routledge, 2012

Yanni Loukissas is Postdoctoral Associate in Science, Technology, and Society.

Nick Montfort, 
with Patsy Baudoin, John Bell, Ian Bogost, Jeremy Douglass, Mark C. Marino, Michael Mateas, Casey Reas, Mark Sample, and Noah Vawter
10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10  
MIT Press, 2012 

The cultural significance of computer code 
This collaboratively written book takes a single line of code — the extremely concise BASIC program for the Commodore 64 inscribed in the title—and uses it as a lens through which to consider the phenomenon of creative computing and the way computer programs exist in culture. The authors treat code not as merely functional but as a text — in the case of 10 PRINT, a text that appeared in many different printed sources — that yields a story about its making, its purpose, its assumptions, and more.
Story at SHASS News | Book website

Nick Montfort is Associate Professor for Digital Writing, in the Comparative Media Studies/Writing program. 


Implementation: A Novel

Nick Montfort
with Scott Rettberg
Implementation: A Novel
Blurb, 2012

Implementation is a novel about the peripheral, everyday, psychological toll of the war on terror.

Nick Montfort is Associate Professor of Digital Media.

Paul Osterman
Economy in Society: Essays in Honor of Michael J. Piore
MIT Press, 2012
In Economy in Society, five prominent social scientists honor Michael J. Piore in original essays that explore key topics in Piore’s work and make significant independent contributions in their own right. Piore is distinctive for his original research that explores the interaction of social, political, and economic considerations in the labor market and in the economic development of nations and regions. The essays in this volume reflect this rigorous interdisciplinary approach to important social and economic questions.
Michael Piore is Professor of Political Science.

Life of Cheese book cover

Heather Paxson
The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America
University of California, 2012 

Cheese is alive, and alive with meaning 
An anthropological study of American artisanal cheese and the people who make it. Cheese is alive, and alive with meaning. This study tells the story of how craftwork has become a new source of cultural and economic value for producers as well as consumers. By exploring the life of cheese, Paxson helps rethink the politics of food, land, and labor today.

The Life of Cheese website

University of California Press

Video (1 minute): Paxson on artisan cheese


Penser l'adoption. La gouvernance pastorale du genre (Rethinking Adoption. The P

Bruno Perreau
Penser l'adoption. La gouvernance pastorale du genre
(Rethinking Adoption. The Pastoral Governance of Gender)

Presses Universitaires de France, 2012

Bruno Perreau is Assistant Professor of French Studies.


Natasha Dow Schüll
Addiction by Design: Gambling in Las Vegas 
Princeton University Press, 2012

Machines designed to keep people "playing to exctinction" 
Drawing on 15 years of field research among slot machine gamblers and the designers of the devices they play, anthropologist Schüll explores the relationship between technology design and the experience of addiction. She shows how electronic gambling games are designed to pull players into a trancelike state called the "machine zone" — a state in which the aim is not to win but simply to keep playing. Schüll’s study illuminates the broader social and cultural effects of the intensifying traffic between people and technology in everyday life.

Schull discusses her research on "60 Minutes"

Story at MIT News

The Atlantic names Natasha Dow Schüll's Addiction by Design as a best book read in 2013
Atlantic senior editor Alexis Madgiral writes: "Addiction by Design is one of the foundational artifacts for understanding the digital age." 

Natasha Dow Schüll is Associate Professor in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society. 


Mere Possibilities book cover

Robert Stalnaker
Mere Possibilities: Metaphysical Foundations of Modal Semantics
Princeton University Press, 2012

Robert Stalnaker is Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy.

Charles Stewart III,
with Jeffery A. Jenkins
Fighting for the Speakership:
The House and the Rise of Party Government

Princeton University Press, 2012

Deep Politics
The Speaker of the House of Representatives is the most powerful partisan figure in the contemporary U.S. Congress. How this came to be, and how the majority party in the House has made control of the speakership a routine matter, is far from straightforward. Fighting for the Speakership provides a comprehensive history of how Speakers have been elected in the U.S. House since 1789, arguing that the organizational politics of these elections were critical to the construction of mass political parties in America and laid the groundwork for the role they play in setting the agenda of Congress today.
Charles Stewart III is the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science.

Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method

T.L. Taylor 
with Tom Boellstorff, Bonnie Nardi, and Celia Pearce
Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method
Princeton University Press, 2012

Written by leading ethnographers of virtual worlds, and focusing on the key method of participant observation, Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method provides invaluable advice, tips, guidelines, and principles to aid researchers through every stage of a project, from choosing an online fieldsite to writing and publishing the results.

T.L. Taylor is Associate Professor of Comparative Media Studies.

Raising the Stakes: E-sports and the Professionalization of Computer Gaming

T.L. Taylor
Raising the Stakes: E-sports and the Professionalization of Computer Gaming
MIT Press, 2012

A new development in the world of digital gaming, however, is the emergence of professional computer game play, complete with star players, team owners, tournaments, sponsorships, and spectators. In Raising the Stakes, T. L. Taylor explores the emerging scene of professional computer gaming and the accompanying efforts to make a sport out of this form of play.

T. L. Taylor is Associate Professor of Comparative Media Studies.


Robert Townsend
Chronicles from the Field, The Townsend Thai Project
co-authored with Rob Jordan
MIT Press, 2013

Deep in the field
For 20 years, MIT economist Robert Townsend has explored the links between household finances and economic growth in rural Thailand. His new book, Chronicles from the Field, based on one of the most extensive datasets in the developing world, provides a template for policies that can help alleviate poverty. 
Story at MIT News

Robert Townsend is the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics at MIT, and director of the Consortium on Financial Systems and Poverty.  

Oxford Handbook of the Indian Economy book cover

Robert Townsend
with Xavier Gines, James Vickrey, and Lev Menand
"Micro-insurance: A Case Study of the Indian Rainfall Insurance Market," in The Oxford Handbook of the Indian Economy; Chetan Ghate (ed.)

Robert Townsend is Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics.