Generosity and Nothing But
Appreciation and debt: these are the topics of many an acknowledgment.
Appreciation, to be sure. Without it, misrecognition ensues, things break
apart, and what then is the point? But rather than speak of debts incurred in
the making of a book that works hard to avoid reducing a world of cotton-
wood saplings, rfid tags, bedtime stories, computer modeling, pilgrim-
ages, moose hunts, nuclear ruins, and ever- shifting entanglements to the
terms of finance, I dedicate a few pages here to interdependencies. Inter-
dependencies rely on give- and- take, on call- and- respond- and- call- again.
Listen carefully, and even if you never consult a footnote, you can hear
legacies of conversations past and bids for reciprocity whistle through the
passages. Interdependencies thrive on generosity. Without them, nothing
happens. Certainly not the writing of a book.
Above all, I am grateful to Geeta Patel, my once and future inspiration,
for the many delectable debates, references, meals, and critiques that have
underwritten and overwritten this text. With experience I have come to
wonder why spouses, especially when they serve as indispensable inter-
locutors, conventionally come last in acknowledgments, when it seems
clearer and clearer that they should come first.
Ken Wissoker took a chance on a volume whose complexities seemed
suspiciously unlikely to lend themselves to the marketing magic of an ele-
vator speech. What a titan among editors you have become. Early in the
writing process, Kavita Philip made room in an impossibly busy schedule to
read a draft of what eventually morphed into the final chapter. At that cru-
cial stage, I benefited from her comments and her encouragement in equal
measure. Richard Handler gifted me the reprieve of Sunday afternoon
football when the writing dragged on and pushed me in the direction of a
“snappier” title. Colleagues in the Department of Anthropology at the Uni-
versity of Virginia amiably accepted my time away during the leaves neces-
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