As Jorge Luis Borges once wrote, referring to the two sides of himself, one
who writes and the other who goes about the routines of daily life: “I do not
know which of us has written this page.” The same may be said of this text,
except that a much higher number than two is needed to acknowledge the
many who have made it pos si ble. I am happy for the occasion to thank those
who have been especially integral to my research and writing.
My list must begin with a stellar group of mentors in the Department of
Anthropology at Stanford University. James Ferguson has been a perpetual
inspiration for this proj ect as well as a steady voice of encouragement. I
profited repeatedly from his uncanny ability to distill even the most clouded
thoughts. For his unique combination of clarity and creativity and his com-
mitment to precise thought and language, Jim remains a model of intellec-
tual engagement. Sylvia Yanagisako has been an invaluable source of guid-
ance and advice, and of astute critique. Her direct and refreshing honesty
has helped resolve many conundrums along the way. First at Yale and then
at Stanford, I’ve been lucky to work with Thomas Blom Hansen, always a
generous interlocutor and now a trusted friend. Paulla Ebron offered crucial
support as I strug gled to understand what an updated urban anthropology
might look like.
Teresa Caldeira’s masterpiece, City of Walls, was an early inspiration, and
I’m especially grateful for her help, both conceptual and professional, at
many critical junctures. Ananya Roy welcomed me as an interloper within
the Department of City and Regional Planning at uc Berkeley, where
I observed firsthand her heterodox approach to urban theory as well as
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