The goal I had for this book, when I started writing it in 2006, was to help
renew ethnographic engagement with the rural places that continue to be
home to half the world’s population. Twenty years of repeat visits to one rural
place gave me intimate insights into people’s lives and the dilemmas they
faced during a period of far- reaching change, but finding a way to tell their
story was harder than I anticipated. I relied on the help of many colleagues
and students who read drafts of the manuscript as it evolved, listened to me
present parts of it in lectures and seminars, and gave me copious comments
and excellent advice. I haven’t footnoted every idea or correction I took on
board from my interlocutors, but I trust they will recognize their input. Some
of them were conscripts (students from my Core Concepts in Anthropology
undergraduate class in 2011), but most of them were volunteers, and I’m
hugely grateful for their generosity.
Donald Moore, Gavin Smith, and Ben White helped me conceptualize
the project at the outset, read several drafts, discussed it at length in person
and on the phone, and gently guided me away from some serious errors. I
received written comments on a complete draft from Junko Asano, Henry
Bernstein, Michael Eilenberg, Gaston Gordillo, Derek Hall, Kregg Hether-
ington, Holly High, Esther Kuhn, Christian Lund, Jerome Rousseau, Alpa
Shah, Ken Wissoker, Jeremy Withers, and graduate students who organized
group discussions on the manuscript: in Zurich Irina Wenk, Esther Leeman,
Eva Keller, and Danilo Geiger; in Toronto Zach Anderson, Lukas Ley, and
Elizabeth Lord. Henke Schulte Nordholte and Gerry Van Klinken organized
a day- long book workshop at kitlv in Leiden to give me the benefit of in-
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