In early 2009, I was in Chicago doing a presentation for an ad agency. I had been asked to describe how an anthropologist notices, and how he gets from noticing to insight. My talking point was something I noticed on the train that runs between New York City and Connecticut. Several guys were reading papers and magazines, and all of them seemed to be snapping each page as they went. This sort of thing is annoying and banal in equal measure, the sort of thing we notice only to dismiss. But in this case, I found myself wondering. Why snapping?
I told these young planners about the time I sat beside Marshall Sahlins, now emeritus professor at the University of Chicago, as he read one of my papers. Professor Sahlins ...