Originally posted at the LSE Review of Books website on 13/10/2014.
Sometimes academic books must not be evaluated only according to their conclusions or arguments, but also for the meanings they carry in themselves. That is, to paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, sometimes the book is the message. I am specifically thinking about studies regarding the lifeworlds and actions of people who suffer from and struggle against the consequences of social inequality, such as favela dwellers in Brazil, to take one example. In my own fieldwork, I often hear favela dwellers complain about how most researchers treat them as guinea pigs. In these circumstances, the way academics write books and undertake research can potentially transform a situation of insensitivity and mistrust into a relationship of mutual respect.