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Wesley Aptekar-Cassels Locked account

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Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia (2023, Farrar, Straus & Giroux) 3 stars

Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia

3 stars

I'd been waiting for years for this book to come out in English, so I was excited that it finally did.

Like many books written by anthropologists, it spends a lot more time discussing facts and histories than it does trying to argue a political point: more than halfway through the book, Graeber writes “At this point, we can finally turn to the story of Ratsimilaho, and examine it in its proper context” — a story which is mostly history, rather than the argument of a thesis I was expecting from this book.

On the one hand, I'm not especially interested in the history of 16ᵗʰ and 17ᵗʰ century Madagascar — on the other hand, going into depth on that history is the only way to avoid the exoticization that's so endemic to political texts drawing from other cultures.

The tension between the ideals that it's pleasant to image the …