Sunday, January 29, 2012

Elizabeth Popp Berman

Elizabeth Popp Berman is a sociologist at the University at Albany, SUNY.

Her first book, Creating the Market University: How Academic Science Became an Economic Engine, recently won the Social Science History Association’s President’s Book Award.

Earlier this month I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I have more time to read fiction in the summer, when I’m not teaching. And I’m the kind of person who likes to create arbitrary projects for herself. So last summer I started reading the Man Booker Prize winners in reverse order. I started with 2009, Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which I loved. It’s a long historical novel about Thomas Cromwell, a nobody who, sphinxlike, rises to become Henry VIII’s right-hand man. It was completely gripping, and I can’t wait to read the sequel, which is coming out this year. Unfortunately, we know how Cromwell’s going to end up—the same way all those wives did.

From there I worked my way backward. I skipped a couple that weren’t in the library, but I made it as far as 1994, to James Kelman’s How Late It Was, How Late. And there I got stuck. It’s been sitting on my dresser for months, and I can’t get past page 50. I think it’s because the book is written in Scottish dialect, and it’s just too much work for my American ear. So, with due apologies to Kelman, it may be time to give up this project. Or at least move on to 1993.

For work, I tend to dip into things rather than actually read them front to back, although I wish that weren’t the case. This morning it was a handful of books on science and technology studies: two books on science and public policy by Sheila Jasanoff, the fat Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, and Social Knowledge in the Making, a new edited volume. I’m trying to think about how the discipline of economics affects policymaking, and wondering about how it is similar to, and different from, the ways the natural sciences shape policy.
Learn more about Creating the Market University at the Princeton University Press website and Elizabeth Popp Berman’s website.

--Marshal Zeringue