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Homo Politicus

7 January, 2008

Dana Milbank’s recent book,  Homo Politicus: The Strange and Scary Tribes that Run Our Government (Doubleday, 2007), plays on the jargon of classical anthropology to send up “Potomac Man, that strange indigenous tribe inhabiting the area in and around Washington, D.C.”  Here’s an excerpt from the official book synopsis:

Deep within the forbidding land encircled by the Washington Beltway lives the tribe known as Homo Politicus. Their ways are strange, even repulsive, to civilized human beings, their arcane rites often impenetrable, their language coded and obscure, violating their complex taboos can lead to sudden, harsh, and irrevocable punishment.

Normal Americans have long feared Homo Politicus, with good reason. But fearless anthropologist (and Washington Post columnist) Dana Milbank has spent many years immersed in the dark heart of Washington, D.C., and has produced this indispensable portrait of a bizarre culture whose tribal ways are as hilarious as they are outrageous.

Robert Leopold, Director of the National Anthropological Archives at the Smithsonian, has just reviewed Homo Politicus in the Washington Post.  You might have to know or care about Washington, D.C. political society to be interested in the book, but any anthropologist will enjoy Leopold’s review:

…these cursory cultural excursions are merely tongue-in-cheek set-ups for the Potomac Land institutions that follow: the curious rituals (face time), rites of solidarity (fundraisers), fictive kinship (party affiliation), Kabuki theater (judicial confirmation hearings), purification rituals (the Gridiron Club) and shadow puppets (pundits), to name only a few…

L.L. Wynn

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