"The Porcupine enters the global struggle against injustice, to help create a more equitable and compassionate world. It not only believes that such a world is possible, through critical thought and collective action; but, that such a world is coming into being, now. The Porcupine is not here because its voice is essential, but because silence in the face of injustice is unconscionable."
The Porcupine was an online magazine of progressive and critical commentary, founded in 2006 by Eric Ross and Reuben Ross. It took its name from a short-lived nineteenth century publication by William Cobbett, one of the great figures of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century radicalism, whom Marx called "the greatest pamphleteer England had ever produced."
"As a writer," he wrote elsewhere, "he has not been surpassed." We had alot to live up to.
The Porcupine covered a wide range of issues, with a focus on contemporary politics and social justice, discussing them in an accessible way that was more substantive than typical journalism. Transcending nation and locality, ethnicity and religion, it hoped to give a vibrant voice to the unifying radical internationalism on the rise around the world, as people on every continent seek to reclaim land, rights and their very futures from the agents of the global capitalist economy.
Until its eventual end in 2012, The Porcupine published over fifty essays by Eric Ross, covering issues from the future of world agriculture to US healthcare. Quills from The Porcupine collects these essays in a single publication, the proceeds from which will be donated equally to Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter and the International Rescue Committee.
"This book reflects and embodies a long - and unfinished - journey."
Eric received his BA in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, before attending Columbia University, where he received his PhD in 1976 under the supervision of Marvin Harris. For his doctoral thesis, Eric conducted two years of fieldwork in the Peruvian Amazon, studying the human ecology, health and warfare practices of Achuarä Jívaro Indians. Writing against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, his work highlighted how conflict was not innate — that it was not inherent in human nature — but rather, a product of the scarcity of resources.
Eric spent his subsequent years teaching at various North American institutions, until 1980, when he moved to England. In 1988, he moved to Huddersfield with his wife, Barbara MacDermott, where he was appointed senior lecturer and chair of the Program in Human Ecology at the University of Huddersfield. The subsequent year, his son, Reuben, was born, followed by his daughter, Mimi, two years later.
In 1992, Eric moved to The Netherlands, where he spent the next 15 years at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. He taught international graduate students — largely from developing countries — in the Population, Poverty and Social Development program in the Institute's department of Rural Development, Environment and Population.
In 2007, returning to the United States, he taught briefly in Anthropology and International Development Studies at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. He married Zoë Brenner, a widely regarded acupuncturist, and lived with their dog, Lucy, in the DC suburb of Kensington, Maryland. He passed away, peacefully, with his family by his side, in December 2017.
Eric was author and editor of several books. He edited and contributed to Beyond the myths of culture: essays in cultural materialism (1980), an important application of cultural materialism as an analytical perspective, comprising, according to reviewer Walter Goldschmidt, "essays that are often interesting and apparently excellent contributions to a wide array of topics, ranging from pygmy ecology to US beef consumption." In 1987 he co-edited Death, sex and fertility: population regulation in preindustrial and developing societies (1987) with Marvin Harris, which surveys changing patterns of human reproductive control through the history of cultural evolution. That same year, Food and evolution: toward a theory of human food habits (1987), also co-edited with Harris, was published, representing an interdisciplinary effort by scholars in primatology, archaeology, cultural anthropology and beyond in suggesting a systematic, materialist theory behind why humans eat what they eat.
In 1998, he authored The Malthus factor: poverty, politics and population in capitalist development (1998), a major critique of the longevity of Malthusian thought and its influence on politics and policy. It provides a powerful analysis which, according to Liz Young, "examines the intimate connections between personalities, organizations and governments which have served to privilege Malthusian interpretations and finance policies informed by its distortions."
Perhaps Eric’s greatest contribution, however, was his warm relationship with his students. Through his lively classes and frequent, informal social interactions, he provided an inspiring, encouraging and caring environment for his students, ensuring they were equipped, both academically and personally, to make the world a better place.
He was fond of quoting Marx: "philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it."
Take a look at the book's essay titles.