In Sorcery's Shadow: A Memoir of Apprenticeship Among the Songhay of Niger

Paul Stoller, Author, Cheryl Olkes, With
Paul Stoller, Author, Cheryl Olkes, With University of Chicago Press $24 (252p) ISBN 978-0-226-77542-5
Reviewed on: 06/01/1989
Release date: 06/01/1989
The tribal sorcerer is both hunter and hunted in a world of power seekers. The ominous sense of a narrowly oppressive quest for power is captured in this startling field report by an anthropologist who was himself initiated into African sorcery. Stoller made five field trips to study the Songhay, proud, fierce subsistence farmers of Niger. Becoming an apprentice, then a practitioner of the black arts, he took part in one ritual attack that, he claims, paralyzed the face of the intended victim's sister. After hostile sorcerers' spells temporarily paralyzed the author's legs, he began carrying around protective charms. On his last field trip, he was joined by his coauthor wife, a sociologist; she adds a measure of objectivity to this firsthand account. Although the narrative unfolds slowly and doesn't measure up as the metaphysical adventure it might have been, it is nevertheless a responsible attempt to pierce a hidden realm. (December)
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