Ceremony: An Anthropologist's Misadventures in the African Bush

Nigel Barley, Author Henry Holt & Company $15.95 (158p) ISBN 978-0-8050-0142-6
When the alien culture begins to feel normal, it is time for the field anthropologist to go home, says Barley of the British Museum. It appears that he departed just in time. For a year and a half Barley had studied a mountain tribe, the Dowayo, in northern Cameroon. Back in London, he had word that the tribe's circumcision ceremony was imminent (this elaborate ritual occurs only at six- or seven-year intervals), so he returned. As he waited in the village for confirmation, he heard of a tribe, the Ninga, whose men had no nipples. Expecting to find a people that practiced ritual removal of male breasts, he simply found a family with birth defects. He joined the Dowayo men on a remarkably inept hunt, visited the rain-chief, learned to flute-whistle. Barley saw other Westerners on occasiona black American anthropologist who wanted to be a ""real'' African, a missionary who had just discovered solar energy, a German U.N. employee showing health films. But Barley was thwarted in his efforts to observe the circumcision rites: great, hairy caterpillars destroyed the millet cropno millet, no beer, no ceremony. This is a vastly entertaining story that abounds with characters; it is also a serious perusal of the ethics of anthropology. Photos. (September 30)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1987
Release date: 03/01/1987
Paperback - 978-0-8050-1245-3
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