Re: Is Levi-Strauss essential? was It still works? Avoid it anyway.

Dan Goodman (
16 Jan 1997 04:37:22 GMT

In article <Pine.SOL.3.94.970115214019.1550B-100000@sundance>,
Stephanie Folse <> wrote:
>On 16 Jan 1997, Dan Goodman wrote:
>> And -- what anthropological literature IS useful to science fiction and
>> fantasy writers?
>> I've been recommending T.N Luhrmann's Persuasions of the Witch's Craft.
>I have a problem with this because of Luhrmann's (IMHO) snide attitude
>towards the belief system of her informants. She makes a point, in the
>introduction, of saying that she does not believe in magic or the religion
>of the people she did her participant observation with, and seems to take
>great delight in pointing out how that group's world-view "twists" (my
>word) chance or coincidental events into thngs that have meaning or were
>somehow called for or created by the group's magical workings. What she
>seems to have missed is that *her* personal beliefs are
>completely beside the point. I think (it's been a while since I read the
>book) that she tells the reader that to try to demonstrate her
>objectivity, but the result is that she swings to the other end of the
>bias spectrum -- appearing almost actively hostile to her study subjects.
>And, if she had instead done fieldwork with a Siberian shaman or a
>Texas/Mexico-border curandera, would she have felt it necessary to explain
>that she didn't beleive in animism/Santeria/voodoo/whatever belief system
>her subject followed? I think not.

1) She hints rather broadly that she almost "went native". 2) She's at
least as snide about various other belief systems. 3) She's rather less
kind to anthropologists than to her subjects.

How do her statements compare with what other anthropologists who've
studied people much like themselves have said?

>As for recommendations, I am only 15 pages into _The Elizabethan
>Underwold_ by Gamini Salgado, and I'd suggest anyone writing in a vaguely
>Renaissance-like world pick it up. There's also Carlo Ginzburg's _The
>Cheese and the Worms_ and, um, his book on witches (I forgot the title).
>No matter what anyone says of the truth/fiction aspects of his source
>material, they are fine fodder for fantasy.

Carlos Ginzburg -- yes! I have his book on witches somewhere....

Dan Goodman
Whatever you wish for me, may you have twice as much.