African ethnographies

josephine ryan (jryan@COMPUTEK.NET)
Sun, 10 Mar 1996 13:14:27 -0600

I have had good luck recently with Katherine Dettwyler's Dancing Skeletons:
Life and Death in West Africa (1994 Waveland Press). The book is useful for
intro classes because it not only includes timely information about urban
and rural Bambara communities in Mali, but also because the author
communicates authentically about her experiences doing research in
nutritional anthropology. My students gave this book high marks for
interest and readability.

I still like The Dinka of the Sudan by Francis Mading Deng (Waveland Press),
although it is from the olden days of ethnography. The author is Dinka and
the ethnography is rich. Even though Waveland reissued it in 1984 with some
changes, it is essential to provide additional information due to the
volatile political situation in the Sudan and the upheavals associated with it.

Richard Lee's latest edition of The Dobe Ju/'hoansi (1993 Harcourt Brace)
has new chapters on which address topics such as culture change and
hunter-gatherer revisionism. Since all peoples of the Kalahari seem to be
stuck in a particularly intractable form of the ethnographic present in the
mind of the American public this is a much-needed antidote. My students
have complained about the kinship chapter (oh well) but overall responded
positively to the assignment.