The author of The Forest People (1961) and the controversial The Mountain People (1972) here offers a clear, somewhat...



The author of The Forest People (1961) and the controversial The Mountain People (1972) here offers a clear, somewhat simplified, emotionally colored summary of the diverse social forms Africans have developed and of the underlying unity he believes characterizes Africa (and Afro-America) as a whole: a stress on human relations, on unity with nature and with the spirit world, all of which Turnbull draws in stark and preachy contrast to the sins of Western civilization. This is Turnbull's rather old-fashioned brand of anthropology, bearing more resemblance to what we used to learn in ""geography"" classes than to the modern psychological and structural schools, and it reads like an agreeable high-school textbook, but one permeated with countercultural nostalgia for tribal life--superstition, clitoridectomy and all. The mode is straightforward ethnographic description and economic geography, presenting the variously complex social arrangements evolved in intimate accommodation to grassland, river valley, forest, desert and woodland environments and the imperatives of the hunting, herding and farming ways of life; the mechanisms developed to preserve harmony within and between groups, such as enforced sharing, age grades, initiation, ritualized feuding and raids; and the all-pervading importance of religion and music. Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is that in which Turnbull theorizes on the ""Africanness"" of Black America, a matter of values and attitudes--now being rapidly eroded in Africa itself--rather than of material forms. But one can't help being annoyed by his Rousseauian idealization of a people as complex and ambiguous as any other.

Pub Date: March 12, 1976


Page Count: -

Publisher: Anchor Press/Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1976