WHEN THE SPIDER DANCED: Encounters with an African People by

WHEN THE SPIDER DANCED: Encounters with an African People

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In another century, Alland might have been a writer of far afield travelogues. What he is instead, in this age of specialization and social concern, is an anthropologist who has done field work in West African disease (Yale grad student with first-aid kit. . .). While this spin-off of his doctoral research is also about kinship systems, social organization, festivals, ceremonies and myths, it's primarily a lively account of his own acculturation and growing friendships during the three trips he made to the Abron villages of Amamvi and Diassenpa. His first two trips occurred between 1960 and 1962 and the last in 1973, when he found the Ivory Coast tainted by tourism and consumerism (transistor radios blaring among the mud-and-wattle huts) and the incipient breakdown of the lineage system due to the development of a money economy with private property. Alland is a good-humored innocent abroad as he begins to explore greeting and latrine etiquette and the limits of sexual bantering in his adoptive culture, an awkward detective as he attempts--not always successfully--to gather data on witchcraft or puberty rites, and finally a spokesman for the Abron people. This is an unpatronizing, unacademic voyage into a strange culture which is also, through Alland's double vision, much like ours--and the anthropological angle has just the right kind of benefit to make this a special, engrossing book.

Pub Date: July 25th, 1975
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday