An intelligent contribution to the rethinking of modern anthropology, whose once-prescient ideas and elegant fieldwork have...



A chewy if bite-sized exploration of US anthropological research among the Zuñi a century ago, from McFeely (Anthropology/Coll. of New Jersey).

The Zuñi exert a fascination on Americans far beyond their size. Much of the reason for the start of that fascination has to do with McFeely’s subjects—Matilda Stevenson, Frank Hamilton Cushing, and Stewart Culin—who were gathering artifacts of this small agricultural community from the deserts of New Mexico long before there was a science of anthropology. The author suggests that we can learn a lot about our own culture (in the 19th century, that is) by examining how these three went about their work, a thought that fits neatly—and has for some time—into the critical self-examination today’s anthropologists are bringing to their practice. One hundred years ago the Zuñi were “imagined as an island away from the tempest of modern life, a place where the demands of modern civilization were temporarily suspended and the harsh experience of savagery tempered civilization’s metal.” We were not particularly happy with our own lot in the 1880s, and the communal, ceremonial, and spiritual life of the Zuñi, as collected and reported back by Stevenson, Cushing, and Culin, was a sort of antidote to American malaise (as it was to become once more in the 1960s). Of course, as McFeely notes, the Zuñi cosmology was tapped for its buttressing of preconceived ideas of the ethnologists, especially patterns of cultural evolution, “a grand teleological narrative that had Anglo-Saxon culture as its final chapter.” They were also rapacious collectors, who “sought to save Zuñi by dismantling it.” But as ethnologists, they “helped lay the groundwork for this new historical particularism, though the paradigm that had shaped their own researches in the field lead to an evolutionary dead end.”

An intelligent contribution to the rethinking of modern anthropology, whose once-prescient ideas and elegant fieldwork have been turned to ridiculous notions of cultural appropriation. (8 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8090-2707-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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