Who Will Survive?
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 A gallimaufry of cultural arcana from indefatigable anthropologist Weatherford (Native Roots, 1991; Indian Givers, 1988). In an attempt to demonstrate the value and influence of tribal cultures, Weatherford tells the story of a number of their societies, past and present. Don't trash today's remnants, he warns: They may well save ``civilization'' when comes the crunch we seem inevitably headed toward. Precivilized cultures (read: ``preagricultural nation states'') will hold the keys to survival- -such as food-gathering, shelter-building, and much more--when all the trappings of modernity are done and gone. Weatherford is never happier than when pulling oddments out of his scholarly hat: curious facts about camel penises; the madness induced by Tasmania's model prisons; curious facts about seal penises; the eating of Egyptian mummies at 17th-century European courts; curious facts about aboriginal penises. He's particularly fascinated by the intellectual life of places--the library of Alexandria; the rise of printing; the Sumerian alphabet; interpretations of the dreamtime- -and he's quick to point a finger at colonials for their ugly leveling tendencies; at missionaries for their destructive narrowness; at humanity's general inhumanity. Weatherford jumps around so much that it's sometimes difficult to follow his steps or decipher just what point he's trying to make, but he writes with such polish it seems presumptuous to take exception to some of his conclusions. Is it really true, though, that ``all the evidence'' points to early humans as primarily meat-eaters? Not every anthropologist would agree. The common thread binding these chapters may be tenuous, but Weatherford is a hugely entertaining, well-traveled writer--one who makes a strong case for a hands-off, learn-from-them approach toward these last ancient ways of life.

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 1994
ISBN: 0-517-58860-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1993


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by Jack Weatherford