Return to Laughter

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by Bowen, Elenore Smith

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Categories: Contemporary Fiction. Return To Laughter. Description A vivid and dramatic account of the experiences of an American anthropologist who lived with a primitive bush tribe in Africa. Other books in this series. Add to basket. Flap copy A vivid and dramatic account of the experiences of an American anthropologist who lived with a primitive bush tribe in Africa.

She must have been one of the first to do what today is considered par for the course, namely, participant observation. Here is a novel utterly neglected by so-called literary specialists, one that belongs on those " Best Novels of the Century" lists. Jan 16, Adam rated it did not like it Shelves: , prose , anthropology. Could not wait to get it over with. I fully understand Bohannon's decision to write this as a novel. The prose is absolutely horrible. The final chapter is quite nicely-done, though, and is the only one in which Bohannon's insights and philosophizing seem valuable.

Regardless, I understand why this is of value to anthropology students, though I fin one of the most insufferable reading experiences of my life. Regardless, I understand why this is of value to anthropology students, though I find it hard to believe there aren't more entertaining ways to learn about fieldwork. View 2 comments. Jun 16, Valerie added it. I didn't much care for the attempt to rationalize away cruelty, but I liked the bits in which the women made a spirited defense of polygyny.

People tend to assume that women won't approve of polygyny, but the Tiv women argue the advantages to the women, which are often ignored. I honestly thought it was really interesting and really liked it. Guess it's a good thing I'm minoring in Anthropology, huh? It's probably not something I would have picked up for myself, so I'm glad it was assigned to me.


I think if this was written by someone who wasn't an anthropologist and hadn't done field work, it wouldn't be nearly as good as it is. I'm studying Anthropology, but I wouldn't be able to write a book like this. There's just some things you need experience for. It's a work of fiction written by a field worker, based on her time with a primitive bush tribe. She went to school to become a good anthropologist. I can only assume that sheer serendipity made her an amazing writer.

Return to Laughter is compulsively readable, endlessly entertaining, never patronizing, sometimes heartbreaking. It provides a window into a time and a place that may be long va "It is bad to sit alone in the bush, where there are ants and snakes and witches. It provides a window into a time and a place that may be long vanished with exposure to other cultures, while showing that in some ways people are always the same. Cannot praise it enough.

On laughter - Anthony McCarten - TEDxMünchen

Jan 04, Jess rated it really liked it. I've read this book three times in classes, but I still love it. As a bigger fan of literature than non-fiction, this book was perfect for me, because it is a true story told very fancifully. Though there is some question of how much this approach affects the anthropological value of the text, I think it is a brilliant way to introduce students to the world of anthropology.

Jun 11, Jess Moss rated it really liked it. This was an excellent book.

Return to laughter

Though it is fiction, it is based on Bohannon's actual experiences doing anthropological fieldwork. Through reading this, I really feel like I have some sense of what it was like for her living with the Tiv. Absolutely fascinating. I highly recommend! Apr 15, Nancy rated it it was amazing. This is a book that I read in which inspired me to join the Peace Corps as a young woman. For Christmas my husband searched out of print books and found a copy for me. I read it again and still loved it.

Apr 11, Pat rated it did not like it. Jul 02, Katie H rated it liked it. Ok, but not great. It's interesting to see how other people live, but sometimes I was really bothered by the author's closeminded-ness and sense of superiority. Feb 22, Lucy rated it liked it Shelves: anthro-history-religion , the-mile , africa. I love the concept of magic and witchcraft in medicine.

It helps to keep a perspective on our own ideas of infallible medicine and killer "germs. Jun 12, Steven J. I found this anthropological memoir while researching for my latest writing project on Realigning Culture and was mesmerized by both Bohannan's adventure and her journey of discovery. The reader is drawn into what it might have been like to be an Oxford trained anthropologist living with a primitive African tribe while learning as much about oneself and one's own culture as the one under study.

Sep 07, Ginger rated it it was amazing. Not a fabulous work of fiction, but an incredible look at living in an African village tribe from the standpoint of the cultural anthropologist. I read this for a college class in or so. It remains with me to this day and shapes how I read newer anthropology memoirs or novels. For the past semester that I've slowly re-read this book, I've felt as though we've become friends, and I didn't want this book's adventures to end because then I wouldn't see my friend anymore.

A vivid and dramatic account of the profound change experienced by an American anthropologist in her first year as an intimate of a primitive bush tribe in Africa, it provides deep insights into the indigenous culture of West Africa, the subtle web of tribal life, the power of the institution of witchcraft.

Primarily, however, it is a classic story of the outsider caught up and deeply, personally involved in an alien culture - "the first introspective account ever published of what it's like to be a field worker among a primitive people. It is the philosophy that the theater's purpose from ritual is to relieve its people of the humdrum and return them to life.

This book does this in droves and I can only hope that the theater I produce and participate in will have the effect on the audiences that need it. Some of the "deep insights" that Margaret Mead mentions in this book are: "Udama spoke very soberly. Whatever Kako does, hate will remain in someone's heart. People speak the words of peace, but their hearts do not forgive. Generations perform ceremonies of reconciliation, but there is no end. Witchcraft was their greatest terror, but witches were only people.

Everywhere one must fight to survive.

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There is measure of insecurity in all societies. We may consider it easier to accept defeat at the hands of fate; fate is unconquerable. But where disaster is held to come from the hands of one's fellows, there defeat is not inevitable, there one need not cease to hope. Only my overwrought imagination had shown me the reign of witches as a reign of terror. There is not stronger emotion than terror, but there is one thing greater than terror: fatigue. We walked.

There was nothing left in our minds, our hearts or nerves or bodies to show that we lived, but we walked. I had followed Agundu. My soul's protest was so deep that I nearly cried aloud: I can look on Agundu, on reality, unafraid, but I cannot see my own naked being.

I had followed science out here, as one follows a will-o'-the-wisp, seeing only what beckoned from the distance, paying no heed to the earth that I spurned beneath my feet, seeing naught about me. I had served anthropology well. Notebook upon notebook, good stuff, and accurate, and I had the knowledge to work it soundly so that I might stand, with a craftman's pride, before the finished work and say, "This is mine. There was no jury, no god, before whom I could stand unashamed to say, "This is me. But not I.

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