Parallel Worlds: An Anthropologist and a Writer Encounter Africa / Edition 1

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Overview


This suspenseful and moving memoir of Africa recounts the experiences of Alma Gottlieb, an anthropologist, and Philip Graham, a fiction writer, as they lived in two remote villages in the rain forest of Cote d'Ivoire. With an unusual coupling of first-person narratives, their alternate voices tell a story imbued with sweeping narrative power, humility, and gentle humor. Parallel Worlds is a unique look at Africa, anthropological fieldwork, and the artistic process.

"A remarkable look at a remote society [and] an engaging memoir that testifies to a loving partnership . . . compelling."—James Idema, Chicago Tribune

• 1993 Victor Turner Prize, Society for Humanistic Anthropology
• Victor Turner Award
• Society for Humanistic Antrhopology

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Editorial Reviews

African Studies Review - Chris L. Hardin

“This is a brave book, particularly for Gottlieb. It is well written and interesting reading. Is it anthropology? In some ways, yes. I now know much more about the Beng, as well as fiction writer, than I did before. More importantly, however, this volume documents the ways that knowledge of the self informs our knowledge of those exposed to a social scientist’s analysis.”
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute - Adeline Masquelier

“The fine product of a husband-wife partnership conducted in the rain forest of Ivory Coast, Parallel Worlds is a candid and artfully written account of the dilemmas, hazards, and rewards attending ethnographic research. In this perceptive, at times suspenseful and often poignant memoir, anthropologist Alma Gottlieb and fiction writer Philip Graham re-live for us their two stays among the Beng. . . . Perhaps the most valuable message of Parallel Worlds is that there are different paths to knowledge: in Gottlieb’s case, knowledge of the Beng came through constant questioning; in Graham’s case, learning a new culture often took the shape of ‘a novel of manners written in a foreign language.’ . . . The fact that I devoured the book from cover to cover . . . attests to its engaging character. Although interested in the politics of fieldwork and the writing of culture should find this book enjoyable to read and useful to teach.”
American Anthropologist - Jacob Olupona

Parallel Worlds is an unusual and insightful book coauthored by an anthropologist and her spouse, a writer. The authors chronicle, in an alternating manner, accounts of their three-year sojourn and experiences in Bengland, Cote d'lvoire.”
Society for Humanistic Antrhopology - Victor Turner Award

1993 Victor Turner Prize, Society for Humanistic Anthropology
African Studies Review

“This is a brave book, particularly for Gottlieb. It is well written and interesting reading. Is it anthropology? In some ways, yes. I now know much more about the Beng, as well as fiction writer, than I did before. More importantly, however, this volume documents the ways that knowledge of the self informs our knowledge of those exposed to a social scientist’s analysis.”

— Chris L. Hardin

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“The fine product of a husband-wife partnership conducted in the rain forest of Ivory Coast, Parallel Worlds is a candid and artfully written account of the dilemmas, hazards, and rewards attending ethnographic research. In this perceptive, at times suspenseful and often poignant memoir, anthropologist Alma Gottlieb and fiction writer Philip Graham re-live for us their two stays among the Beng. . . . Perhaps the most valuable message of Parallel Worlds is that there are different paths to knowledge: in Gottlieb’s case, knowledge of the Beng came through constant questioning; in Graham’s case, learning a new culture often took the shape of ‘a novel of manners written in a foreign language.’ . . . The fact that I devoured the book from cover to cover . . . attests to its engaging character. Although interested in the politics of fieldwork and the writing of culture should find this book enjoyable to read and useful to teach.”

— Adeline Masquelier

Washington Post Book World

"The book becomes a blend of two very different authors: on the one hand, the story of a writer living amid fascinating subjects for his craft; on the other, the story of a fieldworking anthropologist, striving to find a context in which to describe a unique group of people who live as much among their ghosts and spirits as in the world we know."
American Anthropologist

Parallel Worlds is an unusual and insightful book coauthored by an anthropologist and her spouse, a writer. The authors chronicle, in an alternating manner, accounts of their three-year sojourn and experiences in Bengland, Cote d'lvoire.”

— Jacob Olupona

Society for Humanistic Antrhopology
1993 Victor Turner Prize, Society for Humanistic Anthropology

— Victor Turner Award

Washington Post Book World

"The book becomes a blend of two very different authors: on the one hand, the story of a writer living amid fascinating subjects for his craft; on the other, the story of a fieldworking anthropologist, striving to find a context in which to describe a unique group of people who live as much among their ghosts and spirits as in the world we know."

Washington Post Book World
"The book becomes a blend of two very different authors: on the one hand, the story of a writer living amid fascinating subjects for his craft; on the other, the story of a fieldworking anthropologist, striving to find a context in which to describe a unique group of people who live as much among their ghosts and spirits as in the world we know."-Washington Post Book World
American Anthropologist
"Parallel Worlds is an unusual and insightful book coauthored by an anthropologist and her spouse, a writer. The authors chronicle, in an alternating manner, accounts of their three-year sojourn and experiences in Bengland, Cote d''lvoire."-Jacob Olupona, American Anthropologist

— Jacob Olupona

African Studies Review
"This is a brave book, particularly for Gottlieb. It is well written and interesting reading. Is it anthropology? In some ways, yes. I now know much more about the Beng, as well as fiction writer, than I did before. More importantly, however, this volume documents the ways that knowledge of the self informs our knowledge of those exposed to a social scientist's analysis."-Chris L. Hardin, African Studies Review

— Chris L. Hardin

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
"The fine product of a husband-wife partnership conducted in the rain forest of Ivory Coast, Parallel Worlds is a candid and artfully written account of the dilemmas, hazards, and rewards attending ethnographic research. In this perceptive, at times suspenseful and often poignant memoir, anthropologist Alma Gottlieb and fiction writer Philip Graham re-live for us their two stays among the Beng. . . . Perhaps the most valuable message of Parallel Worlds is that there are different paths to knowledge: in Gottlieb's case, knowledge of the Beng came through constant questioning; in Graham's case, learning a new culture often took the shape of 'a novel of manners written in a foreign language.' . . . The fact that I devoured the book from cover to cover . . . attests to its engaging character. Although interested in the politics of fieldwork and the writing of culture should find this book enjoyable to read and useful to teach."-Adeline Masquelier, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

— Adeline Masquelier

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1979 and 1980, anthropologist Gottlieb and her husband, Graham, a fiction writer, lived among the Beng people in a remote rain forest in the Ivory Coast. Alternating perspectives from each author, this sensitive, suspenseful and delicately textured narrative is a ``candid memoir of the couple's pain and joy.'' As Gottlieb queries villagers from her anthropologist's perspective, Graham sees a metaphor for their new life: ``a novel of manners written in a foreign language.'' But gaining the villagers' trust is difficult for Gottlieb; only after she fires her recalcitrant translator does she learn that the villagers had resolved not to reveal important matters. Ultimately, she finds a confidante, gains entree into Beng society and confronts unimagined rituals. Graham likens the village intrigues to the work of Garcia Marquez and even to the dynamics of American small towns; in retrospect he considers himself ``an ethnographer of my own imagination.'' Gottlieb and Graham teach, respectively, anthropology and creative writing at the University of Illinois. Apr.
Library Journal
In the West African rain forest of the Ivory Coast, the two authors studied the complex social life and traditional animist religion of Kosangbe and Asagbe, two small Beng villages of the M'Bahiakro region. During their 15-month research project 1979-81, Gottlieb and Graham had to overcome both disease and rejection by the villagers, thus experiencing the problems as well as the rewards of ethnographic fieldwork. Armenan, their helpful informant, agreed to disclose the secret meanings behind the thoughts and rituals of the suspicious and argumentative villagers. The authors consider such issues as kinship, language, divination, trials, sacrifices, childbirths, weddings, and funerals. They also pay special attention to taboos, witchcraft, sorcery, and the pervasive influence of spirits from an invisible world. A book of unusual candor, Parallel Worlds offers a unique introduction to Africa. Recommended for all anthropology collections.-- H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo, N.Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226305066
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1994
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 343
  • Sales rank: 501,520
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


Alma Gottlieb is professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of The Restless AnthropologistThe Afterlife Is Where We Come From, and Under the Kapok Tree, all published by the University of Chicago Press. Philip Graham is professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and also teaches at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. He is the author of seven books of fiction and nonfiction, including The Moon, Come to Earth, also published by the University of Chicago Press. Together they are the authors of Parallel Worlds: An Anthropologist and a Writer Encounter Africa
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Table of Contents


Map: Cote d'Ivoire
Map: Beng Region
Cast of Characters
Preface
Pt. 1: Arriving
1: Premonitions (October 1-November 5, 1979)
2: Choosing a Host (November 6-November 28, 1979)
3: Trespassing (November 29-December 20, 1979)
4: Adrift (December 21, 1979-February 19, 1980)
5: The Elusive Epiphany (February 20-April 30, 1980)
6: Bedazzled, Beleaguered (May 1-June 30, 1980)
7: Divination and Trial (July 1-August 2, 1980)
8: Transgressions (August 3-October 3, 1980)
9: Metamorphoses (October 4, 1980-Spring 1981)
Pt. 2: Returning
10: A Parallel World (June 11-August 13, 1985)
Glossary
Acknowledgments
Index
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