The Power of Animals: An Ethnography / Edition 1

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The multiple ways in which people relate to animals provides a revealing window through which to examine a culture. Western cultures tend to view animals either as pets or food, and often overlook the vast number of roles that they may play within a culture and in social life more generally: their use in medicine, folk traditions, and rituals.

This comprehensive and very readable study focuses on the Malawi people and their rich and varied relationship with animals — from hunting through to their use as medicine. More broadly, through a rigorous and detailed study the author provides insights which show how the people's relationship to their world manifests itself not strictly in social relations, but just as tellingly, in their relationships with animals — that, in fact, animals constitute a vital role in social relations.

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Editorial Reviews

Morris (anthropology, U. of London) takes attitudes toward animals as a lens through which to investigate the fundamental values and world view of a people, noting for example that in western culture, animals are thought of generally as either pets or food. Based his 1990-91 ethnozoological research in Malawi, where he had lived and studied before, he discusses matrilineal kinship and subsistence agriculture, hunting traditions, folk classifications, and attitudes to nature. He includes a glossary without indicating pronunciation, and appends some common Malawian proverbs. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher
"Provides a unique insight into a culture that enjoys a rich and varied relationship with animals . . . Extensive detail provides a superb view into the social life of rural Malawi. . . Although based upon examination of a single culture, Morris incorporates ecological and anthropological concepts that expand this study of attitudes to nature to create a comprehensive ethnographic analysis, both informative and very readable." —Choice

"The Power of Animals deserves to become an anthropological landmark, setting the stage for a new generation of ethnographies that give proper weight and significance to people's interactions and interrelations with other animals and the natural world. The cultural depth and richness that emerges from Morris's approach makes other comparable studies seem shallow in comparison." —Anthrozoos

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859732205
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 1/28/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Brian Morris is an Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Matrilineal Kinship and Subsistence Agriculture 17
2 Hunting Traditions 61
3 Folk Classifications 120
4 Attitudes to Nature 168
Glossary 235
Appendix Some Common Malawian Proverbs 237
Bibliography 242
Index 261
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