Life and Death in West Africa, 20th Anniversary Edition
Author: Katherine A. Dettwyler
Publisher: Waveland Press
Category: Social Science
One of the most widely used ethnographies published in the last twenty years, this Margaret Mead Award winner has been used as required reading at more than 600 colleges and universities. This personal account by a biocultural anthropologist illuminates not-soon-forgotten messages involving the sobering aspects of fieldwork among malnourished children in West Africa. With nutritional anthropology at its core, Dancing Skeletons presents informal, engaging, and oftentimes dramatic stories that relate the author’s experiences conducting research on infant feeding and health in Mali. Through fascinating vignettes and honest, vivid descriptions, Dettwyler explores such diverse topics as ethnocentrism, culture shock, population control, breastfeeding, child care, the meaning of disability and child death in different cultures, female circumcision, women’s roles in patrilineal societies, the dangers of fieldwork, and facing emotionally draining realities. Readers will laugh and cry as they meet the author’s friends and informants, follow her through a series of encounters with both peri-urban and rural Bambara culture, and struggle with her as she attempts to reconcile her very different roles as objective ethnographer, subjective friend, and mother in the field. The 20th Anniversary Edition includes a 13-page “Q&A with the Author” in which Dettwyler responds to typical questions she has received individually from students who have been assigned Dancing Skeletons as well as audience questions at lectures on various campuses. The new 23-page “Update on Mali, 2013” chapter is a factual update about economic and health conditions in Mali as well as a brief summary of the recent political unrest.