Publisher: Waveland Press, Long Grove, IL Year: On average, about 17 children out of under the age of 7 dies in the world each year El-Ghannam because of malnutrition, homicide, wars, drowning, car accidents, what have you -a sobering statistic for any loving parent. In West Africa, however, that number becomes children out of ! In the West African nation of Mali alone, the risks to children include not only the same risks as the rest of the world: accidents, cancers, homicides, etc. Also in Bamako, in , nearly half of all children were infected with schstosomiasis Clerq et al and in rural Mali, the rate was as over half of the children between years of age in some areas Traore et al Schistosomiasis is a tropical parasite, abundant in Africa, and transmitted to humans after being hosted in larval form by freshwater snails Morgan et al The parasite leaves the snail and enters a human host wading in the water by burrowing into the skin of feet and legs.

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Shelves: memoirs , medicine , sociology-anthropology , read-in , around-the-world A combination memoir and anthropological study. The author spent several years in the West African nation of Mali, researching malnutrition in infants and toddlers. The author truly loved the Malian people and spoke about them with a lot of affection, telling funny stories about them as well as about her own misadventures. Definitely a win, especially for anthropologists of course and those interested in the problems associated with Africa.

The stories are detailed, intimate, educational, and most of all riveting. Perhaps this is because Dancing Skeletons is a deeply human book; these are not merely tribal "others. Dettwyler, I was thrilled to read an anthropologists first-hand view of field work, as well as being given the chance to discover real life in Africa that is so creatively hidden in mass media. However, upon finishing the book, I was sorely disappointed and repeatedly flipped the book over to I had to write a paper based on certain aspects of this book but instead turned it into an old fashion book report.

However, upon finishing the book, I was sorely disappointed and repeatedly flipped the book over to reread the synopsis and practical praise for the book. Every anthropologist knows the idea of holism and how important it is to be aware of it in every aspect of life, regardless of personal biases in foreign territory. In fact, she was constantly falling into her white-American mindset, shedding the formal anthropological robes she should have been wearing.

Laughing to make light of a situation is common, however, she made no comments in her book on actually understanding the practice, which ruffles my metaphorical feathers. You should not joke or ridicule anything that you do not yet understand. While Dettwyler does indeed try to keep her emic and etic views separate while conversing with the persons she encounters, she constantly switches between the two.

Through her thoughts and comments outside of the conversation taking place, she becomes obviously frustrated with interviewing residents about ideas of what to do with more money. She believes her questions are structured when in fact they are quite the opposite. Her unwillingness to adapt to the cultural differences in Mali versus the United States made the interviewing process, and the answers received, practically invalid since she resorted to asking leading questions, expecting certain types of answers instead of having an open mind and ears.

After students learn and understand holism, cultural relativism is next on the list, but it appears these two concepts were misinterpreted by Dettwyler, as it surely is reflected in this book. Like all anthropologist, Dettwyler originally set out to make a difference in the lives of people across the world, though more directly, the people of Magnambougou. Pity and despair were constantly in her mind, which was expected, yes, but superfluous in anthropological research.

Had her research been published as just that — research — instead of a story, it would have been more easily to digest.


Katherine Ann Dettwyler



Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa


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