This personal account by a biocultural anthropologist illuminates important, not-soon-forgotten messages involving the more sobering aspects of conducting fieldwork among malnourished children in West Africa. With nutritional anthropology at its core, Dancing Skeletons presents informal, engaging, and oftentimes dramatic stories from the field that relate the authors 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, womens roles in patrilineal societies, the dangers of fieldwork, and the realities involved in researching emotionally draining topics. Readers will alternately laugh and cry as they meet the authors 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. Katherine A.
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Return to Book Page. Preview — Dancing Skeletons by Katherine A. 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 feed 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.
Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published January 1st by Waveland Press first published July More Details Original Title. Other Editions 4. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Dancing Skeletons , please sign up. How can I get this book free??? See 2 questions about Dancing Skeletons…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3.
Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Sep 25, Jennifer rated it did not like it. An assignment for my medical anthropology class, this book infuriated me on so many levels that I feel compelled to write a pretty lengthy review on it. First and foremost, my major complaint about this book is that throughout reading it, I could not figure out what the point of the book was An autobiography? A how-to guide for surviving fieldwork? A treatise on the importance of nutrition?
A work of fiction? I know it's not, but I'll get to why I ask that later. The s An assignment for my medical anthropology class, this book infuriated me on so many levels that I feel compelled to write a pretty lengthy review on it. The schizophrenic nature of the writing left me shaking my head and throwing my hands up in frustration as I read further and further into it.
Once I thought I had it figured out, she'd changed personalities again. I realize that she was writing for an undergraduate audience with the hopes of inspiring them to further explore the world of anthropology, so she likely did not wish to weigh down the book with heavy amounts of data and academic discourse. She IS an academician and this book IS written for academic purposes, so I expect the book to discuss things at a higher level, not the dumbed-down and pointless version she published As a student of anthropology, I'm being taught to "remove my cultural biases" when encountering new and different cultural values, norms and mores than my own.
I'm being taught to try and take a non-ethnocentric view on others. It's a difficult task because no one can truly remove themselves entirely from the culture in which they were raised; it's just not humanly possible. But, you do the best you can to keep your eyes and your mind open to view practices in their own cultural context. This is called cultural relativism, and as a student, I am taking this to heart. The fact that Dettwyler, a trained, educated, practicing and teaching anthropologist, has written a book in which she freely writes her negative views and opinions on the Malian people - some of them so ethnocentric, it's astounding - and doesn't apologize for her inability to separate her beliefs from her profession shocks and appalls me.
Even as a student, I see the anthropological "crime" in her words and the actions she writes of, and I'm left with the bitter taste of hypocrisy in my mouth. As someone who used to make a living writing professionally, I am dismayed and disappointed at several cardinal rules of writing being broken throughout the book, the most disturbing one being the use of whole dialogues between the author and several other characters in her book.
I call them characters because that is exactly what whole bits of dialogue written like this conjure up. The conversations are written as if the author transcribed them word-for-word during their discourse, which is highly unlikely. So, I am left wondering Is Dettwyler portraying these people's words and the situations accurately as they happened? Or, is she shaping the conversations in a way that suits the point she is trying to make or to elevate the story just a bit?
And, that makes me wonder just how REAL her story is There are several other complaints and issues I have with "Dancing Skeletons" but then I fear my opinion of her book might end up being as long as the book itself.
So, to end this on a positive note, I will say that if I were to find one positive aspect of the book, I would say that it's an excellent tool for teaching anthropology students what NOT to do as they further their studies in the field.
Mar 21, Meaghan rated it really liked it Shelves: around-the-world , memoirs , read-in , sociology-anthropology , medicine. A combination memoir and anthropological study. The author spent several years in the West African nation of Mali, researching malnutrition in infants and toddlers.
She came to the conclusion that the problem is not so much inadequate food as inadequate education about food: the children were being fed, but they weren't getting a balanced diet and the adults believed "good" food like meat, for example was wasted on a child and was better off eaten by those who had worked to produce it.
I don't A combination memoir and anthropological study. I don't know much about Africa and its myriad of problems, but Dr. Dettwyler's idea about nutrition education seems very sensible. She did her study back in the eighties though; I wonder if the food situation in Mali, in terms of what's available, has changed in the twenty years since. 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.
There's also a very tense, poignant chapter where she talks about how her daughter nearly died of drug-resistant malaria. Definitely a win, especially for anthropologists of course and those interested in the problems associated with Africa. Feb 06, Caroline rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: Fans of Lily King's Euphoria and other books like it.
Shelves: get-smart , nonfiction , she-wrote-it. Dancing Skeletons offers a fascinating peek into one anthropologist's extensive work in West Africa. The stories are detailed, intimate, educational , and most of all riveting.
Dettwyler somehow managed to make anthropology interesting to all--from those who can't get enough of the subject to those who couldn't care less. Perhaps this is because Dancing Skeletons is a deeply human book; these are not merely tribal "others.
Dec 09, Preistie rated it did not like it. 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 rer 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. View 2 comments. Nov 29, Sophia rated it it was ok.
Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa