Tomas Huanca L. Tsimane Oral Tradition, Landscape, and Identity in Tropical Forest. La Paz, Bolivia: SEPHIS – South-South Exchange Programme for Research on the History of Development. 2006. Pp. iii+279, color and black and white photos, line drawings, and designs, color and black and white maps, index., glossary of indigenous terms.
Tomas Huanca L., who lived with the Tsimane in Amazonian Bolivia for nine years, documented their traditions, oral history, and myths, retreating now in the face of outside pressure. He includes helpful chapter summaries, many photographs, maps, and charts, a glossary of Tsimane terms, a pronunciation guide, and a bibliography with extensive oral archival as well as scholarly sources. However, once the reader has found a useful section on a topic — a trickster figure, the use of tobacco and/or beer in healing ceremonies, or the Masters of the Game — compare-contrast material will be lacking. It is almost as if the Tsimane, alone among indigenous groups, incorporated tricksters, beer customs, and the like into their world view. This is most decidedly not the case. For this reason, readers who are familiar with other Amazonian indigenous communities will benefit from this ethnography more than readers looking for an introduction to the field.
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Mary Noailles Murfree. Ed. Bill Hardwig. In the Tennessee Mountains. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2008. Pp. xlviii +167. $24.95 paper.
The main body of this text was originally published in 1884 by Mary Noailles Murfree under the pseudonym Charles Egbert Craddock. This collection of eight tales in the popular American local-color style of the late 19th and early 20th centuries is well known to scholars interested in regional studies of the United States, most specifically in the Appalachian region that is treated in Murfree’s sketches. Murfree came from a wealthy, flatland Tennessee family and spent summers in the mountains interacting with the locals and becoming familiar with Appalachian culture, which was the alleged inspiration for this collection of stories. Even though these stories were popular with her middle-class readership at the time of publication, In the Tennessee Mountains has come to be regarded as an unfair, stereotypical portrayal of mountain people by the vast majority of scholars in more recent years. This new edition, though, provides an intriguing introduction to the collection written by Egbert Craddock that makes the book more appropriately contextualized and thus more informative. Hardwig firmly places Murfree in the social and academic milieu of her time, thus showing both the value of her scholarship in its time period and its shortcomings. Hardwig gives the reader important biographical information on the writer that give the modern reader a deeper understanding of her reasons for writing about mountain culture. Continue reading “Mary Noailles Murfree. ed. Bill Hardwig. In the Tennessee Mountains”
William Schneider, ed. Living With Stories: Telling, Re-telling, and Remembering. Logan: Utah State Press, 2008. pp. 175 pages. ISBN: 978-0-87421-689-9 (cloth) $27.95 cloth, $23.00 e-book.
Living With Stories grew out of a panel at the 2004 U.S. Oral History Association meeting, and its structure consciously echoes that of a conference session—each chapter is deepened and developed by a following interview between the chapter’s author and a notable scholar whose own, related research makes them uniquely able to expand upon the original paper. These “conversation” chapters extend to the reader a sense of privileged participation, a vicarious presence at an especially coherent and insightful conference discussion. The transcribed conversations are more engaging, and more truly dialogic, than the usual “response” essays in similar volumes. Continue reading “William Schneider, ed. Living With Stories: Telling, Re-telling, and Remembering”