The Lonely African

ISBN: 0671641018
ISBN 13: 9780671641016
By: Colin M. Turnbull

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Africa Anthropology Crazy World Crazy Times History Mexico Mythology Religion No Reading Status Nonfiction To Read Unexpected Enlightenment

Reader's Thoughts


I read this after I read The Forest People. I think I'm going to reread it, and see how it holds up to what is happening in Africa right now.


I read this in one day while the guest of a white woman who works for the EU in Accra. She has a huge luxurious house, a swimming pool, an attractive young lover, and a nice library in which I found this book.Nicely structured - each chapter of his own speculations alternates with the description of one real person's experiences. Each person is taken from the same village, so that you get a constellation of different points of view of the same events: an African who embraced Western influences, a chief who rejected them, a missionary, a warrior, and an African woman who married a white man.As an author he makes no attempt to feign neutrality, which is refreshing. It's interesting to see the different way race relations play out in different parts of Africa. He quotes someone as saying that the mosquito has been the best friend of Western Africans, because it kept whites from moving there and setting up their easily-won aristocracies. Well, for better or worse, the mosquito didn't keep me away...I have no idea what the solution is to the identity tensions described in the book.


I first read this book about twenty some years ago, before I had ever met anyone from Africa. When I did meet AFrican students in college, it seemed to me that Turnbull had described something vital about their experience.


This is an excellent book, particularly as it was written in 1963. Activism was still in it's newest more difficult phase, i.e. when the audience was more questionably empathetic. I really enjoyed the specific examples of the points of views of natives and the conflict they experience as a function of mixed cultures. The mixed messages of attempting to navigate the wealth/phyiscal success of your oppressor while navigating the emotional feelings of your own people. Knowing that the best way to influence is to work with the subjecting nation, and yet knowing that your acquiescence is at odds with your nation (the story of Matungi).As I have been reading on trying to understand the social issues with institutionalizing justice, I found the story about Kithuika's trial to be a brilliant example of how divorce the current legal system seems from actual ideas of justice. It speaks straight into the thread that the courts are divorced from the connection of the plaintiff to the defendant. Huge thumbs up on this book.


One has to remember this was written 52 years ago. Reading it today, you say, of course , every one knows that but not all did 52 years ago. As a matter of fact, few thought of the things brought up by this work. Very unbiased, in my opinion. I wish I had read it 52 years ago, then I would not have supported South Africa as long as I did.


The Lonely African by Colin M. Turnbull (1962)

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