Books: Bush League Adventures in a Mud Hut

by Nigel Barley Vanguard; 189 pages; $12.95

Why do anthropologists bother to do fieldwork at all? Nigel Barley, an anthropologist and African specialist at London's Museum of Mankind, ponders the question in this witty memoir of his hapless adventures. Some go to grind an ax or two, as students of Margaret Mead now know. But Barley believes that most anthropologists pursue fieldwork for its cheery reminiscences and lifelong opportunities to one-up colleagues who have never traveled. Experience abroad, he says, confers a "valuable aura of eccentricity upon the really rather dull denizens of anthropology departments."

Take the author, for example. In 1978, he grandly sweeps into a Dowayo...

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