Review of the book “The Innocent Anthropologist” by Nigel Barley.

“The Innocent Anthropologist” by Nigel Barley is an autobiographical book that narrates the author’s experience as an anthropologist in Africa. Barley recounts his experiences in Cameroon, where he was sent to conduct a study on the Dowayo, a rural tribe living in the north of the country.

What does an anthropologist do when he wants to study a culture different from his own? How does he prepare to face the challenges and surprises that await him on the field? What kind of experiences does he live and how does he narrate them? These are some of the questions that Nigel Barley asks in his book The Innocent Anthropologist, by Nigel Barley, a funny and honest chronicle of his first field work among the Dowayos, a tribe in northern Cameroon.

Nigel Barley is a British anthropologist who, after obtaining a doctorate from Oxford, decides to leave academia and put his theoretical knowledge into practice. To do this, he chooses a little-studied and apparently simple people, the Dowayos, who live in a mountainous area and are dedicated to agriculture and livestock. Barley hopes to find a coherent and easy-to-analyze social and religious system, but he soon realizes that reality is much more complex and chaotic than he imagined.

The book is a first-person account of the adventures that Barley experiences during his stay in Cameroon, from the bureaucratic problems to obtain the necessary permits, to the difficulties in communicating with the natives, through illnesses, accidents, ceremonies, initiation rites and local customs. Barley does not limit himself to describing what he sees, but also reflects on the role of the anthropologist, his prejudices, his errors and his successes.

The Innocent Anthropologist is a book that combines scientific rigor with humor and irony. Barley does not take himself or his discipline too seriously, and laughs both at his own difficulties and at the contradictions and absurdities of Dowayo culture. His style is agile, entertaining and full of fun anecdotes that make the reader feel like a participant in his adventure. At the same time, the book offers a respectful and empathetic vision of the Dowayos, showing their diversity, their wealth and their humanity.

The Innocent Anthropologist is an essential book for anyone interested in anthropology, but also for anyone who wants to enjoy a good read. It is a book that teaches us to look with curiosity and humility at other forms of life, and that invites us to question our own certainties. It is a book that makes us laugh, but also think. It is a book that shows us that anthropology is not only a science, but also an art.

From the beginning, the book shows us the humorous and self-critical perspective of the author, who presents himself as an inexperienced anthropologist with no experience in field research. Barley takes us through his adventures in Cameroon, where he faces challenges and difficulties that he had never imagined.

Despite his lack of experience, Barley shows a great capacity for adaptation and a deep interest in learning about the Dowayo culture. Throughout the book, the author presents us with a detailed description of the culture and customs of this tribe, as well as the difficulties he faced when trying to understand and be accepted by them.

The book’s approach is deeply human, and rather than simply recounting facts and statistics, Barley presents a more personal and empathetic perspective on anthropology. The author shows us that anthropology is not only an academic study, but also a way of life in which the researcher must be willing to live in difficult conditions and face challenges that go beyond purely academic ones.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the way in which Barley criticizes preconceptions about anthropology and field research. The author highlights the importance of humility and patience in anthropological research, and criticizes the idea that anthropologists can be objective and neutral in their work. Barley shows that the relationship between the researcher and the community studied is complex and that the anthropologist must be willing to accept that his own culture and perspective may influence his research.

In short, “The Innocent Anthropologist” is a fun, moving, and thoughtful book about anthropology and the experience of field research. Barley’s work offers us a unique look at the culture of the Dowayo, but also at the challenges and difficulties that anthropologists face when trying to understand and be accepted by the communities studied. It is a book that invites reflection on anthropology and on the relationship between the researcher and the community studied.


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