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The Spears of Twilight: Life and Death in the Amazon Jungle Paperback – April 1, 1998


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The Spears of Twilight: Life and Death in the Amazon Jungle + Love and Honor in the Himalayas: Coming To Know Another Culture (Contemporary Ethnography) + Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street (a John Hope Franklin Center Book)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The (April 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565844386
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565844384
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #974,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A trained ethnographer, you go tramping through the rain forest jungle in search of an isolated tribe. They welcome you, and you find that they live with an idealistic individualism and freedom only dreamed of by the staunchest Libertarian or Anarchist. They live in harmony with nature among the animated spirits of plants, streams, and prey. They also murder their friends, fear their neighbors, and cheat on their spouses. Philippe Descola transcribes the complex story of this people thoughtful, piquant prose reminiscent of the best in French literature. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The Jivaro Indians of Amazonian Ecuador have earned a somewhat sinister reputation among travelers and anthropologists because of their custom, only recently abandoned, of shrinking the decapitated heads of enemies. Descola, an anthropology professor in Paris, spent three years living among a Jivaro tribe, and this engrossing, minutely detailed chronicle of daily life gets past exotic stereotypes to delineate a band of individualists oscillating between gentle anarchy and factional solidarity. Obsessed with bloody vendettas against neighbors or relatives, the tribal group nonetheless reverentially communicates with a world of spirits, plants and animals, with the wandering souls of both the living and the dead. Descola explores Jivaro shamanism, dream interpretation, polygamy, marital violence against wives and the Jivaros' loose-knit, fluid cosmology, which makes no effort to impose coherence on the world. Sprinkled with Jivaro songs, chants, myths and the author's line drawings, this lyrically precise exploration of a people's lifestyle and consciousness is a work of enchantment.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on November 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Descola's sojourn in the Upper Amazon jungles reminds us of a sad truth: how much of our neighbours on this planet do we know or understand? Descola readily admits how poorly prepared he was for the study of the Achuar. Yet he was quickly disabused of any idea that this group of the "Jivaro" constituted a "simple native" community. His account shows the complexity of life they endure. Family relationships entwine political situations and Achuar society is sustained by a fine balance among many forces. Not the least of these are the roles played by every plant and animal in the surrounding forest. Each Achuar individual carries immense knowledge of his or her surroundings and performs daily activities within carefully prescribed limits. Living in an Ecuadorian forest is no more complex than dwelling in a "civilized" city in Descola's view. It's simply a matter of learning how.
Descola quickly settled in as guest of a family - unravelling the roots of interaction among its members took longer. Men's and women's lives follow preset roles, however the balance of power between genders, he shows us, must be constantly adjusted to changing circumstances. Marriages and separations are frequent, sometimes leading to long-standing vendettas, complicated by the relationships of the participants which are as twisted as the forest vines. Vendetta, it seems, is far more consequential in the lives of the Achuar than long-term traditions. The stereotypical "tradition bound" native is nonexistent here. Family and personal relationships also preclude the development of our familiar hierarchical society. No community leaders rise to particular prominence since family status has priority.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. J MOSS on April 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
I hold this book with high regard. It's a rare ethnographic accounting of an indigenous society in the upper Amazon, as per the mid 1970s. The empathy Descola brings to these people is exemplary, and one soon senses a writer of rare discretion and self-reflexive capacity. The details of these lives are vividly told in prose that never gets burdened by their daily occurence. The book 'breathes' and Descola's place in these encounters is evinced sufficiently to give the sense of trust that must have existed during the experience. The indigenous world view is absolutely fascinating and reminded me of indigenous views I've encountered in Central Australia(and about which I'd recommend Michael Jackson's,'At Home In The World'for anyone who savours the poetics of the telling). The material on shamans, on valour, on retributive killing, on dreaming, or the spirit world have the very depth and veracity that Casteneda's Don Juan books, purporting to be reports of similar zones of experience during the same decade, lack. Levi Strauss may have inspired his pupil, Descola. Descola repays Levi Strauss, his subjects and the reader in raising the benchmark and restoring the reputation of anthropology.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By elizabeth jill hirt on February 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
i don't usually read nonfiction, primarily because the writing styles do not appeal to me (dry, dry, dry). but this book is wonderfully written; descola made a conscious decision to write well and wittily and he succeeds. if you love traveling to unfamiliar worlds and are fascinated by different cultures, this book will capture your imagination and stay with you for years to come.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nathan W. Casebolt on December 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Firmly entrenched in the perpetual present, the Achuar of the Ecuadorian Amazon reveal the complexities of a subsistence-level culture built on strong individualism, codified indirectness, and stringently-channeled passion.
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