- Paperback: 287 pages
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press (June 25, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0226171132
- ISBN-13: 978-0226171135
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mention Haiti, and images of poor and battered refugees risking their lives attempting to reach America, or a barren Caribbean island prone to military coups and hideous zombies, come to mind. But when anthropologist-choreographer Katherine Dunham first traveled to Haiti in 1936 to study the country's dance traditions, she fell in love with the people and their culture. Island Possessed, originally published in 1969, captures Dunham's experiences of the island's intricate voodoo religious dances and customs; the friction between the black peasants and the mulatto elites; and the brutal dictatorships that have plagued the nation. Of her three-day initiation into the voodoo religion as a "bride" to the Haitian serpent god Damballah, she writes, "My feeling was closer to belonging to something all-encompassing than I have ever known since." Called by the Haitian people "Mama Katherine," Dunham has contributed a humane and comprehensive overview of the world's first black republic. --Eugene Holley Jr.
From the Back Cover
Katherine Dunham began her love affair with Haiti during her first visit in 1936 as a graduate researcher in dance and anthropology. Island Possessed reconnects her with this love, bringing to life personal sketches of political figures, market women, peasants, children, even gods. Dunham tells how the island came to be possessed by the demons of voodoo and other cults imported from various parts of Africa, as well as by the deep class divisions and the political hatred still very much in evidence today.
Top customer reviews
Prior to reading this book, I knew very little of the author. I found her to be someone of enormous courage as someone who was willing to travel alone in some very poor countries in pursuit of her research. Katherine Dunham comes across as very accepting person as she socialized with many different people regardless of their various social classes. However, I did find this last quality to be somewhat bothersome as she became friendly with several dictators of Haiti and Argentina. In fact, Dunham's psychological profiles of Dumarsais Estime, Paul Magloire and Francois Duvalier comes across as mumbo jumbo and it is the weakest part of the book.
All in all, Dunham gives a wonderful account of her trip to Haiti. She does digress a lot when telling a story but eventually returns to complete her interesting tale.