- Paperback: 300 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press (September 3, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520225430
- ISBN-13: 978-0520225435
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Underneath of Things: Violence, History, and the Everyday in Sierra Leone
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"The world is currently quite aware of Sierra Leone and its predicament, and it needs this well-informed and beautifully written account of what makes the country so wonderful despite its woes. Ferme's work is truly transcendent, capturing magnificently well some of the most important aspects of an otherwise 'difficult' ethnographic case. It is a truthful and honest piece of work, based on a deep grasp of the ethnographer's craft." - Paul Richards, author of Fighting for the Rain Forest
From the Inside Flap
"The world is currently quite aware of Sierra Leone and its predicament, and it needs this well-informed and beautifully written account of what makes the country so wonderful despite its woes. Ferme's work is truly transcendent, capturing magnificently well some of the most important aspects of an otherwise "difficult" ethnographic case. It is a truthful and honest piece of work, based on a deep grasp of the ethnographer's craft. "―Paul Richards, author of Fighting for the Rain Forest: War, Youth and Resources in Sierra Leone
Ferme is a true master in the magic of "things." She gives the study of secrecy new impetus by examining its history, relating that history not only to discourse but also to material conditions. She brilliantly shows how, for Sierra Leone societies, the celebration of ambiguity has been a way to live with permanent danger-from the long history of slavery through the present civil war. ―Peter Geschiere, author of The Modernity of Witchcraft, Politics and the Occult in Postcolonial Africa
The Underneath of Things is a model of patience, detailed observation, and elegant writing: a theoretically creative study that is keen to track and to disentangle the webs and flows of everyday life.―Achille Mbembe, author of On the Postcolony
Top customer reviews
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Ferme's central argument is that Sierra Leone's violent history of subjugation by the West as well as its more recent civil conflicts have necessitated secrecy and produced a system of social meaning in which objects and practices, which on the surface appear mundane and everyday, are laden with hidden symbolism and meaning (the "underneath" of things).
Ferme's analysis is sensitive and seems to be well-informed but (at times) can tread close to speculation as it is largely based on observational data. Her conclusion really brings the work together, however. Ferme states that Mende cultural logic, which allows for ambiguity, fluidity and mediation, demonstrates the agency and creativity Mende women and man have employed in dealing with the instability and contestation of power associated with Sierra Leone's violent history.
All in all, a great ethnography!
I am sure that this book has contributed to academic inquiry -- but from my perspective, I have never read an entire book about a people and place and learned so little about them.
Ked E. James, M.D.
I appreciated how Ferme examined the way objects are gendered and the roles objects play in everyday Mende life. However, be prepared to struggle through terms like "semiotic" or "transmogrifying"... :0
Nevertheless, a very important contribution to your library on West African culture and useful insights on practices such as hair braiding, fishing and masquerades.