Saamaka Dreaming

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 43 illustrations Published: August 2017

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Caribbean Studies

When Richard and Sally Price stepped out of the canoe to begin their fieldwork with the Saamaka Maroons of Suriname in 1966, they were met with a mixture of curiosity, suspicion, ambivalence, hostility, and fascination. With their gradual acceptance into the community they undertook the work that would shape their careers and influence the study of African American societies throughout the hemisphere for decades to come. In Saamaka Dreaming they look back on the experience, reflecting on a discipline and a society that are considerably different today. Drawing on thousands of pages of field notes, as well as recordings, file cards, photos, and sketches, the Prices retell and comment on the most intensive fieldwork of their careers, evoke the joys and hardships of building relationships and trust, and outline their personal adaptation to this unfamiliar universe. The book is at once a moving human story, a portrait of a remarkable society, and a thought-provoking revelation about the development of anthropology over the past half-century.


"Beautifully written, this book presents a satisfying commentary on the anthropological enterprise, to be enjoyed by a wide variety of readers. Essential. All public and academic levels/libraries."
  — P. Passariello, Choice

"A complex ethnographic narrative . . .  a dynamic story with a cast of Saamaka characters. . . . Though the book is published over fifty years after the initial research, it still shows a candor and eye for painstaking detail of moment to moment happenings in daily life." — Cheryl White, Anthropos

"This inspiring book combines ethnography with a brilliantly written autobiographical account. . . .  The way in which Richard Price and Sally Price position themselves as the main protagonists of their interlocutions with Saamaka villagers, is precisely what makes the book so rich."   — Olivia M. Gomes da Cunha, New West Indian Guide

"A retrospective on a life’s work, Saamaka Dreaming stands alone as an introduction to understanding social memory in the black diaspora via ethnographic practice. But it also shows us how that memory can shape political engagement in the present premised on what we might call the hopes—or dreams—of a better future that anthropologists can also help create." — Sarah E. Vaughn, American Ethnologist

"This is an inspiring narrative on Saamaka Maroons lifestyle changes through half a century, on changes from an anthropological perspective on these people, as well as the development of anthropology as a science and the impact that a researcher can make. It is not only a great source to learn about Saamaka culture but also a great narrative to read—it is literary anthropology at its best." — Asnate Morozova, Anthropological Notebooks

"The eloquently narrated history takes the reader to a closely knit community where ‘whitefolks’ other than the occasional missionary or medical doctor rarely visit." — Marieke Heemskerk, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“Richard and Sally Price’s elegiac account of their time living among the Saamakas of Suriname in the 1960s is wholly engrossing, and of the very highest narrative quality. I can see, smell, and feel everything they describe. The Prices have never been fresher or more readable as literature.” — George E. Marcus, coauthor of Designs for an Anthropology of the Contemporary

“With their keen attunements, customary honesty, ethnographic verve, spare poetics, and dashes of hubris and humor, Richard and Sally Price offer an extraordinary meditation on life, anthropology, and their encounter with the Saamakas. Saamaka Dreaming is a compelling text that astounds in its richness.” — John Collins, author of Revolt of the Saints: Memory and Redemption in the Twilight of Brazilian Racial Democracy


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Richard Price taught for many years at Yale University and Johns Hopkins University and is Professor Emeritus at the College of William and Mary. His numerous prize-winning books include Travels with Tooy: History, Memory, and the African American Imagination and Rainforest Warriors: Human Rights on Trial.

Sally Price has taught in the United States, France, and Brazil and is Professor Emerita at the College of William and Mary. Her studies of the place of “primitive art” in the imaginary of Western viewers include Primitive Art in Civilized Places and Paris Primitive: Jacques Chirac’s Museum on the Quai Branly. The Prices have coauthored many books, including Romare Bearden: The Caribbean Dimension.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface  ix
1. Testing the Waters  1
2. On Trial  13
3. A Feast for the Ancestors  28
4. Going "Outside"  34
5. On Nai's Doorstep  40
6. Under Kala's House  51
7. The Sika  58
8. What Month It It?  62
9. The Captain's "Granddaughter"  71
10. Upriver  74
11. At the Ancestor Shrine  86
12. The Cock's Balls  100
13. Nai's Rivergod  103
14. Agbago's Seagod  108
15. Kala's Snakegod  114
16. A Touch of Madness  123
17. Playing for the Gods  132
18. A Tree Falls  139
19. Sickness  144
20. Death of a Witch  155
21. Chasing Ghosts  173
22. Death of a Child  179
23. Returns  190
24. Foto  202
25. Looking at Paper  205
26. The End of an Era  215
Notes  231
Bibliography  243
Index  247
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6978-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6966-0
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