Braided Worlds by Alma GottliebBraided Worlds by Alma Gottlieb

Braided Worlds

byAlma Gottlieb

Paperback | September 5, 2012

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In a compelling mix of literary narrative and ethnography, anthropologist Alma Gottlieb and writer Philip Graham continue the long journey of cultural engagement with the Beng people of Côte d’Ivoire that they first recounted in their award-winning memoir Parallel Worlds. Their commitment over the span of several decades has lent them a rare insight. Braiding their own stories with those of the villagers of Asagbé and Kosangbé, Gottlieb and Graham take turns recounting a host of unexpected dramas with these West African villages, prompting serious questions about the fraught nature of cultural contact.
Through events such as a religious leader’s declaration that the authors’ six-year-old son, Nathaniel, is the reincarnation of a revered ancestor, or Graham’s late father being accepted into the Beng afterlife, or the increasing, sometimes dangerous madness of a villager, the authors are forced to reconcile their anthropological and literary gaze with the deepest parts of their personal lives. Along with these intimate dramas, they follow the Beng from times of peace through the times of tragedy that led to Côte d’Ivoire’s recent civil conflicts. From these and many other interweaving narratives—and with the combined strengths of an anthropologist and a literary writer—Braided Worlds examines the impact of postcolonialism, race, and global inequity at the same time that it chronicles a living, breathing village community where two very different worlds meet.
Alma Gottlieb is professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of The Restless Anthropologist, The Afterlife Is Where We Come From, and Under the Kapok Tree, all published by the University of Chicago Press. Philip Graham is professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois, Urba...
Title:Braided WorldsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:184 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.2 inPublished:September 5, 2012Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226305287

ISBN - 13:9780226305288

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Table of Contents

A Note to Readers

1 A Beng Path to Birth (September 1986–May 1987)
Alma: Of Blessings and Bad Faith
Philip: The Scrabble Champion
Alma: Two Homes and a Hospital

2 Censored Words (March 1990)
Philip: La Crise
Alma: Can You Teach Anthropology to a Toddler?
Philip: Our Own House of Mbari

3 Back in the Village (May–June 1993)
Alma: The House of Africa
Philip: Raising the Stakes
Alma: Old Agendas, New Agendas
Philip: The Adventures of Tintin
Alma: The Spirit of Grandfather Denju
Philip: One Screen Door

4 Casting Spells (June–July 1993)
Alma: Another Story to Confess
Philip: Anything but Invisible
Alma: Too Expensive to Die
Philip: The Waiting Fax

5 Things of the Heart (July–August 1993)
Alma: Mad to Be Modern
Philip: My Father’s African Afterlife
Alma: The First Twelve Months of Life
Philip: Welcoming Ghosts
Alma: Amenan’s Lament
Philip: “Denju, Denju”
Alma: Mystical Musical Chairs
Philip: Gifting Party
Alma: Tying Up Loose Ends
Philip: Shooting Fish

6 A Different Fieldwork Site (January 1994)
Alma: Converging Paths
Philip: “Ka’na Poblé”
Epilogue: Côte d’Ivoire and the Beng in Crisis
A Brief Note about the Beng
Cast of Characters


Map: Côte d’Ivoire
Map: Beng region
Map: Amenan’s compound, 1993
Map: Côte d’Ivoire’s civil war and the Beng region, ca. 2006


Editorial Reviews

“Not only does Braided Worlds tie two cultures together with their differences and similarities, it also braids the very different perspectives of Alma and Phillip as they each write about their personal experiences. While living with the Beng they candidly discuss views on child rearing, the value of being calm, and the effects of grief, guilt and resentment on the health of the mind and body.  They also recognize that two cultures cannot meet without both of them being changed. The writing is clear and readable; the emotions are honest and accessible. This book is a fascinating study of cultural differences which develop in response to variations in need and circumstance. By introducing us to real people living real lives, it also portrays the universal experience of being human and the absolute equality of individuals and societies that bridges education, science, politics, and wealth. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know what it’s like to live somewhere else, in a world unlike our own, with people who are very much just like us.”