Heather's Reviews > Return to Laughter: An Anthropological Novel

Return to Laughter by Laura Bohannan
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's review
Jul 16, 2011

really liked it
Read from July 16 to 22, 2011

As the back cover announces, this book provides a view into the private trials of field work. More than that, it also delivers insight into the heart and mind of an obstinate, paternalistic, and sometimes indignantly self-righteous mid-twentieth century anthropologist. In the book, we find her struggling against a deteriorating sense of cultural superiority that arises as she confronts and is forced to concede, both privately and publicly, her own ignorance and "stupidity" in a culturally "alien" world. Inevitably, it is her fear of losing touch with the integrity of her own cultural identity that blinds her to the cultural "truths" she demands from the people she objectifies as the subject of her "scientific" inquiry (evidence of the limits of "scientific objectivity"). At the same time, she is a complex and likable character, as insightful as she is blind. It is the contradictions in this that I find most compelling about the book.


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