... perhaps the finest and most profound account of ethnographic fieldwork and discovery that has ever entered the anthropological literature. To his immense credit, Mr. Kulick refuses to embrace the postmodern conceit that anthropology is part of the colonial agenda, yet another way of subjugating a people by recording their knowledge, and that the very presence of the Western scholar in the field is an exercise in power, a tool of oppression ... leaves the reader dazzled by the wizardry of linguistic scholarship ... Writing with verve and simple elegance, without a hint of bravado, [Mr. Kulick] describes the ritual humiliations of fieldwork ... astonishing.
In this captivating narrative, the author considers complex questions about race and power in anthropological research, the nature of relationships among very different people, and the challenges of living in such a demanding environment. Kulick’s engrossing, thought-provoking, and transporting chronicle will be enjoyed by National Geographic fans and all readers interested in cultural investigations.
While it doesn’t give the reader a neat answer, it will leave you thinking about how cultures everywhere break down and evolve, and the role we unwittingly play in their demise ... This is not a romantic, idealized tale of life in the rainforest brought to you by Disney nature films. Kulick hopes to tell a more honest story ... the great strength of the book is Kulick’s candor. It’s closer to a memoir than an academic tome, and a more accurate subtitle might be True Confessions of a Cultural Anthropologist ... If you want to experience a profoundly different culture without the exhausting travel (to say nothing of the cost), this is an excellent choice. It’s entertaining, plus you can read it while curled up on your couch. But the lasting impact for a reader may be the insights — rather than answers — it offers for our future. Like a Rorschach test, any parallels you draw are up to you.
Kulick strives to display his research by telling the villagers’ story in a way that shows their humanity .., His stories of adjusting to daily life in the village are both humorous and compassionate. Throughout his time working in Gapun, he is distinctly aware of the field of anthropology’s conflicting eras of practice, from its colonialist past up to the highly culturally sensitive present. Kulick allows his research to reveal his own cultural bias and acknowledge his privilege; in doing so, he details the reasons that support his theory as to why languages die in a manner that shows strong social responsibility and fairness.
... deeply personal, engaging ... The author renders his academic research in a light, almost novelistic style, with plenty of drama and heartache ... The linguistic part of the book may be a bit much for some, but Kulick does a fine job describing the language’s origins, how he learned it, and how it differs from the country’s national language ... A sad and uplifting, ultimately poignant exploration of a tiny world within a bigger, harsher, and crushing world.
... clever, empathetic ... The book captures the spirit and rhythm of daily life in the village ... Despite lots of fascinating detail about a culture that appears very different from the modern West, the book concludes with a firm and moving reminder about shared similarities and an exhortation to better honor collective responsibilities. This frank, passionate work will move readers interested in a thoughtful contemplation of culture and globalization.