The Place of Stunted Ironwood Trees: A Year in the Lives of the Cattle-herding Himba of Namibia

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A&C Black, Jan 1, 2000 - Social Science - 269 pages
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This is an intimate account of the lives of a small group of cattle herders, the Himba, who live in and around the settlement of Otutati in northwestern Namibia. The narrative chronicles the events of a single year, though within tat year are found the events of a lifetime: birth, maturation, aging, death, generosity, meanness, accomplishment and failure.Through subtle yet vivid description, the author draws the reader into a human world that appears so utterly different. However, as the leading characters' lives and perosnal qualities, their joys, hopes and anxieties unfold, the exoticism of their world fades and the experience of life rings strangely familiar. Indeed, the narrative's power lies in its finely woven depiction of the great commonality of human life and the human condition in the midst of a peculiar and foreign world. If this is an admission anthropologists are traditionally loathe to make, yet it is so; and the reader is left with a beautiful and compelling portrait of a world and a people in which the familiar and the strange freely mix and mingle.>

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The place of stunted ironwood trees: a year in the lives of the cattle-herding Himba of Namibia

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With poetic nostalgia, Crandall (anthropology, Brigham Young Univ.) describes the year he spent with his wife and small daughter at Otutati, "the place of stunted ironwood trees," a Himba settlement ... Read full review

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Kind of surprises me that this book receives so many negative reviews from naive students. Having traveled to Namibia and visited the Himba three times, including for my master's thesis research, I've quickly learned that they are very, very few (if any) scholars that are as knowledgeable about the Himba as Crandall. His insights are thorough and unique in our understanding of this beautiful people and increasingly rare culture. It's very detailed and a hard read, but you're not going to read this book if you are in National Geographic mode, wanting to read some flowery writing and see some pretty pictures. It's appreciated most by the scholarly reader, not the college freshman who thinks Africa is full of naked people running around chasing lions. 


A Readers Introduction
Map of Southern Africa
NineteenthCentury Map of Kaokoland
Diagram of Otutati Village
Living ArrangementsRelations to Wamesepa
The People of Otutati
The Valley Is Full of Life
Faces in the Crowd
The Path of a Man
The Prophet Cometh
To Ripen and Dry
A Spirit Must Be Driven
Learning the Truth
Found and Lost
When Words Are Spoken

Open and Close
A Cry at Dawn
The Forces of the Unseen
A Woman Must Be Strong
The Living and the Dead
Offering the Pipe
The Road Is Filled with Dust

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About the author (2000)

David P. Crandall is an Oxford Univeristy trained anthropologist who has lived and worked extensively among the Himba and explored the varied cultural and natural landscapes of southwestern Africa. He teaches in the Department of Anthropology at Brigham Young Univeristy.

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