Author: Nigel Barley
Title: The Innocent Anthropologist. Notes from a Mud Hut.
Time: early 80s
Destination: Northern Cameroon
Length: 2 years
Type: field research
The humorous scientist
[Please note: I’ve been reading a German translation of this work.]
The story: British ethnologist NB does two years of field research in a small village of Cameroon. This might sound simple, but in fact it takes him two years to even get there, mainly because the bureaucratic obstacles are just too overwhelming. And when he finally makes it to his far-away place of research, he has to find out that many things are surprisingly different from the way he expected them to be.
Nigel Barley’s funny writing
The resulting book is hilarious. NB writes about his life in Africa in a fresh and trenchant way, and more often than not, he is honest enough to make a total fool of himself. In fact, his writing strongly reminded me of that of Peter Fleming: laughter all the way.
not very close
Unfortunately, NB also inherited Fleming’s flaws: He seems to keep a bird’s view on his topic, which makes this a very funny and easy read, but at the same time puts the reader at a distance that might make him feel alienated from the story. In other words, I personally felt like I laughed at everything, but sometimes I didn’t feel very close to the story – or the author.
Anyway, I can wholeheartedly recommend reading this book if you enjoy a good laugh.
And yes, science can be funny.