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Life as a Hunt
Thresholds of Identities and Illusions on an African Landscape
Stuart A. Marks
518 pages, 25 illus., bibliog., index
ISBN 978-1-78533-157-2 $179.00/£132.00 Hb Published (September 2016)
ISBN 978-1-78920-816-0 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (February 2020)
eISBN 978-1-78533-158-9 eBook
“Few academic books display such depth as does this one, but then few anthropologists devote over five decades to the same communities and issues. Anthropologist Marks first worked among Zambia's Valley Bisa people in 1966, returning frequently for further research. The result is a masterwork of description, interpretation, and self-reflection.” • Choice
“In this beautifully written ethnography, Marks shares a cultural history and a worldview that are vastly different from what is encoded in the conservation myth…What sets his book apart from [all] others is the sheer, even overwhelming amount of ethnographic information drawn from half a century of living and learning in the Luangwa Valley.” • American Ethnologist
“…a vast and fascinating volume, a compendium of four decades of research… a rich mixture of anthropology and history, moving from the role of guns in the construction of masculinity to the power of witchcraft in social understandings of success and adversity, and the criminalization of local hunting management by the state…Who should read this book? Students in anthropology and geography, of course, and anyone interested in Africa and its development but curious at what lies behind the problems conservationists have in engaging with ordinary people.” • Oryx (Fauna Preservation Society- UK)
“The product of over half a century of research in the Luangwa Valley… [this book] demonstrates the power of sustained investment in fieldwork with a meaty ethnography.” • International Journal of African Historical Studies
“Marks provides a wealth of material that leads the reader through many facets of Bisa society. The greatest value of the book lies in the middle chapters focused directly on hunting practices and featuring the conclusions Marks drew from his own fieldwork. Environmental historians and policymakers should pay attention to these lessons.” • African Studies Review
“This is a superb book. It brings together Stuart Marks’ detailed long-term work on hunting and other issues among the Bisa of the Manyamadzi Corridor of Zambia since the 1960s.” · Robert K. Hitchcock, Michigan State University
“A magisterial presentation about an African people, the landscapes they create and survive in, their own history and how that often differs from others’ histories of them, and their ever-changing store of knowledge and experiences.” • Gary Haynes, University of Nevada, Reno
“An immensely readable ethnography that combines solid, in-depth, grounded evidence with a rare, and envious, literary flair -- this should be compulsory reading for all those concerned with ‘conservation’ in Africa.” • Rob Gordon, University of Vermont, University of the Free State, and Cologne University
The "extensive wilderness" of Zambia’s central Luangwa Valley is the homeland of the Valley Bisa whose cultural practices have enriched this environment for centuries. Beginning with the intrusions of warlords and later British colonials, successive generations have experienced the callousness and challenges of colonialism. Their homeland, a slender corridor surrounded by three national parks and an escarpment, is a microcosm of the political, economic and cultural battlefields surrounding most African protected areas today. The story of the Valley Bisa diverges from the myths that conservationists, administrators, and philanthropists, tell about Africa’s environmental and wildlife crises.
Stuart Marks was Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Sciences at St. Andrews College, Laurinburg, N.C (1970-1983). He has worked as an independent scholar as well as a consultant to governments, international donor agencies and conservation NGOs. His other books on Zambia include Large Mammals and a Brave People (1976); The Imperial Lion (1984); and Discordant Village Voices (2014). He also wrote Southern Hunting in Black and White: Nature, History and Rituals in a Carolina Community (1991), an award-winning volume on his US Southern homeland.