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The Power of the Between

An Anthropological Odyssey

It is the anthropologist’s fate to always be between things: countries, languages, cultures, even realities. But rather than lament this, anthropologist Paul Stoller here celebrates the creative power of the between, showing how it can transform us, changing our conceptions of who we are, what we know, and how we live in the world.

Beginning with his early days with the Peace Corps in Africa and culminating with a recent bout with cancer, The Power of the Between is an evocative account of the circuitous path Stoller’s life has taken, offering a fascinating depiction of how a career is shaped over decades of reading and research. Stoller imparts his accumulated wisdom not through grandiose pronouncements but by drawing on his gift for storytelling. Tales of his apprenticeship to a sorcerer in Niger, his studies with Claude Lévi-Strauss in Paris, and his friendships with West African street vendors in New York City accompany philosophical reflections on love, memory, power, courage, health, and illness.

Graced with Stoller’s trademark humor and narrative elegance, The Power of the Between is both the story of a distinguished career and a profound meditation on coming to terms with the impermanence of all things.

216 pages | 16 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2008

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology


"Paul Stoller’s signature style of crafting dramatic, often humorous stories to convey ethnographic insights and explore wider theoretical themes has taken him across many genres of writing, including the fieldwork memoir and fiction. With The Power of the Between, Stoller brings us a powerful disciplinary memoir: vivid, eloquent, and laden with wisdom."

Kirin Narayan, author of My Family and Other Saints

The Power of the Between offers something truly original: a personal intellectual history that combines rigorous scholarship, engaging discussions of theory, and intimate portraits of an ethnographer in the field, at home and abroad. By stitching together the narrative of his career in anthropology with discussions of his own intellectual development along the way, Stoller demonstrates how doing anthropology and living it are, or at least should be, one and the same.”

Russell Leigh Sharman, author of Nightshift NYC

“Paul Stoller is an adventurer, following a sensuous path whose sudden turns connect rationality with relativism, rivers with sand dunes, ancient deities with postcolonial politicians, West African villages with the streets of Harlem, rural traders with urban art collectors, and the methods of the sorcerer with those of the chemotherapist. This is the story of a true ethnographer.”

Dennis Tedlock, author of Breath on the Mirror: Mythic Voices and Visions of the Living Maya

“Paul Stoller’s The Power of the Between is a rich and unusual volume. As a compilation of many years of original work, this book will almost certainly enter the corpus of anthropological memoirs that somehow achieve stunning conclusions while telling what for the world appear to be stories—moral allegories—about human suffering, happiness, and creative resilience.”

A. David Napier | American Ethnologist

Table of Contents


Prologue: The Power of the Between

1. Seeking Truth
2. Alternative Truths
3. Embodiments
4. Knowledge
5. Sorcery
6. New York City
7. Complexities
8. Family
9. Sensuousness
10. Embodied Memories
11. Wood
12. New World Circuits
13. Art
14. Intersections
15. Weaving the World
16. Immunology and the Village of the Healthy
17. Entering the Village of the Sick
18. Sorcery in the World
19. Remission
20. Reconfiguration
21. Ethnography
22. Memoir
23. Imagination
24. Stories

Epilogue: Flying on the Wings of the Wind
Notes    References    Index

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