richard price & sally price

2nd edition, University of Chicago Press, 2002

Saamaktongo edition, Vents d'ailleurs, 2013

2nd French edition, Vens d'ailleurs, 2013

French edition, Editions du Seuil, 1994

Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983

The Historical Vision of an African American People

Winner of the Elsie Clews Parsons Prize from the American Folklore Society

First-Time is an extraordinary collection of oral testimonies about the lives of eighteenth-century Saramakas, Afro-American maroons who escaped from slavery and settled in the tropical rain forest of Suriname. Proverbs, songs, prayers, genealogical nuggets, and contemporary engravings are woven into a fascinating interpretation of past events. They contain moving evocations of daily life two centuries ago -- battles and love stories, political rivalries and ritual celebrations. And in the hands of the world's foremost authority on maroon societies, they become a key to understanding the most striking aspect of modern Saramaka life: a people's consciousness of living within history, shaped by the deeds of their ancestors and shaping the lives of their own descendants.

Half of each page in First-Time is devoted to direct transcriptions of the words of individual Saramakas, pieced together to reveal the order and coherence of their historiography. Price's commentaries placing the Saramaka accounts into broader social, intellectual, and historical contexts appear directly below the translations. His unique presentation not only preserves the integrity of both oral and documentary historical accounts but also unites them in a meditation on the role of history in modern life.

"With a fine eye for detail, a scholar's touch, and a sense of compassion, Price offers us a double account of Saramaka history. He gained the confidence and friendship of living Saramakas, and they offered him their most secret and powerful memories. Thus we are allowed to witness, as closely as anyone shall, slaves escaping, surviving, and forging a new sense of themselves in a harsh environment. To this vivid account Price juxtaposes the Western historical view. By preserving in writing now-flagging oral memories, Price serves both the Western and the Saramaka communities. Distant figures become our companions and distant events our concern in this fresh and distinctive book."
--Stephen Gudeman, University of Minnesota

"First-Time is evidence of the fact that acute political and epistemological self-consciousness need not lead to ethnographic self-absorption, or to the conclusion that it is impossible to know anything certain about other people. Rather, it leads to a concrete sense of why a Saramaka folktale ... teaches that 'knowledge is power, and that one must never reveal all of what one knows.'"
--James Clifford, in Writing Culture

Selected Books:

“Richard and Sally Price’s elegiac account of their time living among the Saamakas of Suriname in the 1960s is wholly engrossing, and of the very highest narrative quality. I can see, smell, and feel everything they describe. The Prices have never been fresher or more readable as literature.” --George E. Marcus
Boléro Tropical, a French-language reimagining of Enigma Variations, is now available from and
Winner of the 2012 Best Book Award of the American Political Science Association in the field of Human Rights and the 2012 Senior Book Prize of the American Ethnological Society. "An extraordinary work, actively written and exceptionally thought-provoking, Rainforest Warriors will be a classic." --Donald Brenneis, UC Santa Cruz
"A delicious combination of art, anthropology, and politics"--Lucy R. Lippard. "A fascinating, entertaining, and troubling book"--Journal of Anthropological Research. "A complex story of passion, intrigue, and power"--Journal of Surrealism and the Americas. "A crackling good story"--Museum.
Winner of the 2008 Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing, the 2009 Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Memorial Award for Caribbean Scholarship, and the 2009 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion. . . . "An astonishing performance ... as lucid and cordial as the best contemporary fiction.”--George Lamming
A lavishly-illustrated art book
A French-language original, printed in full color.
"A tour-de-force ... a true marriage of anthropology and art history." --Fred Myers, New York University
"A witty, but scholarly, indictment of the whole primitive art business." --Newsweek
"A superb calaloo of a book ... that explores the underlying insanity of the colonial experience." --George Lamming
"A true gem... The promise of literary ethnography is fulfilled: to educate and, just as a lark, to entertain." --African Arts
"Sensitive and honest, First-Time is required reading for all who seek to learn something new through first-hand, long-term research with non-western intellectuals" --Ethnohistory
"A splendid effort to recover the past." --New York Review of Books
"A splendid anthology, skillfully edited and introduced." --Eugene D. Genovese
"An innovative analysis of the creativity of African-Americans under the extreme constraints of slavery." --Rebecca Scott
"Conceived with sophistication but presented with simplicity and clarity" --Choice
"A brilliantly crafted experiment in postmodern narration --J. Jorge Klor de Alva, president, University of Phoenix
As seas dry up, books speak out loud, and elephants assume human form, we are present at a whole sequence of world-shaping happenings such as the invention of sex, the discovery of drums,and the arrival of death among humans.
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