richard price & sally price

Routledge, 1992





Equatoria

by Richard Price and Sally Price
with pen-and-ink drawings by Sally Price

A postmodern romp through the rain forest, Equatoria is both travelogue and cultural critique. On the right-hand pages the Prices chronicle their 1990 artifact-collecting expedition up the rivers of French Guiana, and on the left, stage an accompanying sideshow that enlists the help of Jonathan Swift, Joseph Conrad, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Alex Haley, James Clifford, Eric Hobsbawm, Germaine Greer, and even the noted anthropologist James Goodfellow (who asks for more sex). Also included are quotes from the nurses, doctors, tourists, convicts and countless others who live in this French penal colony turned space center in tropical South America.

Charged with acquiring objects for a new museum, the Prices kept a log of their day-to-day adventures and misadventures, constantly confronting their ambivalence about the act of collecting, the very possibility of exhibiting cultures, and the future of anthropology. By the time their expedition arrived in the villages of the Aluku Maroons, these African American descendants of rebel slaves had become as comfortable in blue jeans and frilly mail-order dresses flown in from Paris as in breechcloths and trade-cotton wrapskirts. What would they think of exporting material chunks of their artistic heritage to a glossy modern building in a suburb of Cayenne?

Probing the nature of museums, collecting, and power relations between "us" and "them," the authors raise many troubling questions. Anyone concerned about cultural preservation, museums, "primitive" art, anthropology, indigenous rights, and the legacies of colonialism will be challenged by this playful, but eminently serious work.

"In this brilliantly crafted experiment in postmodern narration, the Prices treat us not only to a century's end mission scientifique, which invokes the most challenging intellectual and ethical issues facing today's collectors and museums, but also to a concise tour of the major concerns of anthropology as it wrestles with the thorny question of how best to represent cultures."
—J. Jorge Klor de Alva, president, University of Phoenix

"The latest in a series of volumes by the Prices that is proving to be the most interesting and most sustained body of experimental work in anthropology ... an ironic and irresistible meditation on collecting as an activity through which the sign of the primitive perpetually emerges in modernist, and for that matter, postmodernist discourses."
—George E. Marcus, Rice University

"Richard and Sally Price have continued their brilliant project on Saramaka arts and culture with this more personal document. Everything they touch turns to gold, including this present project, a beautifully written, morally engaged work that will be welcomed by museum curators and museum goers alike."
—Roger D. Abrahams, University of Pennsylvania

"Scholarly, up-to-date, and sophisticated in its understanding of the many fields in which it is implicated, Equatoria is a deft way of opening up a lot of thorny issues in current debates ... where anthropology, racism, postcoloniality, surrealism, and writing overlap.... This is an unusual and strikingly well done text which will intrigue and stoke the fires of key debates in cultural criticism, cultural doubt."
—Michael Taussig, Columbia University

"Over the last two decades, Richard and Sally Price have succeeded in creating an oeuvre unparalleled in the field of Afro-American studies since the days of Melville and Frances Herskovits."
—H. U. E. Thoden van Velzen, Amsterdam School for Social Research

"Equatoria takes us on a moral journey along a continuum of immorality called museum collecting. Sometimes pained, sometimes ironic, always insightful, the Prices offer an ethical tour of the ethnic ... a journey that anyone interested in turning the lived and lively into the dead and desiccated ought to take, at least once."
—Brackette F. Williams, MacArthur Foundation Fellow

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Selected Books:

French-language reimagining of Enigma Variations, Published with the Espresso Book Machine
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, UCSanta Cruz
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 delicious combination of art, anthropology, and politics"--Lucy R. Lippard
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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