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The Hidden Power Of The Laibon

1803 words - 8 pages

Laibon: An Anthropologist’s Journey with Samburu Diviners in Kenya, is a brilliant ethnographic review by Elliot Fratkin, which intricately details the emic and etic observations essential to an anthropologist’s study. Elliot begins with a rather gleam outlook, however, this soon turns into an extraordinarily serendipitous event that fits perfectly into the African proverb that gilds the preface for the book: Foolishness first, then wisdom. In this essay I will begin by describing the ethnographic review, then analyze many aspects, evaluate and critique strengths and weaknesses, and finally consider the many contributions of this book to understanding Anthropology of Religion.
The book takes ...view middle of the document...

Each of the men are wearing different colored shuka’s, and each has a necklace around their necks. These are both significant as certain colors are associated with respective groups within the Samburu community. Then, reading above the photo, Laibon, and the subtext An Anthropologist’s Journey with Samburu Diviners in Kenya. Laibon is written much larger than the other texts, which suggests the importance in the book, but also are the words “Journey with,” this implies the people, including Elliot, “grew” together and each benefited greatly from the experience.
The book starts with relatively recent visit to Lembalen, the son of Linyoki, a Laibon diviner, in in northern Kenya thirty years after originally visiting. Elliot then begins to describe the first time he was in Africa and how he originally wanted to study another tribe; however, through a series of extremely serendipitous events, he is deep in the desert and becomes adopted by a Laibon. Laibons are a special group of African shamans very important to the people of Samburu and Maasai. The first four chapters are the initial eighteen months in which Elliot was a part of the Lukamai community, with intricate details of the Laibon, Linyoki, a Samburu elder, Dominic, and the pastoralists. Elliot begins by recounting his journey to the Lukumai community and how he was initiated into the group of people. While in the second chapter Elliot describes many factors related to the Samburu and the laibon. However, in chapter three Elliot looks deeper into the role of the laibon and how Linyoki’s divinations impact the decisions of the Samburu people. Chapter four represents the struggles faced by the pastoralist community during harsh droughts, and how these effect the dynamics of the community. This chapter was especially important as it outlined the importance of herding cattle for the Samburu people. Finally, in chapter five, Elliot describes his delayed visit to Lukumai community and many of his friends many years after he was first adopted into the community. The last chapter is significant for the journey Elliot had with himself as a man, and also as an anthropologist. Moreover, he describes the bonds formed with very special friends in the community and how each have endured on their journey. The writing is mostly agnostic toward the practices of the laibons and their divinations; nevertheless, this is also a memoir, therefore, Elliot does include his thoughts on a few aspects.
As the first ethnographic review I have read, this book sets a very high platform on which to read other ethnographies. The most prevalent aspect, and an important asdfideaasdf of this book, is the value the communities place on their Shaman; in this case, the laibon, Linyoki. Of the many films we have watched on local Shaman, and also the readings I have covered, this book has reinforced the importance and scope of, in this case, a laibon. Elliot does mention that laibons “were outsiders; they were not ordinary...

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