I ve read K David Harrison s two books on endangered languages, When Languages Die and The Last Speakers, and I think I would place Wade Davis s book, Light at the Edge of the World, in that same vein Both Davis and Harrison employ anecdotes from their own research and interactions with other scholars and members of the indigenous communities to which they refer in their respective books This, in my opinion, serves to further highlight the human element of language culture endangerment They both use the unique characteristics of each culture language mentioned in order to persuade their readers of their importance in contributing to human knowledge and complexifying the human experience A major difference which I noted between Davis and Harrison is that Davis, being an anthropologist and ethnobotanist focuses primarily on endangered cultures, whereas Harrison, a linguist, concentrateson language endangerment I d recommend this book to anyone interested in linguistics, cultural anthropology, or ethno botany, particularly in the context of minority cultures. Due to the size of this book, many would simply think of it as a coffee table photography book While the photos are quite stunning, all captured by Davis himself over the last 25 years in the field, it is the text that is the real gem Davis currently researches as a National Geographic Society Explorer in Residence, but his career has led him to very remote areas of the world to learn about the distinct ethnosphere , and the modern phenomenon of these vanishing cultures With amazing detail, gathered first hand and through interviews, he discusses his research in British Columbia, the Andes of Peru and Bolivia, thebasin Peru, Brazil, Ecuador ,lowland Orinoco settlements in Venezuela and Colombia, Haiti, Malaysia, Kenya, Tibet, Australia, and Nunavut among others with less detail He notes that great effort has been put towards protecting biodiversity, while cultural diversity, as well as language is being lost everyday With nods to many of the great anthropologists and scientists of the 19th and 20th century, he recognizes that modern nations can enrich themselves by accepting and encouraging the inherent diversity, not as failed attempts at modernity , but as new opportunities to see the human experience in full color I have had the great opportunity to see Dr Davis speak twice at the National Geographic Society in DC, both times sharing stories and research in Peru His insights have enriched my travels, and reading this book made me long for Peru even Wade Davis uses words well I still haven t forgotten the cloak of conformity that he describes falling over the indigenous people he writes about He takes us to Tibet, Australia, the Inuit lands, the , Africa, and Indonesia He has friends in these places, people that trust him and his good intentions He calls the the world an ethnosphere a sphere of people groups, amazing in in its diversity I learned a lot from this book about the despair and demoralization of so many robbed of their cultures And about the hope and work and faith of those fighting to preserve those same cultures There is so much to learn from the ancient wisdom, so much for us to learn Davis doesn t advocate for people to be left in the Stone Age He knows that s impossible But he fights for the right of these people to be in control of their own transition not into our world but into a world where they can incorporate parts of the surrounding cultures into their own and reject what they don t want He s found examples of people doing just that It s isn t a choice of 100% old ways or 100% new ways, but just acknowledging that cultures are always evolving and changing and it s the members of those cultures that should control how, not outside governments, corportations, or missionaries The arrogance and ignorance of the Europeans who made initial contact with these people is astounding, but not surprising So often they were perceived as savages to be enslaved, civilized, eduacated Non humans to be obliterated The ancient wisdom was not ignored that would require an initial awareness of the wisdom and a consious decision to ignore it The civilized white people weren t capable of even that The book does end with hope Much has been lost, but much has been preserved, resurrected, strengthened.I m glad I read this book. Davis is a compelling writer, and reading this book did make me want to go tocool places and docool things, but i never feel like i ended up going where he was trying to take me It seemed like he was at his most effective when speaking in broad generalities It s bad when the government destroys the ecological milieu of a given culture People with good intentions can do bad things , but it seemed like when he dealt with very specific cases Person X had effect Y on culture Z he presented accounts of the interactions that weren t particularly fair, or that posited a strict outside inside binary that didn t allow for differing opinions about the contact by those inside the culture under consideration or that suggested, despite his claim of the importance of self determinism in cultural adaptation, that those who chose to embrace the contact and leave behind atraditional lifestyle had made a less valid decision , or that didn t allow for the outside globalized culture contacting the indigenous culture to consist of differing, mutually antagonistic groups Finally, i understand the natural limitations that present to a male anthropologist, but i would very much have liked to have heardfemale voices it seemed likely that all or, at the very least, most of the cultures discussed were very much male dominated It seems that hearing some female voices commenting on the loss of a male dominated culture would present a different reading experience from hearing a bunch of male voices bemoaning the loss of a male dominated culture And hey, look, i just wrote a review that makes me look like an ethnocentric indigenous culture hater Sigh. A Journey Through The Realm Of Vanishing CulturesFor Renowned Anthropologist And Ethnobotanist Wade Davis, The Term Ethnosphere Encompasses The Wealth Of Human Diversity And All That Traditional Cultures Have To Teach About Different Ways Of Living And Thinking In Light At The Edge Of The World, Davis Best Known For The Serpent And The Rainbow Presents An Intimate Survey Of The Ethnosphere InStriking Photographs Taken Over The Course Of His Wide Exploration In Eloquent Accompanying Text, Davis Takes Readers Deep Into Worlds Few Westerners Will Ever Experience, Worlds That Are Fading Away Even As He Writes From The Canadian Arctic And The Rain Forests Of Borneo To The And The Towering Mountains Of Tibet, Readers Are Awakened To The Rituals, Beliefs, And Lives Of The Waorani, The Penan, The Inuit, And Many Other Unique And Endangered Traditional Cultures The Result Is A Haunting And Enlightening Realization Of The Limitless Potential Of The Human Imagination Of Life I m fascinated by this topic Reading this book for me has been such a beautiful experience because of the depth cultural expressions and and the diversity of world views of the indigenous communities that we are fortunate to share our world with but haven t, unfortunately, properly respected I m extremely saddened, at the same time, by the examples of what has been done in the name of development and modernization to deprive indigenous peoples of their ways of life I feel that it is a responsibility that we all have to at the very least learn about these facts particularly those of us whose lives have been enriched materially by oil, woods and other resources extracted at the expense of the peoples for whom their natural environment is their home I will enjoy re reading this book many times in the future, as each story represents so much tradition, history, heritage, and world views and beliefs so fascinatingly different from anything that I can easily understand It reminds me how so beautifully diverse our world is, in a way that may be even beyond my imagination, and that discovering ideas and inspirations that I would otherwise not have been able to find myself for me is one of the biggest joys of reading. I loved this book Light at the Edge of the World is written by anthropologist and ethnobiologist Wade Davis It is a beautifully written reflection on the importance of indigenous cultures in our world and the dangers of extinctions these cultures face One language vanishes every 2 weeks when it s last speaker dies I can t imagine being the last of my tribe, unable to communicate and share knowledge When cultures die we lose knowledge as a whole They take their understandings of scientifically undiscovered plants with them, their traditions, world history and so muchThese people, with their dreams and prayers, their myths and memories, teach us that there are indeed other ways of being, alternative visions of life, birth, death and creation itself When asked the meaning of being human, they respond with ten thousand different voices It is within this diversity of knowledge and practice, of intuition and interpretation, of promise and hope, that we will all rediscover the enchantment of being what we are, a conscious species aware of our place on the planet and fully capable of not only doing no harm but ensuring that all creatures in every garden find a way to flourish This book makes me want to playfully explore the world and lose my ethnocentric world view. This was a great book to get through in 2 days Wade Davis is an ethnobotonist I had never heard that term before He puts it that the ethnosphere is like the ecosphere, but with human culture As people argue successfully for the preservation of endangered animals and plants, Davis also argues for the preservation of endangered cultures Or rather, the lessening of overwhelming force against them so that they be allowed to adapt or assimilate as desired He points out the vast scope of human intellect and memory and cunning that we lose when a culture that has evolved along its own path is squashed out I think the closest I ever got to perceiving this idea when I was in school was learning how eskimos have so many words for snow, and how they measure their wealth in friends rather than dollars But that is such a superficial example.Cultures that can correctly and consistently identify hundreds of kinds of trees by the sounds that they make when the wind blows through them aren t magic, or faking it they re f ing amazing listeners and observers It s both comforting to know that this culture isn t the only one still around, and sad to wonder how soon it will be. I ve been a fan of Wade Davis for a long time, and this book is a beautiful over view of his work and perspectives Fairly succinct essays are accompanied by photography and the whole package has made me want to do a lot of deeper reading into the cultures and ways of living touched on here If you ve ever thought that the loss of the world s languages is no big deal or that it doesn t matter if indigenous cultures are subsumed into our technologically driven modern world, then you need to read this book right now And there s just a lot of unbelievably interesting stuff in here Did you know that the Inuit can make functional knives out of their own frozen feces Neither did I And that s only one of a million ways that they make their frozen landscape work for them instead of against them Crazy This book felt like a really fantastic undergraduate lecture It only scratches the surface of a huge topic, but it s an excellent introduction that doesn t have a dull moment. After an unconvincing start, a bit slow and sometimes emphatic, this book becomes very engaging Wade Davis tells about the diversity of humanity, its multiple cultures with their values, traditions and original interpretations of reality all striving to imagine a meaning for life A variety of visions that seriously risks to disappear, overcome by the western culture, predominant because strong of its technical achievements too often greedily employed for materialistic purposes Diversity, the ability to implement different strategies and adapt to different environments and situations is the base of evolution, both biological and cultural The loss of cultural diversity would thus represent not only an impoverishment for our mind and spirit but also a danger for our survival Touching and fascinating.
Edmund Wade Davis has been described as a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet, and passionate defender of all of life s diversity An ethnographer, writer, photographer, and filmmaker, he holds degrees in anthropology and biology and received his Ph.D in ethnobotany, all from Harvard University Mostly through the Harvard Botanical Museum, he spent than three years in the an
- 202 pages
- Light at the Edge of the World: A Journey Through the Realm of Vanishing Cultures
- Wade Davis
- 02 February 2019 Wade Davis