Elliot Fratkin shares the story of his early anthropological fieldwork in Kenya in the 1970s. Using his fieldnotes and letters home to bring to life the voices of those he met, Fratkin invites the reader to experience his cross-cultural friendships with the enigmatic laibon (a diviner and healer of the Samburu and Maasai peoples) Lonyoki, his family, and the people of the nomadic community of Lukumai. Fratkin participated in the daily lives of the Ariaal livestock herders and accompanied the laibon as he performed divination and healing rituals throughout Marsabit and Samburu Districts. After Fratkin reunited Lonyoki with his son and wife, Lonyoki adopted Fratkin into his family, and Fratkin continues his close friendship with Lonyoki's son Lembalen today.
Black-and-white photographs, a guide to the characters, words, and places, and a list of suggested readings supplement the engaging narrative. Laibon is more than a memoir; it delves into nitty-gritty details of fieldwork, speaks to larger questions about ethnographic research, and provides unparalleled insight into the world of the laibon.
Elliot Fratkin is professor of anthropology at Smith College.
Acknowledgments Preface Chapter 1. Meeting Lonyoki Chapter 2. Living with Nomads Chapter 3. The Dark Valley Chapter 4. The Long Hunger Chapter 5. Epilogue: The Gourd is Passed List of Characters Glossary Suggested Readings