Alfonso Ortiz, editor,
New Perspectives on the Pueblos
(University of New Mexico Press, 1984)

New Perspectives on the Pueblos stands out from the other books on the Pueblo Indians because of the thorough discussion of the ritual drama and clowns, as well as the way there are multiple essays on certain topics -- those areas that are under ongoing debate within the field of anthropology.

This book contains essays from young anthropologists on a diverse range of topics, including linguistics, ethnomusicology, mythology, ecology, history, religion, acculturation and population. It is packed with useful information from the anthropological viewpoint and is scholarly in nature. But do not let this scare you away -- the book is totally readable and profoundly enjoyable.

When you find mention of the ritual drama clowns in other texts, it is usually merely a mention and falls far short of explaining their significance and true purpose within the Pueblo society. Here, Alfonso Ortiz does an outstanding job of evaluating this topic, reducing the complex parts to easy-to-understand explanations. His description of the clown performances will leave you laughing, even though you know this is a serious analysis. It sounds like he may have been laughing as he wrote the essay.

Although all the essays in this book provide unique outlooks and overviews, summing up what is known to date and suggesting what might be done to further the knowledge in the area, Ortiz really reached into the rare/unpublicized realm for his topic. I enjoyed each of these essays and did not find any dry or overly academic in tone. On the contrary, I found them intellectually stimulating and the interactions with the natives often fun. The interviews and anecdotes make this book a hoot to read.

Besides Ortiz, the authors are Richard I. Ford, Albert H. Schroeder, Stewart L. Peckham, Byron Harvey III, Dennis Tedlock, Don L. Roberts, John J. Bodine, Fred Eggan, Robin Fox, Kenneth Hale, Albert Alvarez and Louis A. Hieb.

New Perspectives on the Pueblos is a distinctly different type of book on the topic. It stands out from the crowd. Get this one just to read about the "hanging and dangling" cacti.

review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

11 October 2008

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