A Woman Going Native: Hortense Powdermaker’s Stranger and Friend


(1967) Stranger and Friend (selections)stranger-friend-way-anthropologist-hortense-powdermaker-paperback-cover-art

With clarity and a touch of gentle humor , Hortense Powdermaker’s Stranger and Friend (1966) as seen in those selections emits a classical sensibility seen in her mentor Malinowski’s writing (Argonaut), in addition to their common narrative richness. The autobiographical details and the juxtaposition of different locales, however, evokes two Frenchmen: Michel Leris (L’homme d’age) and Claude Lévi-Strauss (Tristes tropiques). But she is neither an anthropologist as anti-hero (Leiris) or an anthropologist as hero (Levi-Strauss). She is somewhere in between. She serves as a connection between the British and the American, the Anglo-American and the French, the 1900s and the 1960s, the masculine and the feminine. And she doesn’t retreat from the sublime when she portrays a large and beautifully-proportioned primitive man in his most sentimental moment, a sense of the sublime I encountered the past summer in Zhang Nuanxin’s 1980s masterpiece, Sacrifice of Youth.