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Entewrtaining but unconvincing
on August 25, 2011
As an anthropologist who has lived and done research in rural Mexico and as a moderate runner, I agree with other reviewers that this book is entertaining and very well-written. It has all of the elements of much earlier travelogues -- the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good is that it is an interesting narrative brought to life through a series of interesting characters. However, what is good is overshadowed by the bad and ugly of such narratives. It is a story of white adventurers making forays into the "wilderness" inhabited by "primitives" who provide "magic," "mysteries," and a "primal naturalness" to ease the physical and psychological aches and pains of civilization. Then the white adventurers return home to make a small fortune writing a book while others open this "wilderness" to tour groups who want to experience "adventure tourism." All you have to do is consult "Caballo Blanco's" website and the smooth marketing of Mc Dougall's book. But what are the Raramuri getting out of this? And most of the "science" in the book is laughable -- generalizing about millions of years of human evolution from limited contemporary ethnographic examples, assuming a uniformity of conditions in early human evolution, exaggerating the role of persistence hunting among contemporary foragers, etc. In reality, the Raramuri and Mc Dougall's other main ethnographic case -- the Kung of the Kalahari Desert -- are the least likely cases to say anything about early human evolution since they were relatively recently forced into extremely harsh environments with scattered food resources, hardly indicative of the varied, and often plentiful, environments that early hominids occupied. I could go on, but enough is enough. This is exploitation that feeds a leisure time activity and business and creates the illusion that runners wearing the latest gimick in footwear are doing something "human" and "natural.'