Endgame in Africa
The dilemmas of wildlife conservation are nowhere more acute or consequential than in Eastern and Central Africa, in the countries of the Great Rift Valley, where the last of the world’s big mammals exist alongside rapidly expanding human populations hungry for land, in decayed or malformed nation-states where the field of politics has become a... more»
Don’t be sad! Listen to this story!
At Lingshi the mail-runner cried in his sleep. His father was sick. He dreamed he died. I dreamed I had long hair and no hat and lived in the forest on precious stones. They were rubies, dragon food in Himalayan folklore. Lama, sleeping alongside me, snored all night. In the morning he looked at me and said: ... more»
Father of Gaia
High on a shelf in James Lovelock’s secluded private laboratory deep in the West Country, flanked by a rack of pliers and wire-strippers, alongside a clutch of software manuals and a stuffed baby alligator, stands a compact alloy cradle supporting a coiled metal tube and a sealed wooden box. A dial on the box hints at hidden... more»
Inside the miracle room
In the pilgrimage centres of the Brazilian Northeast—remote rural shrines that attract hundreds of thousands of visitors in the high season—are found what are locally known as “miracle rooms”, salas dos milagres. These rooms are filled with offerings from pilgrims seeking intercession or fulfilling vows. Their walls and ceilings are dense with passport photographs and... more»
A visit to the Panopticon
On New Year’s Day we took the Comet to the Isle of Youth. While we were still far off—in a stretch of mangroves between the mainland and the island—a cluster of large, squat cylindrical buildings came into view in the distance. This was the fabled Panopticon, once Cuba’s largest prison, its curved yellow walls and corrugated roof panels... more»
The hat, the leg and the footnotes
What I f-find,” says the neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks, “is that as soon as I—ah—open my m-mouth, I no longer believe what I am going to s-say.” “And,” he continues, “when I write I tend to write—ah—f-footnotes. And when I t-talk I feel my body saying: “On the other hand . . .” We are... more»
Chevrolets of old Havana
The contrabandista is dressed in white, a string of votive beads beneath his shirt, leaning against the glinting tail-fin of a massive mauve-and-ivory ’55 Chevrolet Bel Air. I’m leaning on it too. Those fins are... more»
Dictation from the dead
In São Paulo, on the first smog-free morning of spring, I was lingering by the news kiosks in the Praça da Republica—enigmatic cuboids of aluminium that blossom each morning into cornucopias of city maps and... more»
A war of words among the Agar Dinka of Sudan
Singing is a high art among the agro-pastoralist Dinka communities of rural Southern Sudan, integral to religious practice and indispensible... more»
The view from Guava Ground
There were storms below us in the John Crow Mountains, where the Black River meets the Rio Grande. The plane was bucking in the high wind; beads of rain fanned across the cabin windows. We... more»
Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902-1987)
Joyless work in a decaying world.
No picture fits; no pattern holds.
You struggle on like others, feeling heat and cold ... more»
Miracles of the people
Candomblé, a religion of African origin widespread in Brazil, has for many years been the main focus of anthropological research into the African-derived religions of the new world. The analyses of the rituals and cosmology of the religion ... more»
Rosemary Dinnage 1928-2015
Rosemary Dinnage, who has died aged 87, was a writer of exemplary lucidity and independence of mind. Her essays and books ranged over literature—especially the work of modern women writers—studies of death and dreaming, and... more»
John Ryle is Professor of Anthropology at Bard College, NY, and co-founder of the Rift Valley Institute. He is a contributor to the London Review of Books, the New York Review of Books and Granta. He was formerly a columnist on the Guardian and an editor at the TLS.
www.johnryle.com is a live repository of journalism, critical writing and academic papers from 1985 to the present. It includes reportage from Africa, Asia and the Americas, anthropological and human rights research in the Sudans and Brazil, translations of Brazilian songs, a blog—Field Notes—and the archive of a newspaper column, City of Words.... more»