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Intimate Colonialism
Head, Heart, and Body in West African Development Work
Laurie L. Charlés
256 pp. / 6.00 x 9.00 / Mar, 2007
Paperback (978-1-59874-105-6)
Hardback (978-1-59874-104-9)
eBook (978-1-61132-537-9)
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  - Writing Lives: Ethnographic Narratives

Related Interest
  - African & African Diaspora Studies
  - Anthropology
  - Communication & Media Studies
  - Cultural Studies & the Arts
  - Ethnic Studies
  - Gender Studies
  - Qualitative Research & Methods

Laurie Charlés finished her Ph.D., then took off to West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer. Asked to create programs to help adolescent girls stay in school, she found herself enmeshed in the politics
"Armed with a freshly minted Ph.D. and boundless enthusiasm, Charles left the academe for a year-long stint with the Peace Corps in Africa. Charged with developing a program to help girls and young women stay in school, she immediately encountered the many reasons why they did not. Although she was certainly prepared academically for the differences between her Texan roots and conditions in Togo, she was not prepared for the complexity of the experience and often could not see from whence opposition came until it literally fell on her. This deeply personal narrative deals with the attitudes, traditions and practices of both cultures, their inevitable conflict, the ubiquitous nature of gender discrimination, and the ways in which individual human beings respond to being alien but not necessarily different or superior."

- Book News Inc.

" Frank and unflinching…. The experiences [Charlés] details are strikingly recognizable to me, and I suspect will be to other returned Volunteers, especially women, regardless of their host country or era of service…. In Intimate Colonialism, the reader who wants more meaningful and authentic reflection on our powerful overseas years may find welcome daylight. "

- Peace Corps Writers

" Intimate Colonialism is a wonderful book, full of delights and surprises. Charlès has not only provided a superb account of her experience in Togo, she’s also given us a detailed and insightful development ethnography, centered on the only things that really matter—the people involved. She introduces us to the sounds, the smells, and most of all, the emotions that surround work in another culture. "

- Riall W. Nolan, Professor of Anthropology and Associate Provost and Dean of International Programs, Purdue University

" With infinite grace and graphic honesty, Laurie Charles evokes her complex life in a small village in Africa. Her deep engagement as a qualitative researcher affords her and her reader a rare view of life beyond the official role. The surprise lies in her uncanny willingness to allow us to witness her most private moments, whether joyous or painful. In doing so, she brings to life a world beyond the popular stereotype of a Peace Corps volunteer. Ironically, her desire to address the sexual oppression of young girls in Togo ignites a parallel exploration of her own sexuality as a Latina woman in a world she enters deeply and fully. As she writes, ‘Living in Africa disoriented me into wakefulness.’ Her story will do the same for her readers. "

- Shelley Green, Associate Professor, Department of Family Therapy, Nova Southeastern University

and cultural barriers that prevent these girls from creating a better life. But that was not all that was enmeshed. Charlés found love, sexual fulfillment, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination, all of which further complexified her stated mission. Her candid assessment of life and work in Africa, the intimate relationships that gave hope to the possibility of change, the emotional and physical highs and lows that affected her ability to function, all become factors affecting her success in improving the lives of African girls. This eloquent narrative should be of interest both to those doing development work and to those interested in autoethnographic exploration of the self.

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