Colin during WWII

 Press Release

In the Arms of Africa

From In the Arms of Africa:

On a fourth pole, Colin hung a black and white photograph of Harvard philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah as a child of seven or eight whose image was, for Colin, a symbol of racial harmony in the marriage of black and white; for Appiah's mother, Peggy, was the white elite daughter of Sir Stafford Cripps, his father, a black elite Ghanian politician.

Post, from the grave of Colin Turnbull and Joseph Towles.

PHOTO:Courtesy of Avery Research Center.

Grave Post
Colin Turnbull was one of the most well known anthropologists of the twentieth century; he was also one of the most unconventional. His life-long love affair with the African Pygmies made him one of the most famous intellectuals of the 1960s and 70s. He holds a place among the greats, along with Margaret Mead and Louis Leakey. Virtually everything we know about the Pygmies today began with Turnbull's work in the field. His bestselling books, The Forest People and The Mountain People, remain required reading in many high schools and colleges.

Roy Richard Grinker holds Colin Turnbull's former position as Associate Professor of Anthropology at George Washington University. He is the author of IN THE ARMS OF AFRICA: The Life of Colin M. Turnbull (St. Martin's Press, August 17, 2000), a compelling portrait of the mysterious life of Colin Turnbull. As Turnbull's biographer, Grinker has a unique perspective, having himself spent two years living and studying among the Pygmies of the Ituri rain forest.

When Richard Grinker left for central Africa in 1985 to begin his study of the Pygmies, he intended to disprove the somewhat romantic and idealistic findings of Colin Turnbull. Eventually, Grinker stopped looking at Turnbull as a scholar that he needed to debunk, and became aware of the complicated relationship between Turnbull's work and life.

Grinker reveals Turnbull's complexities, composing an intimate portrait of a man who, in addition to being an anthropologist, also worked at various times as a gold miner, builder of the African Queen, and consultant to famed theatre director, Peter Brook, for a play based on The Mountain People. Turnbull lived through some of the most important events of the 20th century; a man who fought in World War II and later died of AIDS.

Turnbull fell in love with a beautiful, poor African American named Joe Towles, who became as much Turnbull's heroic creation as did the Pygmies. For 30 years, they lived as an openly gay, interracial couple in New York and rural, conservative Virginia until Joe's death of AIDS in 1988. Devastated, Turnbull buried his own spirit in a second coffin laid next to Towles, gave away most of his money, and until his own death from AIDS in 1994, lived as a Buddhist monk under the name Lobsong Rigdol, tutored by the Dalai Lama's eldest brother.

Turnbull never shared science's devotion to objectivity and never thought of himself as a conventional scholar. Throughout his lifetime, Turnbull was motivated instead by a deep-seated wish to find goodness, beauty and power in the oppressed or ridiculed and, by making those qualities known, reveal the evils of western civilization. Grinker provides unflinchingly honest insight into Colin Turnbull's controversial beliefs and biases.

Much about Colin Turnbull remains a mystery, in spite of his celebrity. Richard Grinker separates the myth from the man--his public and private lives--in this groundbreaking biography, IN THE ARMS OF AFRICA: The Life of Colin M. Turnbull.

Next Page: Inhabitants of the Ituri Rain Forest INHABITANTS


©2000 Roy Richard Grinker