Travels with Tooy History, Memory, and the African American Imagination
by Richard Price
University of Chicago Press, 2007
Cloth: 978-0-226-68058-3 | Paper: 978-0-226-68059-0 | Electronic: 978-0-226-68057-6
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226680576.001.0001


Thirty-five years into his research among the descendants of rebel slaves living in the South American rain forest, anthropologist Richard Price encountered Tooy, a priest, philosopher, and healer living in a rough shantytown on the outskirts of Cayenne, French Guiana. Tooy is a time traveler who crosses boundaries between centuries, continents, the worlds of the living and the dead, and the visible and invisible. With an innovative blend of storytelling and scholarship, Travels with Tooy recounts the mutually enlightening and mind-expanding journeys of these two intellectuals.

Included on the itinerary for this hallucinatory expedition: forays into the eighteenth century to talk with slaves newly arrived from Africa; leaps into the midst of battles against colonial armies; close encounters with double agents and femme fatale forest spirits; and trips underwater to speak to the comely sea gods who control the world’s money supply. This enchanting book draws on Price’s long-term ethnographic and archival research, but above all on Tooy’s teachings, songs, stories, and secret languages to explore how Africans in the Americas have created marvelous new worlds of the imagination.


Richard Price is the Duane A. and Virginia S. Dittman Professor of American Studies, Anthropology, and History at the College of William and Mary. He is the author or coauthor of more than twenty books, including the award-winning Alabi’s World.


“Richard Price has had a long and torrential romance with the Saramaka Maroons of Suriname, exploring them and himself through a harvest of mythologies that dissolve all boundaries of time and geographical location. With Tooy as guide and mentor, across three centuries of African exile and resettlement in the Americas, we revisit the recent or forgotten spaces of Price’s near forty years of patient, scholarly research. It is an astonishing performance, rendering these treasures of anthropological materials in a narrative style as lucid and cordial as the best contemporary fiction.”

— George Lamming, author of The Pleasures of Exile

“A tour de force—a tightly argued, incisive contribution to the newly rekindled debate about the role of Africa in the history and social imaginary of African American societies. A major achievement.”
— Stephan Palmie, University of Chicago, author of Wizards and Scientists

“True ethnographic magic. Beautifully written and theoretically sophisticated, it is a model of politically engaged historical ethnography and sustained transcultural dialogue.”
— John Collins, Queens College, CUNY

2008 Victor Turner Prize, Society for Humanistic Anthropology
— Victor Turner Prize

"Anthropologists wait a lifetime for an informant like Tooy who possesses much knowledge and is willing to share it. This work constitutes Price's most complete synthesis of Saramaka worldview to date, and serves as an enduring testament to over 30 years of painstaking, diligent, and innovative research. . . . This is a great book! Persistent readers will be amply rewarded."
— Choice

"It's not the bony skeleton of an anthropology-of-religion text I seek, but the well-muscled and all-enveloping immersion of an ethnography. One of the best is Richard Price's Travels with Tooy. . . . The book glows with knowledge."
— Barbara J. King, Bookslut

Winner of the 2009 Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion

— Geertz Prize

Winner of the 2009 Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Memorial Award for Caribbean Scholarship
— Lewis Award

"Yet again we benefit from Richard Price's patient and passionate commitment to the Maroons in general and the Saramak tribe in particular. Price's anthropological imaginaire and his extraordinary eloquence have woven the field notes and transcripts from differing geographic and temporal contexts into an absorbing travelogue."
— Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism


Prelude 01142007

Martinique 01012000

The Soldier’s Charm 0000800

Sea Gods 00000000

Dúnguláli-Óbia 00000000

The Beach at Cock’s Crow 04092000

Night of the Cats 06212000

End of the Road 06202000

Tooy Possessed 2000/2006

Enstoolment 06302001

Mother Africa 1690/1712

New World Beginnings 1712

The Pink House 05081986/06071997

Gweyúnga, the Rain Priest 1690/1754

Antamá at War 01201753

The Soldier’s Tale 10051939

Thunder Axes 00000000

Master of the House 06222000

Storm Clouds 07082001

Sex, Magic, and Murder 06212001/1754

Friction 05242000/07062004

Sángono mi tóala! 1760/1763

The Namesake 1848/1931

Frenchwoman’s Revenge 1920/2005

Tampáki 1900/2005

Palimpsests 1604/1837/1841/1863/2001

Antamá the Óbia-Man 1771/1800

Chronology 1933/1970

My First-Time Museum 1690/2007

The Trial 02202002

Grounds for Appeal? 02202002/03012002

The Prison 02202002/06022003

The Wetlands at Kaw 07152004

Tembái’s Village 1981/05282005

Fleeing Trumps Standing 04182005/05302005

Politics 04182005/05302005

Tooy Teaching I—Mostly Luángu and Púmbu 04182005/05302005

Tooy Teaching II—Mostly Papá 04182005/05302005

Tooy Teaching III—Komantí, Wénti, and More 04182005/05302005

Dúnuyángi Takes Over 04182005/05302005

Goodbyes 05302005

Knocking the Stone 11142005/12142005

Reflections from the Verandah 01012007

Coda: Esoteric Language

Dramatis Personae




Illustration Credits