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Dancing with the Devil
Society and Cultural Poetics in Mexican-American South Texas
José E. Limón

New Directions in Anthropological Writing


"Limón's book is a splendid example of the direction that Chicano cultural studies is taking at the present moment. An original contribution of masterful scholarship, Dancing with the Devil is sure to become quickly a standard by which new scholarship in this area will be judged. Beautifully written and engrossing, Limón's study will find a wide audience not only among specialists on Chicano culture but among academic readers of culture generally and, indeed, even beyond the academy."
—Ramon Saldivar, Stanford University

Combining shrewd applications of current cultural theory with compelling autobiography and elegant prose, José E. Limón works at the intersection of anthropology, folklore, popular culture, history, and literary criticism. A native of South Texas, he renders a historical and ethnographic account of its rich Mexican-American folk culture. This folk culture, he shows—whether expressed through male joking rituals, ballroom polka dances, folk healing, or eating and drinking traditions—metaphorically dances with the devil, both resisting and accommodating the dominant culture of Texas.

Critiquing the work of his precursors—John Gregory Bourke, J. Frank Dobie, Jovita Gonzalez, and Americo Paredes—Limón deftly demonstrates that their accounts of Mexican-Americans in South Texas contain race, class, and gender contradictions, revealed most clearly in their accounts of the folkloric figure of the devil. Limón's own field-based ethnography follows, and again the devil appears as a recurrent motif, signaling the ideological contradictions of folk practices in a South Texas on the verge of postmodernity.

"An outstanding, one-of-a-kind ethnography. In pursuing an ambitious interplay of historical analyses, critical poetics, and essayistic storytelling, Limón offers an entirely original model for the new ethnography.” —Ruth Behar, University of Michigan

José E. Limón is professor of English and anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of Mexican Ballads, Chicano Poems: History and Influence in Mexican-American Social Poetry.

To schedule an interview with the author or to request a review copy of the book, contact our publicity manager, phone: (608) 263-0734, email: publicity@uwpress.wisc.edu.


This book is red with white and blue stripes and letters and has an drawing of a man playing an accordion in a fire

October 1994
LC: 93-039968 F
266 pp.   6 x 9
4 halftones, 1 map

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Paper $19.95 x
ISBN 978-0-299-14224-7
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The cloth edition is out of print.

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