The aim of this introduction is to present in general terms the nature of the thinking which has preceded the writing of this book. It is neither a justification nor an apology for the work itself. If it serves any useful purpose to be stated, the gestation of this book began in Paris in 1966, when the author was still a graduate student at the Sorbonne. This was the period of the rise of U~vi-Strauss's structuralism and , consequently too, of the decline of Sartre's existentialism 1 in France. Some social historians of this per iod have even gone as far as attributing the students' riot in Paris in the spring of 1968, which brought the Gaullist regime to eventual capitulation, to the French 'nouvelle critique' which was inspired by the structuralist teachings in ethnology and sociology. To any foreign graduate student it was as much an intellectual excitement to be studying in Paris during this period as it certainly must have been for those, especially from Africa and the Caribbean, who lived and studied in Paris in the years immediately be fore and following the end of the Second World War, though perhaps for different reasons.