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SOAN101 Personhood & Sorcery F14

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Julie Jenkins

on 6 November 2014

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Transcript of SOAN101 Personhood & Sorcery F14

Personhood & Sorcery
What is a person? How does society define what a person is? How do we experience those definitions?
Within Euro/American culture, since Enlightenment (17th century):
--"person from birth"
coerced into society through social control:
--norms, laws, structures
our style of thinking has influenced how we understand other cultures
-we are unique individuals
-they are homogeneous, passively reproducing culture
What characteristics of personhood can describe Beng infants??
What kind of constructions of personhood does Knaft find among the Gebusi?
"Witchcraft (and Sorcery) resonates strongly in the Western imagination" (Moore 1999)
Church reformers (16-17th C) identified certain people as 'witches' -- meaning they were adversaries of the Church
--pact with the Devil
inversion of what was holy and civilized
--fly at night to nocturnal, orgy filled meetings
--sacrifices of infants
but this is a historical construction
--charged words and powerful when labeling certain actions or practices
What do anthropologists means when we use the terms?
--localized ideas about good/evil, theory of causation
--means to make sense of the world and act within it (divination, healing)
--universal distinction between witchcraft & sorcery
witchcraft - an inherent quality of a person, with a psychic action
sorcery- a ritual activity of manipulating objects for an end
--problem of translation:
sometimes these categories aren't as clear cut in local context
--all definitions are going to be historically & culturally specific
--perhaps most useful to use the localized term, rather than translate
What are some ways in which we can understand 'witchcraft' & sorcery?
E.P. Pritchard & the Azande
--mangu is a substance found in the body (inherited)
--distinct from ngua (learnt)
activated by greed or envy
--although often an unconscious act
If you are experiencing a misfortune, how do you know if you are a victim of mangu or the ritual actions that need to be taken?
--accusations appear within the context of tension in social relations
--accused can take ritual actions to stop mangu from becoming active
--reinforce moral standards
What ideas about sorcery do the Gebusi have? Is it an explanation for misfortunes? Does it involve previous social tensions and conflicts?
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