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On Blood and Words: How Certain Objects Become Subjects Among the Mande (West Africa)

Agnès Kedzierska Manzon explores how Mande ritual specialists in West Africa, who own and manipulate power-objects called basiw, turn these objects into “gods forever in the process of construction” thanks to blood sacrifices and speech. While doing so, they construct at once these object’s agency and their own identities as accomplished, powerful and respected individuals.

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The Magic of Mimesis: A Historically Informed Anthropology of Sympathetic Magic and Contact

 

Raquel Romberg provides an in depth review of magic and mimesis from an anthropological perspective. Drawing on her own exhaustive research into Afro-Latin rituals and Taussig’s “first and second contact”, Romberg turns her post into a reflexive project: a fourth contact that acts as an embodied retelling with its own ethnographic and spiritual ‘power’.

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Magic and the Kula

Few studies of material culture have been as thorough, have had as much influence, or have been discussed in as many anthropology classrooms as Bronislaw Malinowski’s classic treatment, Argonauts of the Western Pacific. In the book, Malinowski chronicles a complicated network of gift exchange known as the “kula ring” among inhabitants of numerous Trobriand Islands. By detailing the people involved, the journeys, the items of exchange, ritual practices, et cetera, Malinowski helped to establish the significance of reciprocity in human culture and experience.

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Ayodhya’s sacred landscape: ritual memory, politics and archaeological “fact”

Julia Shaw provides an alternative archaeological perspective on the polarizing issues surrounding the contested site of Ayodhya, India and its significance in Hindu religious imagination as the birthplace of the deity Rama. Written in 2000, this article is a succinct reminder of what a materialized study of religion has to offer to the analysis of disputed sites. In 1992, the ‘Babri Masjid’ (Babri mosque) in Ayodhya was destroyed by Hindu sectarians who claimed the site as the birthplace of the Hindu deity Rama. In 2010, the Allahabad High Court ruled that the disputed site be divided between three parties (Sunni Muslim Waqf board, the Hindu Maha Sabha representing the deity Ram Lalla, and the Hindu Nirmohi Akhara). The verdict was suspended, following appeals, by the Indian Supreme Court in 2011. The debate continues.

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