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Beyond Expertise: Reflections on Specialist Agency and The Autonomy of the Divinatory Ritual Process

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 May 2011

Abstract

Recent anthropological studies of divination have been marked by renewed and appreciative concern for the epistemological and performative dimensions of divination. Pursuing these recent investigations, and especially their interest in the nature of the knowledge and modes of knowing underlying divinatory ritual, the first part of the article attempts an understanding of the interpretative operations and modalities of knowledge involved in different forms of divination practised in Senegal and Gambia today. At the same time, and somewhat antithetically, it will be argued that the focus on the question of the cognitive nature of divinatory knowledge and the person of the diviner may also be problematic: it may lead to undervaluing the main quality of divination, which lies perhaps not in its cognitive but its consultational properties. Further decentring its initial cognitive outlook, the second part of the article addresses the question of how to understand the fact that within the divinatory discourse itself it is not the diviner but the divinatory apparatus that is being addressed as the source of enunciation. Where, if not in the person of the diviner, is the source of the knowledge underlying and resulting from divinatory procedure to be located? And in how far is it possible, as the title of this article suggests, to conceive of the divinatory process as being autonomous of the expertise and specialist agency of the individual diviner?

Les études anthropologiques récentes sur la divination ont été marquées par un regain d'intérêt appréciatif pour les dimensions épistémologiques et performatives de la divination. En suivant ces études récentes et notamment l'intérêt qu'elles portent à la nature de la connaissance et aux modes de savoir qui sous-tendent le rituel divinatoire, la première partie de cet article tente de comprendre les opérations interprétatives et les modalités de la connaissance qui interviennent dans différentes formes de divination pratiquées au Sénégal et en Gambie aujourd'hui. Dans le même temps, et de manière quelque peu antithétique, il affirme que le fait de se concentrer sur la question de la nature cognitive de la connaissance divinatoire et sur la personne du divinateur peut aussi être problématique : il peut se traduire par une sous-évaluation de la qualité principale de la divination, qui réside peut-être non pas dans ses propriétés cognitives, mais consultationnelles. Décentrant sa perspective cognitive initiale, la seconde partie de l'article aborde la question du comment comprendre le fait qu'au sein du discours divinatoire lui-même, ce n'est pas le divinateur mais l'appareil divinatoire qui est traité comme la source d’énonciation. Où faut-il situer, sinon dans la personne du divinateur, la source de la connaissance qui sous-tend la procédure divinatoire et qui en résulte ? Et dans quelle mesure est-il possible, comme le suggère le titre de l'article, de concevoir le processus divinatoire comme autonome de l'expertise et de l'intervention spécialisée du divinateur individuel?

Type
Research-Articles
Copyright
Copyright © International African Institute 2009

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