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Framing Divination: A Mande Divination Expert and The Occult Economy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 May 2011

Abstract

This essay describes the skills of a sand divination expert in Mali through consideration of his expert performance. By relating the description of the expert to Goffman's sociology, it is argued that, in addition to his skilled divination techniques, an expert diviner should be capable of establishing and maintaining the frame of his performance. In the case of the expert described in this essay, it is demonstrated that this frame encompasses a unique and dynamic network of social relations, and comprises a complex set of economic and geographical factors. The historical backdrop to the expert's activities is the ‘occult economy’ (the deployment, real or imagined, of magical means for material ends). It is argued that acquiring the skills needed for managing a frame – and a team of people to support the frame – in the conditions described is a major accomplishment. Study of these skills and processes may provide valuable insight into processes of social change at the micro-level.

Cet essai décrit les compétences d'un spécialiste de la divination par le sable au Mali à travers l’étude de l'exercice de sa spécialité. En établissant un rapport entre la description du spécialiste et la sociologie de Goffman, l'article soutient qu'un spécialiste de la divination, outre ses techniques de divination spécialisées, devrait être capable d’établir et d'entretenir son cadre d'exercice. Dans le cas du spécialiste décrit dans cet essai, il est démontré que ce cadre englobe un réseau unique et dynamique de relations sociales, et comprend un ensemble complexe de facteurs économiques et géographiques. Le contexte historique des activités du spécialiste est l’ « économie de l'occulte » (le déploiement, réel ou imaginé, de moyens magiques à des fins matérielles). L'article soutient que les qualités requises pour gérer un cadre (et une équipe de personnes pour soutenir le cadre) dans les conditions décrites constituent un accomplissement majeur. L’étude de ces qualités et processus peut aider à mieux comprendre le changement social au niveau micro.

Type
Research-Articles
Copyright
Copyright © International African Institute 2009

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