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Look Inside Human Spirits: A Cultural Account of Trance in Mayotte

Human Spirits: A Cultural Account of Trance in Mayotte


Part of Cambridge Studies in Cultural Systems

  • Date Published: January 1982
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521282550

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About the Authors
  • Based on intensive ethnographic fieldwork, this book describes and interprets trance behaviour among the Malagasy speakers of Mayotte, a small island in the Comoro Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of East Africa. Professor Lambek describes how the people of Mayotte (most often women) enter into trances, during which they believe their bodies are inhabited by spirits. He then analyses the conventions for behaviour in trance and the process by which the individuals come to terms with the spirits in their midst. The book presents thorough case studies of spirit possession over time, providing one of the most detailed accounts of possession phenomena available for a single society. The author argues that trance can best be understood as a social activity within a defined system of cultural meaning rather than as a psychological problem, a simple deception or a means of manipulating others. This book should be of particular interest to those concerned with the study of ritual, symbols and non-Western religious systems.

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 1982
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521282550
    • length: 240 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.36kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of tables and figures
    Preface: cultural zero
    Stylistic conventions
    Part I. Spirits and Hosts in Mayotte:
    1. An overview of Mayotte society
    2. Who the spirits are not: possession and Islam
    3. The nature of spirits: first approximations
    4. The incidence of trance
    5. Possession as a system of communication
    Part II. The Syntagmatic Dimension:
    6. Negotiation and energence: the case of Habiba
    7. Medicine and transformation: the case of Habiba continued
    8. The hidden name: the case of Rukia
    9. Of affines and annunciations
    Part III. The Paradigmatic Dimension:
    10. The trumba spirits
    11. The world of possession
    12. The spirits as children
    Appendix: Additional classes of possession spirits in Mayotte

  • Author

    Michael Lambek

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