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Religion and Custom in a Muslim Society
The Berti of Sudan

Part of Cambridge Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology

  • Date Published: April 2006
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521024969

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  • Among the Berti of Northern Darfur (Sudan), as among many Muslim societies, the formal religious practices are predominantly the concern of men, while local, unorthodox customary rituals are performed mainly by women. It is usual to dismiss such local, popular practices as pre-Islamic survivals, but Professor Holy shows that the customary rituals constitute an integral part of the religious system of the Berti. Carefully analysing the symbolic statements made in Berti rituals, Professor Holy demonstrates that the distinction between the two classes of rituals is an expression of the gender relationships characteristic of the society. He also examines the social distribution of knowledge about Islam, and explains the role of the religious schools in sustaining religious ideas. The work is not only an ethnographic study of ritual, belief and gender in an African society. It also makes a significant contribution to current anthropological discussion of the interpretation and meaning of rituals and symbols.

    • First-rate study of Islam and customary rituals in an African society
    • Important contribution to our understanding of Islam, distinguishing between scriptural and popular Islam extending the notion of 'great' and 'little' tradition first applied to Hinduism in 1950s
    • Includes a novel treatment of gender issues
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '… an intriguing monograph about Berti religious and ritual life that opens up dilemmas in the presuppositions inherent in the representations of Muslim societies.' African Affairs

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2006
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521024969
    • length: 256 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.386kg
    • contains: 12 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Preface and acknowledgements
    Introduction
    1. The Berti and Islam
    2. Men and women
    3. Milk and water
    4. Village and wilderness
    5. Custom and religion
    6. Life cycle
    7. Circumcision
    8. Blood and rain
    9. Custom and superstition
    Glossary
    References
    Index.

  • Author

    Ladislav Holy, University of St Andrews, Scotland

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