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Ngoma, in Bantu, means drum, song, performance, and healing cult or association. A widespread form of ritual healing in Central and Southern Africa, ngoma is fully investigated here for the first time and interpreted in a contemporary context. John Janzen's daring study incorporates drumming and spirit possession into a broader, institutional profile that emphasizes the varieties of knowledge and social forms and also the common elements of "doing ngoma."

Drawing on his recent field research in Kinshasa, Dar-es-Salaam, Mbabane, and Capetown, Janzen reveals how ngoma transcends national and social boundaries. Spoken and sung discourses about affliction, extended counseling, reorientation of the self or household, and the creation of networks that link the afflicted, their kin, and their healers are all central to ngoma—and familiar to Western self-help institutions as well. Students of African healing and also those interested in the comparative and historical study of medicine, religion, and music will find Ngoma a valuable and thought-provoking book.

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Meet the Author

John M. Janzen is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Kansas. His previous books include Lemba 1650-1930 (1982), and Quest for Therapy in Lower Zaire (California, 1978), which won the Wellcome Prize and Medal of the Royal Anthropological

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Settings and Samples in African Cults of Affliction 10
The "Grands Rites" of Kinshasa 11
Ngoma on the Swahili Coast 20
Sangoma: Divining the Stresses of Rapid Industrialization in North Nguni Society 35
The Amagqira: Surviving the Townships of South Africa 50
2 Identifying Ngoma: Historical and Comparative Perspectives 57
The Bantu Conundrum 58
The Lexicon of a Classical Sub-Saharan Therapeutics 63
Instruments of Ritual Healing as a Nonverbal Cognate Set 69
Social and Political Variables of a Complex Institution 74
Scholarly Blinders and the Ontology of a Unique Institution 80
3 Core Features in Ngoma Therapy 85
Sickness and Therapeutic Initiation as a Phased Rite of Passage 87
The Diagnosis of Misfortune 90
Nosology and Spirit Fields 94
The Course through the White 101
Sacrifice and Exchange 104
The Sufferer Becomes the Healer 105
4 Doing Ngoma: The Texture of Personal Transformation 108
Text and Texture in African Healing 109
"Doing Ngoma": The Core Ritual Unit 110
Common Songs and Personal Song in Ngoma Narrative Tradition 118
The Structure of Ngoma Therapeutic Communication 122
Of Music and Ritual in Ngoma 126
5 How Ngoma Works: Of Codes and Consciousness 130
Personal Experience and Cultural Reality 131
Spirit Logic and Therapeutic Discourse 133
From Spirit to Song-Dance: Articulating Metaphors of Difficult Experience 145
Ngoma and Specialized Knowledge 149
6 Now Ngoma Works: The Social Reproduction of Health 153
Health and Health Indicators 154
The Social Reproduction of Health 156
Profiles of Ngoma Social Reproduction 159
Conclusion 173
Appendix A: Partial Listing of Guthrie's Inventory of Bantu Languages 181
Appendix B: Distributions of Terms in Bantu Languages Pertaining to Therapeutic Concepts and Actions 189
Appendix C: Instrumentation Accompanying Healing Rituals in Central and Southern Africa 209
Notes 215
Bibliography 219
Index 235
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