Prayer Has Spoiled Everything: Possession, Power, and Identity in an Islamic Town of Niger / Edition 1

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Overview

Bori, in the Mawri society of Niger, are mischievous and invisible beings that populate the bush. Bori is also the practice of taming these wild forces in the context of possession ceremonies. In Prayer Has Spoiled Everything Adeline Masquelier offers an account of how this phenomenon intervenes—sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically—in human lives, providing a constantly renewed source of meaning for Mawri peasants confronted with cultural contradictions and socio-economic marginalization.
To explore the role of bori possession in local definitions of history, power, and identity, Masquelier spent a total of two years in Niger, focusing on the diverse ways in which spirit mediums share, transform, and contest a rapidly changing reality, threatened by Muslim hegemony and financial hardship. She explains how the spread of Islam has provoked irreversible change in the area and how prayer—a conspicuous element of daily life that has become virtually synonymous with Islamic practice in this region of west Africa—has thus become equated with the loss of tradition. By focusing on some of the creative and complex ways that bori at once competes with and borrows from Islam, Masquelier reveals how possession nonetheless remains deeply embedded in Mawri culture, representing more than simple resistance to Islam, patriarchy, or the state. Despite a widening gap between former ways of life and the contradictions of the present, it maintains its place as a feature of daily life in which villagers participate with varying degrees of enthusiasm and approval.
Specialists in African studies, in the anthropology of religion, and in the historical transformations of colonial and postcolonial societies will welcome this study.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Masquelier locates cultural production at precise moments of colonial and postcolonial relations. The result is both an intimate, densely textured portrait of bori spirits and an exciting demonstration of how people attempt to formulate and appropriate the forces that have undermined their community.”— Michael Lambek, author of Knowledge and Practice in Mayotte: Local Discourses of Islam, Sorcery, and Spirit Possession

“With its rich primary data about bori, its creativity and freshness, Prayer Has Spoiled Everything will be of enormous interest to Africanists and to religion scholars of many types.”—Karen McCarthy Brown, author of Mama Lola: A Voodou Priestess in Brooklyn

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822326397
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 3/28/2001
  • Series: Body, Commodity, Text Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Adeline Maquelier is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Tulane University.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
List of Terms
Introduction 1
1 Bori, Power, and Identity in Dogondoutchi 7
2 Lost Rituals: Changing Topographies of Spirit/Human Interactions 49
3 Socializing the Spirits 77
4 The Everyday Life of Bori: Knowledge, Embodiment, and Quotidian Practice 120
5 Kinesthetic Appropriation and Embodied Knowledge: Baboule Spirits and the Making of Value 159
6 Taking Hold of the Kasuwa: The Ritual Economy of Bori in the Market 192
7 The Mirrors of Maria: Sweetness, Sexuality, and Dangerous Consumption 227
8 Lightning, Death, and the Politics of Truth: The Spirits of Rain 262
Conclusion: Continuities and Discontinuities in Bori 291
Notes 301
Bibliography 321
Index 341
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