Weaving the Threads of Life: The Khita Gyn-Eco-Logical Healing Cult among the Yaka / Edition 2

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For the Yaka of Southwestern Zaire, infertility is a tear in the fabric of life, and the Khita fertility ritual is a trusted way of reweaving the damaged strands. In Weaving the Threads of Life Rene Devisch offers an extended analysis of the Khita cult, which leads to an original account of the workings of ritual healing.

Drawing on many years among urban and rural Yaka, Devisch analyzes their understanding of existence as a fabric of firmly but delicately interwoven threads of nature, body, and society. The fertility healing ritual calls forth forces, feelings, and meanings that allow women to rejoin themselves to the complex pattern of social and cosmic life. These elaborate rites—whether simulating mortal agony and rebirth, gestation and delivery, or flowering and decay; using music and dance, steambath or massage, dream messages or scarification—are not based on symbols of traditional beliefs. Rather, Devisch shows, the rites themselves generate forces and meaning, creating and shaping the cosmic, physical, and social world of their participants.

In contrast to current theoretical methods such as postmodern or symbolical interpretation, Devisch's praxiological approach is unique in also using phenomenological insights into the intent and results of anthropological fieldwork. This innovative work will have ramifications beyond African studies, reaching into the anthropology of medicine and the body, comparative religious history, and women's studies.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226143620
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/1993
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Table of Contents

Prologue 1
1 Field and Method 11
1.1 The Yaka People 11
1.2 Fieldwork 20
1.3 Bantu Cults of Affliction 23
1.4 Healers in the Town 25
1.5 Healing as a Social and Theatrical Drama: A Critique 33
1.6 Body and Weave: A Semantic-Praxilogical Approach 37
2 The Cosmology of Gender Arrangements and Life Transmission 53
2.1 Horizontal and Vertical Spice 54
2.2 Cosmological Portrayal of Gender 60
2.3 Animals and Plants 74
2.4 Capturing and 'Cooking' Untamed Forces 86
3 The Social Formation of Life Transmission 92
3.1 Life-hearing and Nurturing in the Homestead 93
3.2 Marriage as a Transfer "Along the Path to the Village" 101
3.3 The Reproductive Cell 106
3.4 The Two-forked Tree of Agnatic Descent and Uterine Filiation 115
3.5 Hunting versus Sorcery, and the Fabric of Kin 122
4 Body, Group, and Life-world: Between Maze and Weave 132
4.1 Physical and Sensory Modes of Contact 134
4.2 The Relational Body 139
4.3 The Body and Its Afflictions 146
4.4 Cults of Affliction and Communal Sodalities 147
5 Impediments to Life Transmission 161
5.1 Masculinist Views on Human Agencies in Infertility 164
5.2 Divinatory Etiology and the Work of Cults 169
5.3 Etiology as an indication of Therapy 173
6 The Khita Fertility Cult: Reversing the Evil 179
6.1 Khita and Similar Cults 180
6.2 The First Stage: Reversing the Persecution into Uterine Bonds of Life Transmission 183
6.3 The Second Stage: The Decay and Cooking of Generative Forces 196
7 The Khita Fertility Cult: Reorigination of the Fabric of Body, Kin, and Life-world 213
7.1 The Third Stage: Seclusion in the Uterus of the World 214
7.2 The Fourth Stage: Emancipating Forest Forces into Social Fecundity 224
7.3 Relapse of Illness 244
7.4 Fertility Rituals and Analyses Compared: A Look at Victor Turner 245
8 The Body as the Weaving Loom of Healing and Life 255
8.1 The Role of Music and Dance in Healing 259
8.2 The Source of Healing 264
8.3 Paradox, Transgression, and Homeopathic Healing 267
8.4 A Ternary Logic of Mediation and Effusion in Self-healing 276
Epilogue 282
Appendix A: A Case of Infertility 285
Appendix B: Herbarium 293
Maps 296
Notes 299
References 315
Index 325
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