Top > African Study Monographs > ASM Supplementary Issue Back Number > No.27 (2001)
Symbolic Categories and Ritual Practice in Hunter-Gatherer Experiences

Edited by Thomas WIDLOK and Kazuyoshi SUGAWARA

pp. 1-2


Kazuyoshi SUGAWARA

PDF file of body text (27 KB)

Part I: Symbolic Categories
pp. 3-9

Introduction to Part I

Kazuyoshi SUGAWARA
Faculty of Integrated Human Studies, Kyoto University

PDF file of body text (95 KB)

pp. 11-27

Categorizing the Ju|'hoan Musical Heritage

Emmanuelle OLIVIER
LMS - CNRS (Paris)

   The article presents an illustration of a reflexion on musical categorization, as applied to the Ju|'hoansi settled in North-Eastern Namibia. Their music heritage can be divided into categories based on the identification and the opposition of musical features, which are culturally relevant. The article also deals with the relations between musical categories, social context and verbalization as well as with the question of the invariants and the transformations within the system.

Key Words: Categorization; Cognitive sciences; Ethnomusicology; Ju|'hoansi; Namibia.

PDF file of body text (757 KB)

pp. 29-42

Rethinking Methods and Concepts of Anthropological Studies on African Pygmies' World View: The Creator-God and the Dead

Faculty of Humanities, Kyoto Seika University

   The fact that there is no evidence of a creator-god, whose existence was claimed by Schebesta, in the beliefs of the Mbuti Pygmies, a large group of African pygmies, is confirmed by the observations of the present author and other researchers. The reason why Schebesta made up the creator-god is explored and described; he was under the strong influence of W. Schmidt's theory of primitive monotheism, and he was a Christian priest. Instead, the importance of the ancestors, or the dead, for the pygmies' world view is shown with examples from the Efe, Mbuti, Baka, and Aka Pygmies. Lastly two theoretical issues of religious anthropology are pointed out; because may researchers fail to understand the relationship between names and concepts of "supernatural beings," they are inclined to make up a supreme being or a creator-god to resolve the contradiction; researchers often use terms such as "god" and "spirit" without considering that they are imposing Western dichotomy upon the world view of the people they study.

Key Words: Afican pygmies; Supreme being; Creator-god; Ancestor; Religion; Paul Schebesta.

PDF file of body text (126 KB)

pp. 43-60

The Relationships Among Plants, Animals, and Man in the African Tropical Rain Forest

Faculty of Humanities and Sciences, Kobe Gakuin University

   Interrelationship among man, plants and animals in the Ituri forest is described and analyzed. Plants contribute mainly to establish the material world of forest foragers, and their eternity gives man and animals living in the forest a sense of security and certainty of life. Animals are characterized by an ontological duality. They are like man and differ from it. They interact with man actively, emotionally and ambivalently. Animal meat is highly prized as food but it is often connected with food toboo. Animals bring joys and happiness to man, but also perform as agents of various diseases. Both plants and animals provide many possibilities of uses on which forest people construct their material, social, symbolic and spiritual life. Finally the cosmology of forest foragers concerning the relationship between man and nature is compared with that of Western people and Buddhism.

Key Words: the pygmies; Hunter-gatherers; Ituri Forest; Plant use; Food taboo; Disease; Man and nature.

PDF file of body text (584 KB)

pp. 61-98

Cognitive Space Concerning Habitual Thought and Practice Toward Animals Among the Central San (|Gui and ||Gana):Deictic/Indirect Cognition and Prospective/Retrospective Intention

Kazuyoshi SUGAWARA
Faculty of Integrated Human Studies, Kyoto University

   Three fields in which the Central San (|GUI and ||Gana) think and act with regard to animals are investigated; 1)interpretations on peculiar features of game animals, 2) ethno-ornithology, and 3) food taboo and avoidance. The hunters interpret peculiar behavior or appearance of animals in terms of some influential process that acts beyond mechanical causality. They also retrospectively connect a strange phenomenon with a human death. Birdsongs are sometimes believed to imply a prediction concerning the outcome of hunting. A number of folk-tales explain the origin of salient habits and morphology of specific bird species. Privileged enjoyment of some kinds of meat by elder people is the principal factor that organizes the food taboo. Most women consistently avoid the meat of carnivorous animals, while a wide variation is found in the men's accounts of what carnivores to avoid. The |Gui and ||Gana's knowledge, belief, and practice concerning animals are schematized by the theoretical model of cognitive space, which is divided by two intersecting coordinates; deictic vs. indirect cognition and prospective vs. retrospective intention. The beliefs organizing the meat taboo and avoidance are based on embodied experience, which is different from deictic identification, and no more amenable to indirect cognition.

Key Words:The San (Bushmen); Hunting; Ethno-zoology; Food taboo; Cognition.

PDF file of body text (1.406 KB)

Part II: Ritual Practice
pp. 99-102

Introducution to Part II

Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

PDF file of body text (52 KB)

pp. 103-123

Generation and Transaction Processes in the Spirit Ritual of the Baka Pygmies in Southeast Cameroon

Daisaku TSURU
Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University

   This paper focuses on the diversification process and the social-cultural background of spirit rituals among the Baka of southeastern Cameroon. Among the Baka, spirit rituals differ between the various subgroups. This diversity is a product of two processes: Firstly, existing spirit rituals are transacted with other subgroups. Secondly, new spirit rituals are continually generated in the process of founding rituals. In both processes the role of individual social actors is important. Among the Baka, rituals belong to individual persons called "father of the spirit." They transact and even found new rituals for their own subgroup and this promotes the intra-cultural diversity of spirit rituals as a whole.
   Spirit rituals are based on the concept of spirit guardianship, which is an exclusive relationship between an individual and particular spirit. This individual involvement in rituals introduces innovation and changes to ritual practices and its form. A process of diversification is therefore inevitable. However, a relatively homogenous concept of the identity of spirits is maintained despite a strong tendency for spirit rituals to diversify.
   Individualism is generally stressed by the nomadic social structure of the Baka because the mobility of individuals is high and permanent communal social identities are never established. The fluidity of the social system and that of the religious system have an interdependent relationship which is mediated by the specific individualism of Baka society.

Key Words: Intra-cultural diversity; Transaction and generation of spirit rituals; Guardianship; Individualism; Fluidity.

PDF file of body text (1.760 KB)

pp. 125-163

Water in the Desert: Rituals and Vital Power among the Central Karahari Hunter-gatherers

Faculty of Economics, Nagoya Gakuin University

   The |Gui and ||Gana, Karahari hunter-gatherers, practice certain rites every time one passes critical phases in their life, or when something unfortunate happens. Because the rites are a kind of curing, they use traditional medicine in the rites. The medicines are composed of plants and substances from human bodies. Comparison with the rites performed by the Kgilagadi, neighboring agropastoral people, reveals that, the |Gui/||Gana consider bodily substances to be mor important than medical plants. The |Gui/||Gana think that all bodily substances stem from one identical power and people exchange the power through these rites.

Key Words: |Gui and ||Gana; Rites; Curing; Bodily substances.

PDF file of body text (306 KB)

pp. 165-183

The Illusion of a Future? Medicine Dance Rituals for the Civil Society of Tomorrow

Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

   The medicine dance continues to be the main ritual of the Hai||om and many other groups of southern African "Bushman," or "San." It is, therefore, an appropriate starting point for investigating the possibilities for developing a comparative model of religion of hunter-gatherers. Hunter-gatherers typically provide exceptions to anthropological models. However, carefully designed models, in particular those focusing on ritual form, not only facilitate comparison across space, for example between Africa and Australia as in this contribution, but also an understanding of the dynamics of ritual and religion over time. A re-formulation of Bloch's model of rebounding violence exhibits three aspects of the medicine dance, namely voluntary participation, forceful engagement, and relevance to everyday life. This characterization may hold not only for the case of the Hai||om, but also for other hunter-gatherers elsewhere who no longer live in a world of "hunters among hunters" but increasingly in settings with a plurality of religious activities. Hunter-gatherer religious forms need not be considered to be close to the beginnings of human religious activity but with an emphasis on personal autonomy, rituals like the medicine dance give an insight into the religious practices of a future civil society.

Key Words: Bushmen; San; Medicine dance; Ritual; Civil society.

PDF file of body text (139 KB)