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Ontography and Alterity

Defining Anthropological Truth

Martin Holbraad

This article holds that deeply entrenched assumptions about the nature, provenance, and value of truth can be brought into view and examined critically when set against the backdrop of a radically different set of concepts and practices that are associated with truth seeking in contemporary Afro-Cuban divination. Drawing briefly on an ethnographic analysis of the ways in which Cuban cult practitioners use oracles, the article seeks to formulate a radically alternative concept of truth. This viewpoint eschews common premises about the role of 'representation' in the pursuit of truth in favor of a notion of truth as 'conceptual redefinition'. If the ethnography of divination in Cuba forces the analyst radically to reformulate the concept of truth, what effect might this new approach have on the project of anthropology itself?

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Believed Belief

Science/Religion versus Sukuma Magic

Koen Stroeken

Typically, magic takes no stance against the socialized beliefs that determine it, in contrast with both science and modern religion, which, in the face of doubt, assert the truth-value of their propositions against such determination. In other words, science and religion engage in 'believed belief'. Their aversion to magical belief is the one thing they can agree on. Believed beliefs produce convictions of truth sufficiently intense to base actions on, such as the killing of someone identified as a witch. Ethnography on Sukuma healing allows us to distinguish this experience of the witch from that of oracles and magical remedies. While research in terms of belief(s) tends to oppose cultures, an approach based on experiential structures links up seemingly distinct practices from different cultures, while differentiating seemingly similar practices within a culture.

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Erik Bähre

to Suriname to do fieldwork among the Ndyuka. He studied the Gaan Gadu (Great Father) oracle and other religious movements and explored how people struggled to gain control over others, but also to control their own lives. He found that changing

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Jeanne Favret-Saada’s Minimal Ontology

Belief and Disbelief of Mystical Forces, Perilous Conditions, and the Opacity of Being

Theodoros Kyriakides

problem of belief’ ( Kirsch 2004 ; see also Good 1994: 1–24 ), or the problem of ‘apparently irrational beliefs’ ( Sperber 1985 ; see also Graeber 2015 ). Largely revolving around debate on E. E. Evans-Pritchard’s (1937) seminal Witchcraft, Oracles

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Joachim Frenk

oracle to inform himself whether the rest of his life should be continued in like tenor of happiness as thitherunto it had been, accompanied by the wellbeing of his wife and children, whereupon he had placed the greatest part of his own felicity. 9

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On Misfitness

Reflections in and out of Fashion

James D. Faubion

: shaman; medium; oracle; seer; prophet; fool; jester; saint; consort of a divinity; holy idiot. ‘We’ may have devoted many of our collective resources – scientific, pseudo-scientific and material – to the marginalization of shamans and holy idiots and

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Michael B. Loughlin

the French bourgeoisie who find in him their oracle and interpreter. Each morning the man of the ‘flag in the dung pile’ responded to the ideas of those he [had once] wanted to disembowel.” 35 Not everyone was positively impressed with Hervé’s wartime

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The Death Throes of Sacrificed Chicken

Triggering Critical Reflexive Stances on Ritual Action in Togo

Marie Daugey

authors have underlined that the auto-referential property of divination—that is, the idea that a failure of the oracle calls for resorting to the oracle once again to elucidate the reason for this failure—reinforces ritual effectiveness through corrective

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Ritual Infrastructure

Roads to Certainty in Two Brazilian Religions

Inger Sjørslev

). 3 A similar notion is found in the Cuban Ifá practitioners’ claims that their oracles speak an indubitable truth. The interpretation of this in what is called an ontographic perspective, and the idea that divinatory truth-claims are beyond doubt

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A Theory of ‘Animal Borders’

Thoughts and Practices toward Non-human Animals among the G|ui Hunter-Gatherers

Kazuyoshi Sugawara

follow direction (c), I might be accused of fabricating an interpretation of indigenous thought. Let me therefore return to “The smell of leopards.” After the treatment of bloodletting, the witch doctor gave an oracle as follows: If she does not heal