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Tricksters and Trancers By Mathias Guenther

Tricksters and Trancers by Mathias Guenther

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An experience-rooted analysis of Bushman society and religion is contrasted with other anthropological approaches to ambiguity which are biased towards a rational structure. In order to convey both the diversity and the dynamism of Bushman religion and society, this study presents information on Bushman groups from all over southern Africa.

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Tricksters and Trancers Summary

Tricksters and Trancers: Bushman Religion and Society by Mathias Guenther

. . . a first-rate piece of scholarship . . . an invaluable summary and commentary on the multilingual literature on [Bushman] people. -Choice

The trickster and trance dancer are the guides through Bushman (or San) religion, a world of ambiguity and contradiction, and of enchantment. The two figures, who in Bushman belief are symbolically equivalent and mystically linked, embody these antistructural traits.

Tricksters and Trancers Reviews

Despite the voluminous material on Botswana's Bushman (the contentious ethnic label knowingly adopted by the author), this is an important contribution for a number of reasons. First, Guenther (Wilfrid Univ., Canada) provides an invaluable summary and commentary on the multilingual literature on these people. Second, and more important, the text takes up the topic of Bushman religion and cosmology, which, like its social organization, is fluid and varied. In discussing this relatively neglected concern, the author pays particular attention to the significance of the trickster, an ambiguous and disorderly creature from the beginning of time in indigenous thought, and the trance state, an important feature of Bushman ritual system. The value of Guenther's long-term fieldwork among a segment of these people is clearly demonstrated in his examination of these topics and in their relationship to gender issues. He concludes with a suggestion for anthropologists to pay greater heed to the relevance of ambiguity in Bushman society and cosmology but does not mention the theoretical work of Simmel in this context. Otherwise, this is a first-rate piece of scholarship. Upper-division undergraduates and above.W. Arens, SUNY at Stony Brook, 2000jul CHOICE.

About Mathias Guenther

Mathias Guenther, Professor of Sociology and anthropology at Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario, is the author of The Farm Bushmen of the Ghanzi District, Botswana; The Nharo Bushmen of Botswana: Tradition and Change; and Bushman Folktales :Oral Traditions of the Nharo of Botswana and the Xam of the Cape.

Table of Contents

Preface i
Chapter 1: Introduction: The Challenge of Bushman Religion 1
The Challenge of Bushman Religion 4
Bushman Religion: A Brief Summary 9
Notes on Methodology and Orthography 10
Chapter 2: Bushman Society 15
Nharo Society, 1790's to 1890's 17
Nharo Society, 1890's to 1990's 25
Bushman Social Organization 29
Chapter 3: Values and Individuals 50
Values 53
The Individual 63
Bushman Society's Struggle of Society against the State 71
Chapter 4: Belief and Cosmology 74
The Diversity and Ambiguity of Bushman Belief 75
Divinity 78
Mantis and Moon Worship? 81
Cosmogony: Primal Time 84
Cosmology: The Human-Animal Nexus 89
Ambiguity of Bushman Religion: Social and Cultural Factors 101
Social-Structural Factors: 102
Cognitive-Cultural Factors: 107
Foraging for Ideas: The Factor of Acculturation 110
Socio-Cultural Change and Bushman Religion 118
Chapter 5: The Trickster 121
The Trickster's Many Faces 124
The Embodiment of Ambiguity 128
The Trickster as God 139
Gauwa Meets Jesus Christ 147
The Abomination of the Trickster God 153
Chapter 6: Stories, Story Telling and Story Gathering: 160
The Case of the Moon and the Hare
Textual Variation of the Myth 162
Story Transmission and the Foraging Ethos 169
Foraging Ideology or Ideology of Foraging? 178
The Text and Its Meaning 181
Chapter 7: Myth and Gender 185
Gender Relations in Bushman Society 187
Gender Relations in Bushman Myth and Lore 190
The Equality of Bushmen and Women 198
The Limitations of Structural Analysis 202
Chapter 8: Initiation Rites 207
Female Initiation 209
Male Initiation 211
Variations 214
Male Initiation or Hunting Magic? 218
Transition and Transformation 219
Transformation, Anti-Structure and Egalitarianism 225
Chapter 9: The Trance Dance 228
Liminality, Transformation and Transcendence 231
The Trance Dance and Cultural Revitalization 242
Flexibility, Adaptability and Variability of Bushman Ritual 248
Chapter 10: Missionaries and the Bushmen 251
The Bushman Mission in the Cape at Colonial Times 254
The Failure of the Cape Mission 261
Contemporary Missions to Bushmen 273
Two Incongruous Belief Systems 282
Chapter 11: Conclusion: Bushman Religion and the Tolerance of Ambiguity 284
Coping with Ambiguity 288
Bushman Society and Religion as Communitas and Anti-Structure 298
Do the Bushmen (and Hunter-Gatherers) Have Societies? 303
The Analytical and Methodological Challenge of Ambiguity 306
References Cited 312
Endnotes 341
Index 352

Additional information

Tricksters and Trancers: Bushman Religion and Society by Mathias Guenther
Indiana University Press
Book picture is for illustrative purposes only, actual binding, cover or edition may vary.
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