Introduction: Possession, Identity, and Power

Lesley A. Sharp

in The Possessed and the Dispossessed

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 1994 | ISBN: 9780520080010
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520918450 | DOI:
Introduction: Possession, Identity, and Power

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This chapter discusses the themes of women, migration, and power in relation to spirit possession and identity in northwest Madagascar. The setting is Ambanja, a booming migrant town in the heart of a prosperous plantation region called the Sambirano Valley, where identity is shaped by polyculturalism and manipulated through religious experience. Healing rituals, involving possession by ancestral tromba spirits, provide an important arena in which to articulate the problems of urban life. In this latter respect, the chapter explores the subjects in medical anthropology. A key assumption that runs throughout the chapter from Madagascar is that, first, inequality and power are often significant factors for understanding health and well-being. This is true not only within highly complex and stratified Western societies, but also in smaller communities in the Third World, where colonial policies and relations have either introduced new forms of inequality and stratification or exacerbated older ones.

Keywords: women; migration; power; spirit; possession; identity; Madagascar; polyculturalism; tromba; medical anthropology

Chapter.  9242 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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