Spirit Mediumship and Social Identity

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:
Spirit Mediumship and Social Identity

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Since tromba is a vital aspect of Sakalava culture, participation in tromba possession confirms tera-tany status. Strictly speaking, tera-tany and Sakalava are synonymous, yet the recent participation of migrants in tromba possession necessitates a looser definition. This chapter shows that participation in tromba may alter a woman's life in profound ways. First, as a medium, she may experience shifts in her identity, a process that is facilitated by a special form of fictive kinship which has especially profound ramifications for non-Sakalava. In turn, a shift in her social relations occurs, affecting those who know her in the privacy of her home, as well as the public sphere, where she strengthens her personal networks with other mediums and, if she works as a healer, with clients. In essence, tromba enables a medium to redefine a woman's social status and provide her with access to local power structures.

Keywords: spirit mediumship; tromba; Sakalava; tera-tany; fictive kinship; social relations; power structures

Chapter.  12320 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Anthropology

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