Viscerality, Faith, and Skepticism

in Walter Benjamin's Grave

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print August 2006 | ISBN: 9780226790039
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226790008 | DOI:
Viscerality, Faith, and Skepticism

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  • Social and Cultural Anthropology


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This chapter draws attention to the spectacular display of magical feats and tricks, and wonders about their relationship to the serious business of killing and healing people. This combination of trickery, spectacle, and death leads to some confusion, even anxiety, about the notion of the trick and its relation to both theater and science. By the last quarter of the twentieth century, so-called shamans came to be thought of by anthropologists and by laymen as existing everywhere throughout the world and throughout history as a universal type of magical and religious being, and the trickery tended to be downplayed as the mystical took center stage. Witchcraft was ubiquitous in Zande life when Evans-Pritchard carried out fieldwork in the watersheds of the Nile and Congo rivers in the early 1930s. Evans-Pritchard reckoned two ways by which faith manages to live with and overcome skepticism concerning witch-doctors: one is by way of probabilities and the other is the use of substances.

Keywords: religion; shamans; Evans-Pritchard; witchcraft; faith

Chapter.  15806 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural Anthropology

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