In: Slovenský národopis / Slovak Ethnology, vol. 70, no. 3
Rok, strany: 2022, 392 - 410
sorcery, rumor, gossip, ontology, Africa, Tuareg
Typ článku: Article
Typ dokumentu: PDF
This article explores issues of knowledge production, its limits, and uncertainty and suspicion in ethnographic field research through the lens of what anthropologists conventionally call “sorcery” beliefs and practices involving a love target, its treatment, and its aftermath of “shapeshifting”, occurring in the social context of gossip, rumor, and suspicion among the Tuareg, sometimes called Kel Tamajaq after their language, in Niger, West Africa. Sorcery, I show, provides a useful lens for exploring how gossip and rumor can reveal social critiques and ways in which a crisis is handled. In these processes, matters of “truth” and “ignorance” are complex, thereby allowing scope for broader discussion of ontology. The focus is on an unexpected, serendipitous field encounter with sorcery similar, though not identical to the re-directing of power of Islamic objects, words, and writing in some other African Muslim communities, with emotions awakened and then cast away in a puzzling outcome. The setting of the sorcery incident and rumors surrounding it is a town in northern Niger, in a household compound where this anthropologist stumbled by chance during longterm field research, and was also drawn into treatment for this alleged sorcery. Many Tuareg, who are Muslim, semi-nomadic, and traditionally ranked, have experienced crises and social upheavals: these include droughts, locust-invasions, colonial and post-colonial political violence, religious debates, coerced settling of nomads in oases and towns, labor migration, refugee flight, and health-care inequities. I ask, in the context of sorcery, how do Tuareg make sense of these crises in their society through gossip and rumor? The analysis explores how far and in what ways sorcery and responses to it, like conspiracy theories, allow the creation of multiple narratives about political tensions. More broadly, how does the ethnographer make sense of ontological uncertainty? This analysis is inspired by, but also hopefully builds on approaches to ontological ambiguity and uncertainty and approaches to the role of gossip and rumor in reviewing “reality” from different sense modalities and philosophical assumptions. The challenge here is to interpret events and avoid, or at least minimize imposing the observer’s own concepts of “truth” onto endogenous knowledge and its local expressions.
Rasmussen, S. 2022. The Knowable and the Unknowable in Ethnographic Encounters: A Case of Sorcery, Rumor, and Gossip among Tuareg in Northern Niger. In Slovenský národopis / Slovak Ethnology, vol. 70, no.3, pp. 392-410. 1339-9357. DOI: https://doi.org/10.31577/SN.2022.3.31
Rasmussen, S. (2022). The Knowable and the Unknowable in Ethnographic Encounters: A Case of Sorcery, Rumor, and Gossip among Tuareg in Northern Niger. Slovenský národopis / Slovak Ethnology, 70(3), 392-410. 1339-9357. DOI: https://doi.org/10.31577/SN.2022.3.31
Vydavateľ: Ústav etnológie a sociálnej antropológie SAV, v. v. i.
Publikované: 30. 9. 2022