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Religions 2018, 9(12), 394; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9120394

Taking Divination Seriously: From Mumbo Jumbo to Worldviews and Ways of Life

Anthropology Department, Skidmore College, 815 North Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, USA
Received: 24 August 2018 / Revised: 24 November 2018 / Accepted: 29 November 2018 / Published: 30 November 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ethnographies of Worldviews/Ways of Life)
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Abstract

The peripheral role of divination in religious studies reflects centuries of misrepresentation and depreciation in the textual record. This long history dates back to the travel literature of early modern times, particularly in West Africa, where two stereotypical themes took form: divination as mumbo jumbo, and the diviners as charlatans who shamelessly deceive their credulous clients. These two stereotypical themes persisted through the anthropological discourse about African divination until the 1970s. To undo this long history of misrepresentation and depreciation, a change of analytical focus from reified differences to similar engagement with broad ideas and big questions is in order. By considering a particular case study—basket divination in northwest Zambia—through the theoretical lens of worldviews and ways of life, it becomes possible to take divination seriously and grant it a more central place in religious studies. Four broad, inclusive ideas or big questions emerge from the ethnography of basket divination in northwest Zambia: ontology, epistemology, praxeology, and the place of suffering in human existence. View Full-Text
Keywords: divination in discourse and practice; stereotypes about divination; religion and religious studies; worldviews and ways of life; ontology; knowledge and epistemology; praxis and praxeology; pragmatism; existence and suffering; Africa divination in discourse and practice; stereotypes about divination; religion and religious studies; worldviews and ways of life; ontology; knowledge and epistemology; praxis and praxeology; pragmatism; existence and suffering; Africa
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Silva, S. Taking Divination Seriously: From Mumbo Jumbo to Worldviews and Ways of Life. Religions 2018, 9, 394.

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