Modernity and its Malcontents: Ritual and power in postcolonial Africa

Modernity as the opposite of tradition (: xii). But surely there must be some people that manage to mingle their cultural traditions with modern life? What about the cultures and places around the world that have landmarks and evidence of their cultural history all around them, the tourism industry thrives off these and the revenue they produce. Surely that would count as modern life fitting with tradition?

Western ideas of modernity, as if the west is setting the goal that all other countries and places should work towards. But Western life styles are not stationary and continually move on making it an impossible goal?

Does the West have a tendency to ‘separate simple, sacral societies from those with Reason and History’ (: xiv)? Yes, I think it does. But why do people treat these religions (that might be about witchcraft or something similar) any differently from Christianity or Islam?

Ritual as symbolic but a ‘practice meant to transform, not re-produce, the environment in which it occurs’ (: xvi) that is seen alongside every day routines and discourses. Taking out of this context would have surely made no sense? But it could have allowed people to manipulate the ritual to be able to mean pretty much whatever they wanted. But I do agree that looking at ritual in its social and economic background would help to explain a lot more about a culture.
Symbolic Anthropology just reminds me of Geertz (The interpretation of Cultures 1973) and his idea of winking and what it can mean to people i.e. is the person winking, twitching, faking? You don’t know and that is the problem with trying to interpret things you can always come up with some story which is totally wrong. You can see how this can apply to rituals and with modernity. Do these rituals still hold the same beliefs for people or are they done out of habit and tradition?
Dr. Moses (: xxiii) and his bureaucratic witch detection methods. Shows the combining of modernity and tradition as well? Reflects the troubled market economy and a way again for people to find redemption and a source for all their trouble.
Idea of colonialism may have filtered down into general fears about white people? Link to Chewa children who are scared of the ‘cannibalistic inclinations of white people’ (: xxiv). The adults are just as fascinated with Western culture and our practices, such as medical advances which they put on the level of superhuman abilities. Western technology and developments seen as a threat to these carefully constructed traditional identities.
Witches once again being seen to represent the moral margins of a shifting community acting out against the traditional and socially accepted forms of behaviour.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s