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Working with Spirit: Experiencing <i>Izangoma</i> Healing in Contemporary South Africa

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Volume 3

Epistemologies of Healing

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Working with Spirit

Experiencing Izangoma Healing in Contemporary South Africa

Jo Thobeka Wreford

184 pages, 8 ills, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-476-0 $135.00/£99.00 hb Published (May 2008)

eISBN 978-0-85745-015-9 eBook

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In the current model of health dispensation in South Africa there are two major paradigms, the spirit-inspired tradition of izangoma sinyanga and biomedicine. These operate at best in parallel, but more often than not are at odds with one another. This book, based on the author’s personal experience as a practitioner of traditional African medicine, considers the effects of the absence of spirit in biomedicine on collaborative relationships. Given the unprecedented challenge of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country, the author suggests that more cooperation is vital. Taking a critical look at the role of anthropology in this endeavor, she proposes the development of a “language of spirit” by means of which the spirit-inspired aetiology of izangoma sinyanga may be made comprehensible to academic scientists and applicable to medical interventions. The author discusses white izangoma in the context of current debates on healing and hybridity and insists that there exists a powerful role for izangoma in the realm of societal healing. Above all, the book constitutes a start in what the author hopes will develop into an ongoing intellectual conversation between traditional African healing, academe, and biomedicine in South Africa.

Jo Thobeka Wreford accepted a community architectural post in Zimbabwe in 1992, where she met the Xhosa healer with whom, in 2001, she graduated as a sangoma. She now divides her time between her healing practice and research in sangoma and HIV/AIDS at the University of Cape Town. In 2004 she was awarded a Research Scholarship with the AIDS and Society Research Unit (ASRU), Centre for Social Science Research (CSSR) at the University of Cape Town.

Subject: Medical Anthropology Anthropology of Religion
Area: Africa


List of Illustrations

Going about it - Fields, sources and contributors
Structuring the book

Chapter 1. Conversations in anthropological theory and method
Acts of collaboration - Izangoma and HIV/AIDS interventions in East and Southern Africa
Experiential practice, reflexivity and a language for spirit
Methodological issues and the notion of mimetic ethnography

Chapter 2. On the Question of Ancestors
Conceiving ancestors
The sacred pragmatism of Izangoma Sinyanga

Chapter 3. Biomedicine and Izangoma sinyanga: Fundamental misunderstandings and avoidable mistakes
Medical disjuncts in the time of AIDS
Professionalizing Izangoma – Government, HIV/AIDS, and the ‘traditional’ in South African medicine
Indigenous discovery, pharmaceutical profit
Further contestations and uncomfortable predicaments

Chapter 4. On ‘Being Called’ (Ukubiswa)
Sickness and diagnosis
Answering ‘the call’
Ways of seeing
Dreams and stuff

Chapter 5. Graduation (Goduswa) and ancestral evidences

Chapter 6. What got into you? Ancestral en-trancement
What got into you?
Not always bad: the literature of trance
Handling Spirit

Chapter 7. "Long-nosed Izangoma" and relationship issues in the Izangoma community
Working with the white
Long-nosed Izangoma?
A place for the white?

Chapter 8. Witchcraft and Izangoma Sinyanga in the time of AIDS
Virtually modern, actually real
Umbilical relationships and questions of motive
Treating AIDS, treating witchcraft

Postscript and Final thoughts

Glossary of terms and acronyms


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