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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Bwiti in Reflection: On the Fugue of Gender
Author:Werbner, Richard P.
Periodical:Journal of Religion in Africa
Geographic term:Gabon
Subjects:African religions
religious rituals
Women's Issues
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Religion and Witchcraft
Cultural Roles
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1581425.pdf
Abstract:In a series of essays culminating in an ethnography of the religion of Bwiti among the Fang of Gabon, James Fernandez has advanced a model of ritual, its sequencing and its tropes. The present author takes up Fernandez's argument by seeing how it applies to movement and the unfolding of body imagery in the all-night vigil of Bwiti, and, particularly, in its ascetic ordeal. In accomplishing this ordeal Bwiti recreates imaginatively at least three processes of the body: the spiritual cycle of rebirth; the maturation sequence; and the order of procreation. The author argues that these body processes configure the sequence of the all-night vigil. This configuration is accomplished according to what the author calls 'a key idea of personal agency'. Fernandez's model of tropes for the course of the vigil obscures this configuration. Using a musical model, the fugue, the author argues that the key idea of Bwiti is the idea of agency in gender, as it is understood to be sinful or sinless according to a certain kind of cultural logic: the logic of hierarchical dualism. The author's argument is that the vigil has three movements (conception and gestation; parturition; and afterbirth or death, or: pre-climax, climax, and post-climax) and that each movement is engendered in turn by the unfolding of the male and female opposition in successive relationships of dominance and submission. Bibliogr.