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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Passages and the Person
Author:Ruel, Malcolm J.
Periodical:Journal of Religion in Africa
Geographic terms:Subsaharan Africa
Bantu-speaking peoples
Religion and Witchcraft
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1581217.pdf
Abstract:The author has three interrelated aims. First, he examines the ethnographic record regarding ideas of the person and personal life, which rely too readily upon Western notions of individual identity and an essentialist 'spirit' or 'soul' to be distinguished from the physical body. Second, he argues for the presence in a number of eastern Bantu cultures of a different notion of personhood, which draws directly upon the metonymical or 'tropic' perception of the passages into the body as a way of symbolically representing the life of persons and thus persons themselves. This view of personhood emphasizes relationship rather than identity and the continuity between the material and moral domains of living rather than their dichotomization. The author argues that it would be too simple to draw this contrast in terms of the metonymic meanings given to 'heart' and 'internal throat', for there is clearly some overlapping and vagueness in the relevant eastern Bantu terms, although the author suspects that the centrality of the Western notion of 'heart' has served sometimes to distort the meaning of the eastern Bantu words. Third, the author seeks to support this view by a detailed account of the relevant ideas, ritual and values of one eastern Bantu people, the Kuria of southwestern Kenya and northern Tanzania, and by a discussion of the ethnographic evidence from a range of other peoples, from the Nyoro of western Uganda and the Luyia of western Kenya to the Zulu of South Africa. Bibliogr., notes, ref.