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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Healing as social criticism in the time of colonial conquest
Author:Feierman, StevenISNI
Year:1995
Periodical:African Studies
Volume:54
Issue:1
Pages:73-88
Language:English
Geographic term:Rwanda
Subjects:healers
anticolonialism
colonialism
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/00020189508707816
Abstract:Histories of resistance to colonial conquest often describe a moment when African political leaders were defeated, but resistance did not end because 'religious' leaders took over the fight. This article suggests that the 'religious' leaders might, in many cases, be seen instead as healers. In many parts of tropical Africa in the period just before colonial conquest, healers worked at two levels to deal with misfortune and with threats to survival and reproduction. At the local level they were concerned with the reproduction and survival of individual descent or kinship groups. At a wider level some of them were also concerned with epidemics and famine, warfare, widespread diseases of cattle, and witchcraft. This article examines the role of healers in one region, the frontier area to the north of Rwanda, where mediums of the Nyabingi spirit led resistance to conquest. Nyabingi mediums helped organize responses to public misfortune and also to individual illness or infertility. These healers of collective misfortune led resistance to acts of conquest which threatened survival and reproduction. The mediums served as partially autonomous social critics, but found themselves constrained in this role by European measures to control indigenous healing. Notes, ref., sum.
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