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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Spirit and society: in defence of a critical anthropology of religious life
Author:White, Hylton
Periodical:Anthropology Southern Africa (ISSN 2332-3264)
Geographic term:South Africa
ancestor worship
anthropological research
political economy
Abstract:According to recent criticisms, the critical anthropology of religious life in Africa has failed to take relations with invisible beings at face value. In this view, the social work of such relations should be explored, rather than interrogating their ties to the economic and political forms of African modernity. Drawing on ethnography from research on relations with ancestral spirits in rural KwaZulu-Natal, the author argues that this criticism is misplaced. Relations with ancestral spirits are channels for the circulation of value, and here she shows how that circulation of value depends upon the circulation of money for its pragmatic constitution. No amount of taking things at face value can account for this dependency of personal ties on impersonal ones that are organized by structures of political economy. Only an anthropology that is critical is up to the task of comprehending social ties, including ties with spirits. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract, edited]