Working with Spirit: Experiencing Izangoma Healing in Contemporary South Africa

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Berghahn Books, 2008 - History - 260 pages

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.


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Conversations in Anthropological Theory
On the Question of Ancestors
Biomedicine and Izangoma Sinyanga
On Being Called Ukubiswa
What Got into You? Ancestral Entrancement
Longnosed Izangoma and Relationship
Witchcraft and Izangoma Sinyanga
Postscript and Final Thoughts

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Page 230 - Constructing Local Worlds. Spirit Possession in the Gwembe Valley. Zambia', in H. Behrend and U. Luig (eds) Spirit Possession, Modernity and Power in Africa.
Page 236 - Collaborative programs for traditional healers in primary health care and family planning in Africa', in African Medicine in the Modern World: Proceeds of a Seminar, Edinburgh: Centre of African Studies.

About the author (2008)

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.

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