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Title: The political is personal : Eros, ritual dialogue and the speaking body in Central African hunter-gatherer society
Author: Finnegan, M.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2010
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Hunter-gatherers have traditionally represented the exception to theoretical models developed on the basis of hierarchical society. In these communities the principle of sharing is the most pervasive social fact. My research explores how this sharing ethos diffuses outwards from the distribution of material items to negotiations about symbolic, religious power itself. I argue that women’s ritual and dance collectives are centrally placed in the creation and maintenance of egalitarian society. “Symbolic power” in such contexts is inseparable from the bodily conversion out of which it emerges. The biological, procreative body is of great cultural import, informing as it does most of the major cosmological and ritual events, and I have attempted to expand “biology” beyond traditional Western understandings of it. I utilise several ethnographic sources to examine Mbendjele, Baka and Efe women’s management of reproductive demands, connecting evidence for collective mothering to women’s corresponding ritual involvement in hunting labour. Here we see a metaphysical relationship taking shape between the female body and its fluids (most particularly blood) and game animals and spirits. The central premise of the thesis is that it is through the sensual, somatic conversation between male and female ritual collectives that the political pendulum at the heart of community life is animated. In the metaphorical and physical repartee between the sexes, with its ribald, graphic humour, and its recruitment of spirit others, we see the pulse of a society in continual flux.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available