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Where Humans and Spirits Meet: The Politics of Rituals and Identified Spirits in Zanzibar

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Volume 5

Social Identities

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Where Humans and Spirits Meet

The Politics of Rituals and Identified Spirits in Zanzibar

Kjersti Larsen

184 pages, 1 map, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-055-7 $135.00/£99.00 / hb / Published (June 2008)

eISBN 978-0-85745-056-2 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit  Buy the eBook from these vendorsRequest a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“…a fascinating account of spirit possession in Zanzibar…[that] contributes to and sheds new light on debates on ethnicity, identity, and gender… Its particular value lies in its excellent ethnographic data, which demonstrate the author’s deep knowledge of Zanzibari society and its interconnections with the wider world, both ‘East’ and ‘West’, and highlight the value of long-term ethnographic fieldwork.  ·  JRAI

Kjersti Larsen’s book raises significant anthropological questions about much writing on spirit possession in Africa…Larsen’s work makes important and detailed considerations of [the] problem [of  racial identity], perhaps more sensitively than many others.”  ·  Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale

…a sensitive and rich portrayal of the phenomenon of spirit possession in Zanzibar Town.  ·  American Ethnologist

"[The author] provides a sensitive account of people's experiences of possession and the ways in which they relate to their spirits. It is refreshing to read an account like this in which some of the uncertainties and differences of opinion about spirit possession are highlighted."  ·  Tanzanian Affairs

"Written as a reflexive and phenomenological account, and organized into nine short chapters, the book traverses theoretical terrain in ways that challenge theories that reduce spirit possession to an effect of social marginality."  ·  Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale


Zanzibar, an island off the East African coast, with its Muslim and Swahili population, offers rich material for this study of identity, religion, and multiculturalism. This book focuses on the phenomenon of spirit possession in Zanzibar Town and the relationships created between humans and spirits; it provides a way to apprehend how society is constituted and conceived and, thus, discusses Zanzibari understandings of what it means to be human.

Kjersti Larsen is Associate Professor of Social Anthropology and African Studies at the Department of Ethnography, Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo. She has carried out fieldwork in Zanzibar since 1984 and since 1997 has also conducted fieldwork in Northern Sudan.

Subject: Anthropology of ReligionAnthropology (General)Performance Studies
Area: Africa


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