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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Divinatory Failure: An Examination of the Religious and Social Role of Gisu Diviners
Author:Heald, SuzetteISNI
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Geographic term:Uganda
Religion and Witchcraft
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/1160026
Abstract:The anthropological literature has tended to deal with diviners only where they have been seen to play a notable role in the transformation of social relationships. This leads us to overlook their relative social invisibility in many African societies. Yet we may gain insight into the rise of prophets and charismatic leaders by looking at the other side of the story in the multitude of very humble practitioners plying their trade. This is the context in which this article explores the role of diviners among the Gisu of Uganda. The privacy of consultation, the search for distant diviners, the way they are approached only at times of crisis and as agents of private counteraction or vengeance, go some way towards explaining why it is difficult for diviners to gain recognition. Added to which are the difficulties which relate to what might be regarded as divinatory success. An argument put forward here is that scepticism is endemic to the system and, possibly, distinctive to it. In the final part of the article the social role of divination is reconsidered and some of the positive functions proposed for it are questioned. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. also in French.