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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Slavery, Possession and History: The Construction of the Self among Slave Descendants in the Sudan
Author:Makris, G.P.
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Geographic term:Sudan
Subjects:spirit possession
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/1161315
Abstract:This article, which is based on research in Khartoum in 1988-1990, examines the '.tumbura' spirit possession cult which is practised in the poor neighbourhoods of the urban centres of northern Sudan. The majority of the cult's devotees are descendants of 19th-century African slaves who were brought from the south to the north of Sudan by Arab northerners. Notwithstanding their conversion to Islam, these slave descendants have always been regarded by Arab northerners as subhumans without religion, descent or history. Initiation into the '.tumbura' cult enabled devotees to construct a positive self-identity. During the colonial and postcolonial periods the position of the slave descendants changed considerably as new groups from the south, who had fled famine and civil war, appeared in the north. These refugees enabled the slave descendants to move away from the margins of society and closer to their erstwhile Arab masters. This movement triggered a process of identity transformation and the popularity of '.tumbura' started to decline. Of the eighty or so '.tumbura' groups in the Greater Khartoum area in the 1950s and 1960s, only five still function today. Some groups are undergoing a structural reorganization which follows the lines of 'z¯ar borč', a more popular cult practised mainly by people of Arab descent. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French.