The Politics of Divination: A Processual View of Reactions to Illness and Deviance Among the Sisala of Northern Ghana Eugene L. Mendonsa Author
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A pioneer study in African political economy at the village level. The Politics of Divination, first published in 1982, was a groundbreaking work in the political economy of an African culture, the Sisala of Northern Ghana. Eugene Mendonsa shows how elders use divination as a political tool to control the behavior of women and young men. Gerontocratic control through ritual means is an attempt by elders to dominate the economic activities of youthful men, and the production and reproduction of women. Yet, the elders are not entirely successful in such attempts, and their efforts at social control sometimes have less than altruistic motives, as the many cases in the book show. Mendonsa presents divination and ancestral sacrifice in a processual view. Within the context of the divinatory process strategizing elders work and rework the rules of their society to deal with real life situations, illness, misfortune, and death. Like many other Africans, the Sisala believe that such misfortunes are ultimately caused by ancestral anger, which can be seen as a reflection of social tension and conflict among the living. Divination points out deviants in the family who are poised as the cause of such misfortunes, and this conflict is rectified through ancestral propitiation via blood sacrifice on family shrines.

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