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Ancestral Paradigms and modern lives. Relational living in Mozambique and DR Congo

Kotanyi, Sophie

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The starting point for this comparative study is that HIV-AIDS programs in Mozambique and DR Congo are often ineffective because they use approaches based on inadequate concepts and paradigms. The relevant local paradigms concern ancestors and the taboos they instigated. Central is the notion of the strongly interdependent person together with ideas, experiences and practices regarded as so-called “witchcraft.” This comparative study among 13 different Bantu-speaking cultures in Mozambique and DR Congo shows that interventions in health or in law are more effective when they take local paradigms into account. For many Bantu-speakers, the relevant social and cultural issues are not secondary, despite the tendency of urbanized people to wrangle with reciprocity obligations, and Christians with the ambiguities involved. Since colonialism, the systematic negation of African cultures, practices, knowledge, values, morals and ethics has provoked an ambivalent or undervaluing attitude that many members of African “elites” have internalized. This negation is part of the worldwide push for uniformity through Christianity, capitalism and globalization.

Chapters one to four describe the central paradigms of (1) ancestorhood, (2) the notion of the strongly relational persons, (3) the value of transmission of life and taboos interfering in the search for health and well-being, and some ‘framings’ dealing with these paradigms, by discussing ritual effectiveness, and (4) ambivalent vuloyi, okhwiri, kindoki and similar notions of so-called ‘witchcraft’ that influence vital strength in a sense-giving concept activated by, e.g., AIDS, misfortunes, death or inequalities. The author discusses main notions and categories used especially in health, education and law in eight Bantu linguistic areas in Mozambique and four other ‘Bantu’ linguistic areas of Southwest DR Congo, showing differences and similarities. The basic common values expressed in these paradigms are deeply anchored and part of life. Chapters five and six describe and discuss the application of the paradigms described in Part I in the areas of health (and education for HIV prevention) and law. The author suggests that social and cultural inclusion allows more effectiveness in interventions that aim to introduce behavioral changes. The health application deals with HIV/AIDS: how to motivate people to get tested for HIV; how to reduce the number of antiretroviral therapy interruptions, how to achieve more effective HIV-prevention education, in including also HIV/AIDS education in youth initiation rites. Chapter six describes and analyses practices in "living right", local palavers and rituals, which are used to treat conflicts in communities. Palavers and rituals help to manage conflicts between people who are perceived in terms of "witchcraft": there are strong similarities involving differences in the way healers and leaders neutralize the harmfulness included in okhwiri, kindoki and similar notions of "witchcraft". These examples testify to the relevance of multicultural practices conveying values, notions of morality and ethics deeply rooted locally.

Chapter seven discusses the insistence of healers, leaders, and initiating counsellors that knowledge is involved in updated endogenous paradigms, contrary to the claims of physicians, lawyers, and development workers who in name of "modernity", deny the knowledge involved in "ancestral" practices and paradigms. These are often reduced to retrograde superstitions, either too religious or not religious enough, although they carry values that are relevant to many Bantu speakers in both countries. The author concludes in terms of multiple worlds and modernities, and questions any fundamentalist ontological assignment. The author discusses the ontological theories used in anthropology, which describe the "endogenous" paradigms as fundamentally ontological. Following the ethical critique of Levinas and Derrida towards fundamental ontology for its egocentric reduction to the self-measured similarity of "Being," the author analyses such ontological assignments for the Mozambican and Congolese Bantu context described. Do they establish "what is" in fixing identities? Or does rather a notion of relational life predominate, of becoming in multiple worlds where people combine multiple worlds, different approaches in great multiplicity, in coexisting multiple modernities. The recognition of the multiplicity of African categories and practices is relevant from the "local" point of view to which this study gives a voice, in a contribution to the decolonization of mind, knowledge and practices.

Item Type: Dissertation
Supervisor: Sax, Prof. Dr. William
Place of Publication: Heidelberg
Date of thesis defense: 19 April 2016
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2018 12:24
Date: 2018
Faculties / Institutes: The Faculty of Behavioural and Cultural Studies > Institute of Ethnology
Subjects: 390 Customs, etiquette, folklore
Controlled Keywords: Mocambique, Demokratische Republik Kongo, Wohlbefinden, Gewohnheitsrecht, Angewandte Forschung, Ancestral paradigms, Person, Tabu, Ritual, Heilung, Konfliktlösung, Ontologie Kritik, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Lévinas, HIV/AIDS, medical anthropology, Gesundheitserziehung, HIV Prävention, Initiationsritual, Überschreitung von Tabus, Reinigungsrituale/Waschungsrituale, Entkolonialisierung, Epistemologische Kritik, Bantu Philosophie, Afrikanische Philosophie, Matrilineare Gesellschaften, Inklusive Erziehung, Erwachsenenbildung, Gelebtes Recht
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ancestral paradgims, Ancestral ways,soziokulturelle Ätiologien, inklusive Ansätze, multiple modernities, notion of the person, witchcraft, Taboos,ritual efficiency, ritual efficacy, Differenzielle Ontologie, Palavers, weibliche und männliche Initiationsrituale, Bantu Philosophie, Gesundheitserziehung und Kommunikation, Hexerei, Verhexung, Traditionelle Heilung, afrikanische Chiefs,
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