David Zeitlyn: Sua in Somié

Collectanea Instituti Anthropos 41

This work is an analysis of Mambila religion based on fieldwork in Somié village, Cameroon. An ethnographic and historical introduction to the Mambila is followed by an account of their religious concepts. It is argued that, despite their adherence to Christianity (and to Islam), traditional practices continue to be of great importance in everyday life. In order to examine traditional practice descriptions are given of the masquerades and the different oath-taking rites. Translated transcripts of the different forms of the sua-oath form the empirical core of the book. The transcripts illustrate the way that Mambila experience and understand the meaning of sua. Finally problems are examined inherent in the analysis on nonliterate societies lacking a reflective tradition, and in particular, societies lacking precise, structured religious concepts. These problems have important implications which are discussed in the final discussion of the relationships between religion, politics, and “symbolic power.”

David Zeitlyn, Professor at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, has been working on Mambila in Cameroon since 1985. His research includes traditional religion, sociolinguistics, kinship, and history, but also visual anthropology (photography).

David Zeitlyn: Sua in Somié. Aspects of Mambila Traditional Religion. 260 pp., 1994. ISBN 3-88345-375-7. € 40,–