Spirit possession in Africa variously has been taken as the local equivalent of multiple personality disorder, Freudian sublimation, Jungian archetypes, the formation of right brain personalities, Lacanian manifestations of the Real, peripheral strategies of marginal peoples, the working out of colonial and postcolonial disorders, Marxist illusion, mimetic excess, and just plain good acting. What rarely happens, however, is for trance in Africa to be taken for what it is first and foremost—a danced existence, where the body possessed is called to recognize itself in the contours of musical experience. At times such as this, it is not about having a musical experience but being one. For the prophet healers of northern Malawi, it is a matter of dancing the disease; for the Brekete shrines of West Africa, it is the sound of northern gods riding in a southern land. This lecture transposes an aesthetics of music into an ontology of energy that understands spirit possession as a musical way of being-in-the-world, a way of being-there that is a being-away.
This lecture is part of the 2011/2012 UF Musicology Colloquium Series: Music, Theater, and Ritual Experience. Sponsored by the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere with support from the Yavitz Fund Co-sponsored by the UF School of Music and Center for African Studies.
Center for the Humanities
and the Public Sphere
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
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University of Florida
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