1st Edition

Mambila Divination Framing Questions, Constructing Answers

By David Zeitlyn Copyright 2020
    244 Pages 34 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    242 Pages 34 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book offers a major contribution to the study and analysis of divination, based on continuing fieldwork with the Mambila in Cameroon. It seeks to return attention to the details of divinatory practice, using the questions asked and life histories to help understand the perspective of the clients rather than that of the diviners.

    Drawing on a corpus of more than 600 cases, David Zeitlyn reconsiders theories of divination and compares Mambila spider divination with similar systems in the area. A detailed case study is examined and analysed using conversational analytic principles. The regional comparison considers different kinds of explanation for different features of social organization, leading to a discussion of the continuing utility of moderated functionalism.

    The book will be of interest to area specialists and scholars concerned with religion, rationality, and decision-making from disciplines including anthropology, African studies, and philosophy.

    1. Introduction. Divination studies in the twenty-first century: setting the research agenda;  Part I: Studying;  2. Techniques of divination: studies in interpretation;  3. Finding meaning in the text: the process of interpretation in text-based divination. Leavis in the bush;  4. Spiders in and out of court: styles of spider divination in their sociological contexts;  5: Divinatory logics: how diagnoses and predictions mediate outcomes;  Part II: Doing;  6. Mambila Divination;  7. Case studies: logic in action;  Part III: Using;  8. Framing questions: does divination pay attention to pragmatics?;  9. A sociology of problems;  10. Divination in life histories


    David Zeitlyn is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford, UK.

    “The book, with its exceptional ambition and thorough ethnography, is essential for all social scientists studying divination.” - Erwan Dianteill in International Journal of Divination and Prognostication