1st Edition

Totemism and Human–Animal Relations in West Africa

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after March 29, 2021
ISBN 9780367861865
March 29, 2021 Forthcoming by Routledge
240 Pages

USD $160.00

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Book Description

This book explores human-animal relations amongst the Bebelibe of West Africa, with a focus on the establishment of totemic relationships with animals, what these relationships entail and the consequences of abusing them. Employing and developing the concepts of ‘presencing’ and ‘the ontological penumbra’ to shed light on the manner in which people make present and engage in the world around them, including the shadowy spaces that have to be negotiated in order to make sense of the world, the author shows how these concepts account for empathetic and intersubjective encounters with non-human animals. Grounded in rich ethnographic work, Totemism and Human–Animal Relations in West Africa offers a reappraisal of totemism and considers the implications of the ontological turn in understanding human-animal relations. As such, it will appeal to anthropologists, sociologists and anthrozoologists concerned with human-animal interaction.

Table of Contents


1. An Historical Review of Totemism

2. Ontological Penumbras, Ontons and Presencing

3. Hunting and Domestication

4. Killing and Consumption

5. Body-Shifting

6. Totem Crocodiles and Pythons

7. Human-Animal Relations and their Ontological Implications


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Sharon Merz is a senior anthropology consultant for SIL International. She is also a Visiting Lecturer of Anthropology at the Theological College of Northern Nigeria and at Moorlands College, UK.