Accepted Paper:

Moral imagination in modes of thought: a case study of prophecy-fulfillment, an anthropologist and the Nuer in post-civil war South Sudan  


Eri Hashimoto (Kyusyu University)

Paper Short Abstract:

Nuer prophecies have been deeply related to people’s experience of the past and their hope for the future. This paper explores how the Nuer people in post-civil war South Sudan and a fieldworker (re)shape and share their realms of experience by encountering the events of ‘prophecy-fulfillment’.

Paper long abstract:

Nuer prophecies have been deeply related to people's past experience and their hope for the future. In Nuer society today, some famous prophecies are not regarded as mere 'traditional' beliefs. These prophecies have been spread via modern technology, through practices of Christians, as well as miraculous events that took place around the time of independence of the new nation, South Sudan. In one such case, an anthropologist from the East was recognized as a 'prophecy-fulfillment' of the past and given a name 'Nyajal Ngundeng' that indicates 'the daughter of a prophet'. She was also said to be the person who brought them a new nation through the referendum movement. By this time, she had started to doubt her 'rationality' before coming to realize her 'new' version of 'reality' alongside her 'actual' experience. Several studies have suggested that epiphany such as prophecy, divination, possession and dreams of Greater Sudan clarify the people's ways of coping with uncertainty in the current insecurities, or contact with 'modernity'. T. O. Beidelman who studied myth and legacy in East African societies has further suggested the idea of a 'moral imagination' that shapes people's view of themselves and elucidates other versions of people's 'experiences' and 'realities' including that of the anthropologist. By presenting cases that occurred in my 20 months of field-work, this paper explores how the Nuer people and an anthropologist (re)shape and share their new realms of experience without 'knowing' prophecies, but rather by encountering events of 'prophecy-fulfillment' with their/our moral imaginations.

Panel Rel04
Moral highground? Magic, witchcraft and spiritual encounters