Accepted paper:

Weathered bodies: weather and atmosphere as health and disease in contemporary Zulu ZIonism


Rune Flikke (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

I will use ethnographic material from contemporary Zulu Zionist healing rituals to argue that concepts of weather and atmosphere are internalized and surface as pathological processes related to illness and health.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I will suggest that weather and atmospheric phenomena are far more than a favoured topic of small talk among urban Zulu Zionists in contemporary South Africa. Based on ethnographic material from healing rituals and one particular illness narrative describing disease and the subsequent healing process, I will argue that wind, rain, thunder, heat, and cold are internalized as aspects of both the healthy and diseased body. I will show that these embodied experiences of weather and atmosphere are intimately related to cultural specific discourses on the body and the environment as permeable entities. However, drawing on comparative ethnographic material and Ingold's approach to earth and sky (2011), I will suggest that the body and external landscapes should be conceived as constituted through a continuous analytical line in ways that enables us to appreciate that the same winds that blow across and shape the external landscapes, can continue to blow across and shape the internal landscapes of individual bodies. In the process I will argue that it is not enough to analyse the atmosphere as a cultural specific metaphor for disease and healing, but rather that we must follow Ingold's lead and take the atmospheric conditions we live under seriously as ontological realities of a different kind than those encountered in most contemporary studies.

panel P03
Exploring 'atmospheres': an anthropological approach?