Contingency and the notion of the self in the prism of Ewe hunting rites
Klaus Hamberger (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris)
Paper short abstract:
The Ewe term "aklama" designates a person's soul, a bush spirit, and the idea of contingency. The paper aims to show, via an analysis of hunting rites, that the core of the concept consists in a relation to the Other characterized both by existential antagonism and mutual identification.
Paper long abstract:
The Ewe and Akan notion of the "soul" (kra, kla, aklama) is intimately connected to the idea of "chance" and "luck" in a context of danger. The paradigmatic example of such a context is hunting. However, far from reducing itself to the concept of a guardian spirit protecting the hunter, "aklama" is also conceived of as a bush spirit acting as the protector of animals and thus as the hunter's deadly enemy. What might appear as a paradox is actually at the core of the notion of the self. The familiar representation of the soul as a "double" here takes the particular form of a relation to the Other characterized both by existential antagonism and mutual identification. This relation is mobilized and modified through ritual action, in what appears as a transformation of funerary rites for the evil dead. The paper aims to clarify this relationship, drawing both on historical ethnographic accounts and recent fieldwork data from South-east Togo.
Shifting ontologies and contingent agencies