Accepted Paper:

How to mourn: Rhythms of Passage in north-central Namibia, Oukwanyama.  
Yannick van den Berg (University of Berne)

Paper short abstract:

In Oukwanyama, practices of grief, enabling and channelling existential change after the loss of someone loved, are collectively called Eenghali. A detailed description of Eenghali is given, methodologically underpinned by ritual theory, and the close ties it holds to sound, rhythm and embodiment.

Paper long abstract:

On the 6th of October 2017, Anna Fikameni died while giving birth to her child. In immediate response to this sad news, her husband, close kin, and extended family gathered at her homestead, initiating through their coming-together the possibility of grief and catharsis. Formally, this signals a period of profound change, both for the people directly affected and the community to which they belong. This time is called Eenghali.

In Eenghali, rhythm takes centre stage. It is explicated on the microlevel in concrete bodily acts, as it harmonizes and synchronizes the mourners via wailing, singing and praying. On the macro-level, ritually given daily routines, weeks, and finally months, 'channel' individual responses to grief into a communal endeavour which consequently provides the means for personal transformation and societal reintegration.

On all these levels, sound aligns closely with bodily action and meaning-making practices. It marks and accompanies ritually and socially institutionalized moments of existential mobility, hinting towards these routinized practices' transgressive potential.

If 'work' may be 'defined as a continuous human activity aimed at producing goods and services' (Spittler), it here takes on a different meaning. The activities' purposes, extrinsic to the work done, in the process of the ritual, become intrinsic. Moreover, as rhythms become embodied, both, sound and rhythm, open a direct path to lived experience and shared imagination.

The focus on sound and the conscious dispensation of photo- or videography stems as much from an ethical choice on the part of the ethnographer as it did make sense for him methodologically.

Panel P22
Rhythm, sight and sound: work in times of uncertainty
  Session 1