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Locating Nganiyo: Divination as Intentional Space

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image of Journal of Religion in Africa

In Senegal and Gambia, the main reason for divinatory consultation is seen not in misfortune or uncertainty but in the client's intention, longing and desire (nganiyo). To locate this intention is the diviner's first task. Successfully executed, it is the proof of his/her divinatory capacities. Drawing on the phenomenological and semantic analysis of Senegambian divinatory praxis, especially among Mandinka speakers, it is argued that Senegambian divination should not be seen as an abstract search for knowledge but as a performative praxis constituting an intentional and empowering cultural space that allows the subject to engage actively with his current situation. In a parallel analysis, it is shown that the notions and concepts underlying the divinatory process form in themselves a highly instructive theory of intentionality and affliction.


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