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Bodily Selves: Identity and Shared Realities among Humans and Spirits in Zanzibar

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AbstractThe paper explores the ways in which spirits called masheitani or majinni (singl. sheitani or jinni) engage in people’s daily lives in Zanzibar Town, Zanzibar. It is argued that the phenomenon of spirits and other forms of ‘spectral’ beings may offer clues to an improved understanding of society and a more precise perception of the various concerns and paradoxes people cope with in their everyday lives. Reflecting on matters of identity, the concept of the person, and the human condition, it is suggested that to most people the human world appears to be rather unpredictable and chaotic while the world of spirits, in contrast, is seen as stable and predictable. The spirits’ involvement in people’s everyday lives and, moreover, the extent to which peoples’ relationships with different kinds of spirits affect negotiations of identity and social positioning are discussed with reference to the ethnographic material.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Ethnography, Museum of Cultural History, University of OsloP.O. Box 6762 St. Olavs plass, 0130


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