Chapter 9 presents a re-analysis of Victor Turner’s masterpiece, Chihamba, the White Spirit. The ritual drama in Turner’s account is tragic; against that, the re-analysis shows another genre of ritual drama: the comedy, teasing and making fun of the subjected, while revelling in Bacchanalian moments and playful sexuality, and while allowing, somewhat muted, alternative fun backstage, gendered for women only. The expressed intent in performance is to bring well-being, personal and communal, for people drawn from many Ndembu villages. Ancestrality is eroticized and conciliated, for the sake of fertility and other mystic benefits, with mysteries of masculinity and femininity under male dominance. Turner relates specific cultural expressions to universals of the human condition, most importantly to the figure he calls ‘the ritual man’; and as the theologian/literary critic, he seeks to convince us of profound truths of the religious imagination. One outcome of the re-analysis is a question: How useful is Turner’s notion of ‘the ritual man’? His appearance may be transfigured, with very different preoccupations in unlike places and ages. The re-analysis undoes Turner’s comparison between the ‘slain god’ in Chihamba and the resurrection in Christianity; instead the argument illuminates the play of magic, tricks and lustful fantasy, as in ancient mystery cults.
Chapter 10 moves the focus from colonial to postcolonial Africa, asking how anthropologists have understood the postcolonial, and how their understandings relate to those of mainstream postcolonial studies. Most anthropological approaches to the postcolonial have not been underwritten by a simple narrative periodization of pre-colonial, colonial and postcolonial. The colonial legacy has instead been taken as problematic and contested, to be understood in the light of deepening social inequality across postcolonial states, and in consequence sometimes freighted with nostalgia for an imaginary past of colonial or pre-colonial sociality. Thanks in part to widespread disenchantment with liberation struggles and with the postcolonial fruits of nationalism, many anthropologists of Africa have looked to the longue durée to periodize the postcolonial. Views on the general direction of change vary between the extremes of the over-optimistic Polyannas and the Cassandras, with their relentless rehearsals of disorder and apocalypse now. Their disagreement is not due entirely to differences between the postcolonies they address, but extends to opposed analyses of the local impact of global discourses on human rights and democracy, to religious movements towards grassroots ecumenism, to debates about ‘decolonization’, and beyond this to an ocean of postcolonial debate about poverty and ‘development’.