Nuer Prophets: A History of Prophecy from the Upper Nile in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Paperback | May 1, 1997

byDouglas H. Johnson

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This is the first major study of the Nuer based on primary research since Evans-Pritchard's classic Nuer Religion. It is also the first full-length historical study of indigenous African prophets operating outside the context of the world's main religions, and as such builds onEvans-Prichard's pioneering work in promoting collaboration and dialogue between the disciplines of anthropology and history. Prophets first emerged as significant figures among the Nuer in the nineteenth century. They fashioned the religious idiom of prophecy from a range of spiritual ideas, and enunciated the social principles which broadened and sustained a moral community across political and ethnic boundaries.Douglas Johnson argues that, contrary to the standard anthropological interpretation, the major prophets' lasting contribution was their vision of peace, not their role in war. This vision is particularly relevant today, and the book concludes with a detailed discussion of events in the Sudan sinceindependence in 1956, describing how modern Nuer, and many other southern Sudanese, still find the message of the nineteenth-century prophets relevant to their experiences in the current civil war. From the reviews: `Douglas H. Johnson's new primary study of Nuer prophets brings freshness to a huge second-order literature: what had become a seemingly secure reference point for a discipline in search of coherence, becomes again a challenge to disciplinary habit--and to habitual readings of an ancestralauthority. With almost two decades of archival and oral-historical research under his belt, Johnson is uniquely positioned to interpret Nuer prophecy. . . . [He] shows repeatedly [that] prophecy remains a potent ingredient of inspiration and leadership in contemporary Nuer efforts to resistKhartoum. . . . Johnson has been careful in presenting readers with a wealth of information, and leeway to reformulate the problem as they go.' Sharon Hutchinson, Times Literary Supplement `This important work illuminates both the history of the Nuer and Nilotic Sudan . . . and the history of prophecy. It represents a decisive break with previous studies of the region which have portrayed a 'static' model of southern Sudanese societies. The quality of maps and photographs isexcellent. In short, Nuer Prophets is a milestone in the historiography of the Upper Nile and a work which, because of its conceptual clarity and wealth of material, lends itself to comparative studies.' Institute of Ethiopian Studies `This is not merely a collection of Johnson's old articles but an entirely new work, comprehensive in its scope, coherent in its argument, and massive in its implications for African history and the history of African religion ... It is not possible to do justice to a book as rich as this one inthe space of a short review ... The richness of Nuer Prophets is largely due to the exceptional quality of Johnson's fieldwork.' Journal of African History `It will certainly secure a permanent and respected place among great books on the so-called primitive societies.' SPLM/SPLA Update (Sudan)

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This is the first major study of the Nuer based on primary research since Evans-Pritchard's classic Nuer Religion. It is also the first full-length historical study of indigenous African prophets operating outside the context of the world's main religions, and as such builds onEvans-Prichard's pioneering work in promoting collaboratio...

Douglas H. Johnson is a Research Fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:428 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 1.02 inPublished:May 1, 1997Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198233671

ISBN - 13:9780198233671

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Table of Contents

I: Prelude1. `The Hammer of the Kujurs': Government, Ethnography, and Nilotic Religions2. Deng and Aiwel: Elements of the Prophetic Idiom and Definition of the Moral CommunityII: Prophets3. Ngundeng: Prophetic Inspiration on the Eastern Frontier4. Deng Laka: A Pragmatic Prophet5. Guek Ngundeng and the Minor Prophets: Divinity Dispersed6. Dual Diu and the Continuity of a Prophetic Tradition7. Prophetic Rivalries in the Western HomelandIII: Prophecy8. Prophetic Traditions in Peace and War9. The Life of PhophecyAppendices1. Nilotic Populations2. Nuer Divisions3. Nuer Age-SetsBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

`Nuer Prophets is a treasury of Nuer ethnography. It not only contains precious information on religious practices but also on the concrete ways in which the much debated mechanisms of 'balanced opposition' worked out in historical reality ... It is a potent antidote to schematic andsimplistic interpretations of Nuer social organisation on which a flourishing literature exists.'Social Anthropology