The Listening Ebony: Moral Knowledge, Religion, and Power among the Uduk of Sudan

Paperback | December 9, 1999

byWendy James

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Notions of the person and of the foundations of bodily and moral experience lie at the heart of this second ethnographic volume devoted to the Uduk-speaking people of Sudan. The first part discusses enduring elements of personal knowledge in the context of a hunters' worldview. The second partgives an account of how alien religious discourse has confronted the Uduk in the course of the region's political history. The third section tells the story of the contemporaneous rise of a new diviners' movement, in part an antithetical response drawing upon the older cultural strata. The key actof the diviners is oracular consultation of the burning ebony wood: through the ebony, personal healing is sought and the foreign gods are kept at bay. The author abandons a number of older anthropological paradigms and their relativist assumptions. In drawing upon general moral philosophy,historical writing, and literary criticism, she offers a modern, humane analysis with important implications for the cross-cultural study of religion. In a new introduction Wendy James explains how the Sudan-Ethiopian borderlands were overrun by war in 1987, and how all the villages described in the original edition were destroyed. Having revisited the Uduk for various UN agencies she is able to provide an indication of the way in which they havesince been embroiled in the war, and how the survivors have increasingly embraced Christianity in the course of their exile. She refers to her own reports and publications written since 1988 and to the TV documentary on the Uduk and other refugees which she made with Granada in 1993. Details ofother recently published work on the region and to relevant new emphases in anthropology which focus on displacement, violence, and memory have also been added.

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Notions of the person and of the foundations of bodily and moral experience lie at the heart of this second ethnographic volume devoted to the Uduk-speaking people of Sudan. The first part discusses enduring elements of personal knowledge in the context of a hunters' worldview. The second partgives an account of how alien religious dis...

Wendy James is at University of Oxford.

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Format:PaperbackPublished:December 9, 1999Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198234163

ISBN - 13:9780198234166

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`Heartache continues, as Sudan's Islamicist government has declared holy war on its own citizens who, like Uduk, are Christian or have retained elements of their own religion ... the engaging chapters of The Listening Ebony concerning Uduk relations to their environment, their notions ofpersonhood, their prophets and "Ebony Diviners", and their interaction with Christianity and Islam will be a benchmark against which readers can gauge the ongoing radical social change Uduk are suffering.'Allen F. Roberts, Religious Studies Review, Vol 27, No 2, April 2001