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The Law of Possession – Ritual, Healing, and the Secular State - Oxford Scholarship Online
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The Law of Possession: Ritual, Healing, and the Secular State

William S. Sax and Helene Basu


This volume interrogates the great divide introduced by modernization theorists between the “rational,” “scientific,” or “modern,” on the one hand, and “irrational,” “ritual,” or “nonmodern,” on the other. But there are places throughout the world where the relationship between modernity, as represented by the legal and medical institutions of the secular state, and traditional forms of healing and justice, is unsettled. The chapters offer ethnographic studies of diverse historical and contemporary relationships between “spirit possession,” healing, and the law. Part I contains case studies of ... More

Keywords: modernity, ritual, religion, healing, possession and trance, law, India, Africa, China

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2016 Print ISBN-13: 9780190275747
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2015 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190275747.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

William S. Sax, editor
Professor and Chair of Cultural Anthropology, South Asia Institute, Heidelberg University

Helene Basu, editor
Professor and Director of the Institute of Social Anthropology, Munster University

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1 Introduction

William S. Sax and Helene Basu

Part I Disintegration

3 Between Shrine and Courtroom

Arne S. Steinforth

4 Delocalizing Illness

Dominic Steavu

Part Two Purification

5 Justice in Erwadi

Bhargavi Davar

Part Three Integration

9 Gods of Justice

William S. Sax

End Matter