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The Koko: Truth, Reality, and a Chimera

“In my tradition,” Ayisoba said, “we pour a libation before things begin.” It was the start of the dry season and early in my fieldwork with several Nankani communities in Northern Ghana. This was my first formal interview with Ayisoba,* although we had chatted several times before. The savanna air was comfortable. Families’ granaries were …

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Narrative Transformations: Reflections on Frey’s “Carry Forth the Stories”

My commentary on Rodney Frey's latest ethnography, Carry Forth the Stories: An Ethnographer’s Journey into Native Oral Tradition, was reciently published. It was an honor to be able to review and comment on his book. Rodney was my first mentor and MA advisor. Much of what he taught, and what his mentors showed him, shaped who I …

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On the “Reality” of Witchcraft

The following are some thoughts I shared with my Culture, Health, and Disease students on belief and reality. [950 words] “Why would anyone admit they are a sorcerer or a witch?” is a question that arises when I teach topics related to witchcraft, sorcery, and belief. This is a well-trod theme for anthropologists. However, it …

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What is Cultural Psychodynamics?

I frequently refer to parts of my research and writing as grounded in or working from a "cultural psychodynamic" perspective. What is this? In short, it is a theory and methodology that brings together perspectives from cultural phenomenology and psychoanalysis. It emphasizes the complexity of cultural subjects and examines the ways in which culture and …

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Reflections on the 2016 Boyer Award

This was originally posted on the Society for Psychological Anthropology blog. In it, I summarize my award winning article.  While most scholarly accounts of divination focus on its social functions, in A Psychodynamic Phenomenology of Nankani Interpretive Divination and the Formation of Meaning, I emphasize Nankani divination’s meaning-making features and explain how divination shapes people’s subjectivity …

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