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Madumo, a Man Bewitched

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226029719
ISBN-10: 0226029719
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Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The bestselling author of "Encyclopedia an Ordinary Life" returns with a literary experience that is unprecedented, unforgettable, and explosively human. Hardcover | Kindle book
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Ashforth, an Australian social scientist now at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, returned to South Africa for the summer he found his friend Madumo, an affable, philosophically inclined, habitually unemployed young man, actively tormented by witchcraft. Cast out by his family, shunned by his friends, and plagued by bad luck, Madumo, with Ashforth's help, began a desperate search for a cure. Their quest took them to Mr. Zondi, a traditional healer (inyanga) who consulted the spirits in a small tin shack in the slums of Soweto, to the headquarters of the Zion Christian Church, an African-evangelical hybrid where they were barraged by eager prophets, and to the distant suburbs of Johannesburg, where they hosted a ritual feast for the ancestors. Journalistic in tone, Ashforth's book joins Karen McCarthy Brown's Mama Lola in a growing tradition of personal ethnographies where the narrator is less than omniscient, confidants are friends and not "informants," and the boundaries are blurred between observer and observed, between truth and fiction. Ashforth offers his compelling story with very little in the way of explanation. He makes no appeals to anthropological theoryDthe book does not even include a glossary. Indeed, one of his major points is that spiritual beliefs are untranslatable. He concludes that witchcraft is "something akin to a religious mystery," ultimately incomprehensible to those who have not experienced it. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Deviating from the tendency of most works on witchcraft in sub-Saharan Africa to examine and interpret the phenomenon from a broad sociopolitical and cultural standpoint, this book is a narrative of individual experiences. Ashforth (social science, Inst. for Advanced Study, Princeton Univ.) takes as his protagonist his South African friend Madumo, who seeks political and economic motivations behind the superstitious tales he reports. Not for readers insistent on scientific rigor and discipline, this work neither attempts to explain nor pretends to understand witchcraft or why it is so widespread among black South Africans. The author raises many questions without providing convincing answers. Nevertheless, the meticulously detailed accounts and contemplative discourses make the book both exciting and informative. Recommended for larger public libraries.DEdward K. Owusu-Ansah, Murray State Univ. Lib., KY
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (June 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226029719
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226029719
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,866,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The complexity and problems in the lives of South Africans in the newly minted post-apartheid state are richly interpreted in Madumo, both by westerners like Adam Ashforth and Africans he has known in Soweto. Witchcraft is taken up by both westerners and South Africans as an active encapsulation of these struggles, and the relevance of witchcraft to a modern life and a modern future is debated.
As Ashforth says, "Despite the dawning of democracy, people were still suffering. Yet the task of interpreting the meaning of misfortune was becoming more complex." (9)
Madumo describes the conflict of a modern man trying to honor his ancestors: "the problem with us that we Africans, when life picks up and things are going smooth for us, we normally forget about our ancestors. Because we are trying to follow western culture." (24). The youth are ignorant of tradition, especially in an era of rural exodus, and a plethora of dangerously creative witchdoctors reflects this. The elder members of the society are still expected to govern and judge the plans of youth, however: one witchdoctor, Dr. Zonki, reflects that in the normal course of events, but especially with regards to witchcraft, Madumo must "approach the elders of [his] family and do this in the proper way" (199). This shows a more resilient side of ancestor worship, and witchcraft�s role in preserving tradition, however shabbily.
The recent "deluge of witchcraft" (98-99) points out just how people use bewitchment to come to grips with living in a new South Africa. As a tool, it not only reinforces gender roles and traditional life, it has proven capable of innovation and has been profitable for many. It has also survived the secularism of the new South Africa; Dr.
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Format: Hardcover
Although he is now a professor in the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Adam Ashforth has spent much of the past ten years in Soweto, living there full time until the elections of 1994, and then going back for three months each year. He has friends there, so he goes to South Africa for his vacations. _Madumo: A Man Bewitched_ (University of Chicago Press) tells the story of one such friend, and the extraordinary lengths toward which friendship goes. It is a warm, generally happy book blending memoir, reportage, and sociology. It is steeped in witchcraft. Madumo, a friend from Ashforth's first stay in Soweto, has been thrown out of his house because a prophet of the Zion Christian Church told Madumo's younger brother that Madumo had used witchcraft to murder their mother, and Madumo had been thrown out of the family home.
Much of the book has to do with the counter-witchcraft Ashforth helps Madumo hire, through a medicine man named Mr. Zondi. Madumo has to be washed with herbs and earth from Madumo's mother's grave. There is a ritual cutting of Madumo's hands and legs, with mercury rubbed into the cuts. A white hen is slaughtered in a pre-feast to assure the ancestors of goodwill and more to come. Other herbs induce vomiting, the sort of purgative that has been favored in folk medicine for centuries, but which makes Madumo seriously ill. Ashforth tells a surgeon friend about what Madumo is going through, and the surgeon explains the danger. The vomiting can cause dehydration, kidney failure, and bleeding from the esophagus. Ashforth seriously worries if he had been too simple-minded in endorsing the Zondi cure.
The treatments bring improvement for Madumo.
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By C. Henderson on December 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
I really liked that Ashforth wrote it in a narrative way. I had to read this book for my Anthropology class and our professor gave us a list of books to choose one. I was looking at two different books and then I picked up this book. It makes it much more interesting when Anthropologists make the story interesting to read. It is also quite an eye-opener in terms of witchcraft in South Africa. I found it interesting to read why there is so much witchcraft in Africa and why it has increased. I won't tell you why...you have to read it :)
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Format: Hardcover
Maduma is a young South African accused of using witchcraft to kill his mother - his act falls under the local police's special 'Occult-related Crimes Unit' and his friend, author Ashforth, helps him search for a solution. Spiritual and social issues blend in a fascinating biographical and cultural coverage.
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Format: Paperback
This was a required text for a cultural diversity class. It served the purpose of exposure to other cultural beliefs. However, it would not have been a choice of mine to read this for enjoyment.
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