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ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDIES IN SUBJECTIVITY Culture and the Senses
Tanya Luhrmann and Srcvcn Parish, Edirors

1. Forget Colo11ialism?: Sacrifice mul the Art of Memory in Madagascar,


by Jennifer Cole
B~~
in an African Community
2. Se11sory Biographies: Lives a11d Deaths Among Nepal's Yo/mo Buddhists,
by Robert Desjarlais
3. C11lt11re a11d the Serrses: Bodily W1ays of Kttowittg ;,, a11
r1{rica1t Commmrity, by Kathrp1 Linn Gcurrs

Kathryn Linn Geurts

,,.

UNIVERSITY 01' CALIFORNIA PRESS


Berkelq Los A11gelcs London
x Acknowled~mcnts Acknowledgments xi

less gratitude goes to Erna Nyarnarnc, who taught me so much and pro- and Regina Abla Ekpatanyo Ayayee befriended and assisted my husband
\ided invaluable insights on Anlo history and culture. and me in ways we can never repay. It has been a privilege to know these
In Osu, we always found Patrick and Fortune energetically ready to three people. Professor Kofi Anyidoho and Professor G. K. Nukunya at
assist us in both practical and intellectual ways. At the United St:Hl's In- Legan provided initial feedback and guidance on early stages of the re-
formation Senice, Michael and Jan Orlansky, plus Sarpci Nunoo, were search, for which I am grateful. Professor Nukunya's uncle, Mr. Kpodo,
incredibly warm and helpful. graciously gave of his time and deep wisdom before he passed away in
In Togbui Tsikata's compound in Sr;)gboc, we could not ha\c weath- 1994. My thanks also extend to those people in Ghana that I have neg-
ered the daily struggle of rural life without the assistance of Do (Chris- lected to mention.
tiana Dartcy) and her daughters, Bakhi (Rose Adikah) and Mawusi Field research was funded by a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Research
Baubasa, as well as Grandma (Kofobu Diaba). In addition, we received Abroad Grant (#Po2.2.A30073) with supplementary assistance from the
continual help from the late Kasi Tsikata, his wife, Doris, and their chil- University of Pennsylvania Department of Anthropology, the Explorer's
dren, Mary, Raphael, Gameli, and Akpene; Edith Tsikata and her daugh- Club, and Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society. I gratefully acknowledge
ters, especiallr Esi; Kosiwo Nyage (now deceased); and Tcnger David Atsu the support of these.institutions.
and his wife, Patience Enyonam, Rejoice, and her grandma, Gawome Culture and the.Senses.was originally a dissertation project for the
Tsikata. During his school break, Elvis Adikah provided welcome assis- Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Sandra
tance as I conducted a census of Sr::igboe, and he has continued to assist Barnes has been unflagging in her support and guidance since those early
me in many ways through his own research and his highly informative let- days when I approached her with a half-baked idea about using the
ters. We could not have stayed in Sr::igboe without the blessing of various senses as my lens for studying childbirth and medical practices in West
chiefs-Togbui Akrorbortu Akpate, Togbui Kpatamia, and Togbui Tratu. Africa. Her course Contemporary Approaches to the Study of Culture
From Whuti to Kplowotokor, a network of midwives helped me to un- and Society was a watershed in my graduate studies, laying the ground-
derstand the obstacles to well-being faced by women and children in Anlo- work for many of the ideas explored in this book. Everyone deserves a
land. Dali Alcgba-Torkomu of Atokor was tireless in teaching me about teacher and mentor like Sandra Barnes. I also received encouragement
birth, and Biawose Awudzu Sokpoli also sent for me at all hours when her at that stage, and invaluable pre-fieldwork advice, from Marina Rose-
clients went into labor. I also learned from Abla Zowonu and her hus- man and Kris Hardin. Rebecca Huss-Ashmore deserves special thanks
band, Logosu Sabah, as well as from Abla Happy Dunyoe, Adzovi Kata- for her countless letters and ongoing support of my career.
hena, and Eyi Atipoh. Among the nurse-midwives who helped in my re- John Lucy has been instrumental in my efforts to transform the dis-
search, Victoria Togoh was extremely gracious and kind during my pilot sertation into a book. He and Richard Shweder invited me to the Uni-
study in 1992 and then again in 1993-1995, and was instrumental in in- versity of Chicago for a postdoc, and for two years the Committee on
troducing me to local birth attendants. Midwife Nancy Harley was an in- Human Development served as a marvelous home for Culture and the
spiration and arranged some very helpful interviews. Finally, Professor Senses. Everyone should be so fortunate as to have John Lucy and Rick
Patrick Twumasi so generously gave of his time and wisdom during the Shwcder critique their work. The Culture, Life Course, and Mental
summer of 1992 and briefly in 1994 before he left for Zimbabwe. Health Workshop stimulated rethinking and reworking of my material,
In Anloga and Keta, I must thank Dzidzienyo, Reverend F. M. Lawu- and in particular I am gratef~I to my postdoc associates Ben Soares, Stan-
luvi, the deceased Togbui Adeladze, Queen Ame-Bruce, Charlotte Sabia, ley Kurtz, and Rebecca Lester. A special thanks to all the HD students-
Victoria Amegashi, G. Kofi Afetorgbor, Kofi Geraldo, and Raphael thosc I had in class and those I did not-for many wonderful conversa-
Tamakloe. At the Tsikata house in Abutiakofc, I am indebted to Bertha, tions and their support of my work. The African Studies Workshop at
Suzie, and Emily, who provided a restful place during my hectic summer Chicago provided a second venue in which my project grew, and I am
111 1992. appreciative for the excellent feedback I received there.
Edith Vuvor's support and friendship cannot be described. I treasure Also in Chicago, members of the Ewe Association warmly welcomed
the times we have shared. In addition, the late Kofi (G. K. Aghe) Ayayce us into their circle. Particularly remarkable in this respect were Kafui
PART THREE Person and Identity
6. Toward an Understanding of Anlo Forms of
Being-in-the-World II I
Acknowledgments
7. Personhood and Ritual Reinforcement of Balance

PART FOUR Health, Stre11gth, and Se11sory


Dimensions of Well-Being
8. Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and Practices of
Protection
9. Well-Being, Strength, and Health in Anlo Worlds lOI

CONCLUSION Ethnography and the Study of


Cultural Difference
to. Sensory Experience and Cultural Identity

Notes l51

Glossary C11/t11re and the Senses would not have been possible without the sup-
port of a vast network of people in both Ghana and the United States. I
Bibliography would like to thank Matthew Tsikata for tutoring me as I struggled to
Index learn to hear the Anlo-Ewe language and for opening the door to his
309 family, who so graciously assisted my husband and me while we so-
Illustrations follow page 84 journed in Ghana. We are particularly indebted to Victor and Vivian
Tsikata. The infrastructural support that Victor provided greatly sur-
passed anything we had expected when we set off for Ghana; his gen-
erosity and trust were overwhelming. Fui and lnnocentia Tsikata were
very cordial hosts whenever we had occasion to be at the university.
Other family members who supported and assisted us in many ways in-
clude Wisdom Tsikata and his family; Paulina Dsani Tsikata; Maggie
and David Tsikata and their children, especially Florence; Paul Tsikata;
Richard Tsikata, his wife, Lena, and their son, Roger; Richard Tsikata
the engineer and Richard Tsikata the social scientist, as well as Dona and
other members of the Vickata accounting team, and our downstairs
neighbor, Mr. Tamakloe.
In Kokomlemle our life was made comfortable and safe with the ad-
ditional help of Ema Afortudey, his wife, Gladys, and their children,
Richmond and Kathryn; Ernest Kobla Tsikata and Aaron Sabia helped
in many practical ways and kept us in touch with what interests and con-
cerns youth in Ghana; and Philippine provided my husband with a won-
derful introduction to Ghanaian cuisine when he first arrived. My end-

ix
xii Acknowledgments Acknowledgments xiii

Amegashi and his family, as well as George Dzikunoo, Cornelius Kushig- caused Stan's cars to perk up about my book. I am deeply grateful to all
bor., and Reverend Ben Quamson, his wife, and their church. three for their efforts on my behalf.
From Chicago we moved further west, and for nine months Culture \Vherc I have not gone far or deep enough-in my ethnographic em-
and the Senses was nourished in the luxurious environment of the School pathies, in my theoretical explanations, in my analysis of language and prac-
of American Research in Santa Fe. I am ever grateful to the anonymous tices, and in my organization and textual renderings of Anlo (and occa-
members of the selection committee (and to James \Vilce, who revealed sionally Euro-American) ways of life-[ hope that these shortcomings will
himself) for honoring me with their votes, and to Doug Schwartz for not be judged to reflect on my teachers, mentors, or guides (m;:,fialawo). I
awarding me a residential grant. I hope that Nancy Owen-Lewis and all alone am responsible for flaws and weaknesses present in the book.
the staff at the School of American Research (SAR) know how deeply At the University of California Press, there are a number of people to
we appreciated their tireless efforts on our behalf. My colleagues ar gratefully acknowledge for their various roles in ushering this project
SAR-Rebecca Allahyari, James Brooks, Edsel Brown, Gary Gossen, along: Marian McKcnna Olivas, Laura Pasquale, Laura Driussi, Mari-
Marnie Sandweiss, Mary Eunice Romero, and Ruth van Dyke-provided lyn Schwartz, Diana Feinberg, Sarah Skaggs, and john Connolly. For
wonderful "billiard-house feedback" after my two presentations about copyedicing and other.essentials, I thank the team of people at Impres-
the senses in Anlo-Ewe life. Santa Fe was all the more pleasant because sions Book and journal Services.
of the hospi~alify of Vicki Davila and Ted Stanley. To spend ten to twelve years researching and writing a philosophical
I owe a great debt to the pioneering efforts of Constance Classen, and intellectual book requires a great deal of emotional, sensory, spiritual,
Thomas Csordas, Robert Desjarlais, Steven Feld, David Howes, Emiko and material support. For all of that and more, [ would like to acknowl-
',
Ohnuki-Tiemey, Marina Roseman, Anthony Seeger., Paul Stoller, Michael edge the following individuals: Bob Griffin and Jeanne Gemmil Griffin,
Taussig, and others, whose anthropologies attend so richly co sensory Arthur De Leo and Jennifer Nilssen, Bob and Rosina ("George") Brem-
matters. I have received personal mentoring from some, while others ner and the others at PMG, Jose Casillo, Kristina Klugar and Sasha, Is-
have nurtured me through the evocative works they have produced. abel Rachlin, Barbara Rachlin, Elizabeth LaRoche Taylor, Lesley Rimmcl,
Many conversations, in fact, have influenced my intellectual world in the Joan White, Emily Houpt, Linda Lee, Harvey and Carol Finkle, James and
course of this project. These dialogs have been with people and with their Anita Dupree, John and Roseanne Dowell, John Grant and Louann
works. But each exchange (however large or small) proved crucial in Merkle, Anne O'Neill, Debbie Bintz, Nate Clark, Anne Jaso, J. T. Smith,
moving the project along. And so for the inspiration and support that I Gonzalo Santos, Brian McNamara, Merry Pawlowski, and my dear
have derived, I am graceful to Roger Abrahams, Breid and Joseph friend, Vandana Kohli. And [would like to acknowledge the role that my
Amamoo, Felix Ameka, Austin Amegashi, Kodzo (Nelson) Amegashi, siblings, parents, and in-laws played in preparing me for life in a huge ex-
Arjun Appadurai, Daniel Avorgbedor, Anne Bailey, Houston Baker, tended family in \Vest Africa. Many heartfelt thanks for the "tics that
Michelle Bigenho, Phil Bock, Carol Breckenridge, T. David Brent, Karen bind" to Don and Betty, Rick and Lynn, Dave and Paula, Mike and Jean, -----
McCarthy Brown, Brenda Chalfin, John Chernoff, Sheila Cosminsky, Janna and Polly, Steve and Becky, Mary, Kaari and Dave, Grandma
Robbie Davis-Floyd, Vivian Dzokoto, Steven Feierman, Farha Ghannam, Malzetta, Henny, Marcella, and Nate. My deepest gratitude goes to my
Sandra Greene, Clare lgnatowski, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblctt, Shi- husband, James O'Ncal~ for his companionship, love, and support, plus
nobu Kitayama, Kristine Kray, Peshe Kuriloff, Elise Levin, Sabina his devotion to our daughter during the hours that I taught and wrote dur-
Magliocco, Achille Mbembe, Margaret Meibohm, Sharon Nagy, Steven ing the past few years. His remarkable photographs are certain to become
Piker, Naomi Quinn, Dan Rose, Judy Rosenthal, Peggy Sanday, Bradd an invaluable part of the edmographic record of Anlo-land. And finally,
Shore, Gil Stein, Amy Trubek, Peter (Atsu) Tsikata, and Tom Weisner. words cannot express the intense joy that I receive from Mali Malzetta
Tanya Luhrmann infused a breath of fresh air into Culture and the Abla Amegashi O'Neal, who began honoring me with conversations about
Senses with her masterful editing, suggestions, and advice. Bob Desjar- seselelame before she was three years old.
lais introduced me to Stan Holwitz and uttered the magical words that
Note on Transliteration
and Orthography

The following print symbols are used to represent the major Ewe letters
that do not have an equivalent in English.

Symbol Notes on Prommciation


<l Retroflex d or alveolar flap. Sounds like a Spanish r.
f). Capitalized retroflex d or alveolar flap.
dz Close to the sound i in English.
~ Capitalized dz.
c Nasalized e, pronounced as eh in bet, but with added nasal-
ization.
f Bilabial f pronounced with both lips as if blowing out a
candle.
y Fricative g. To produce this sound, make the air pass
through a narrow passage formed by raising the back of the
tongue toward the soft palate.
IJ The sound ng in English sing or singer.
l':J Capitalized ng.
o Open vowel o, pronounced as aw or the o in cost.
o Corresponding voiced sound of the bilabial f previously
listed. Sounds like a v in English pronounced with both lips.
x A voiceless velar fricative, pronounced like a voiceless h.

xv
xvi Notes on Transli1crn1ion and Orthographr

Ewe has seven \'owcl phonemes, and nasalized vowels arc very common. - - lntematioml boundry]
Not all of them have been represented in the transliteration. In addition, - - Road

Ewe is a tonal language, and while a few contemporary English language


* Natioml capitol

texts have the tone marks incorporated in the transliteration (such as


Agawu's [19951 work on norchcrn Ewe music), it is more common for
passages in Ewe not to contain tone marks (sec Greene 1996, Meyer Notsic

r999, Rosenthal 1998). I have followed the latter convention. Ewe terms
and phrases arc generally italicized in the text, bur proper nouns used
frequemly (such as Anlo, Anloga, Ewe, etc.) arc not typically italicized,
and for readability they are usuallr romanized as is conventional in Eng
lish language publications about Anlo-Ewe.
Sources used in compiling this guide include Agawu (1995), Bureau
.
of Ghana Languages ( 1986), Ladzekpo. and Panraleoni ( 1970), Locke
( 1978), Pamaleoni ( 1972.b), and Warburton, Kpocufc and Glover ( 1968).

Accra JllGER
GULF OF GUINEA
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20mi.

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CHAPTER I

Is There a Sixth Sense?

In the West, we ofren treat the domain of sensation and perception as


definitively precultural and eminently natural, one of the most basic of
the human psychobiological systems. That is the approach in fields of
neurology, biology, physiology, psychology, and even philosophy. Re-
search in these disciplines usually compares human sensory perception
to the sensory systems of other mammals or to the perceptory abilities
of reptiles and birds (e.g., Schone 1984; Baker 1981; Lowenstein 1966). 1
Such research assumes that all humans possess identical sensory capa-
bilities and that any cultural differences we might find would be incon-
sequential. 2 Perhaps, as a result, we have few ethnographies that docu-
ment and compare the sensory orders of different socieries. 3 The goal of
this ethnography is to present a society where the senses are undersrood
quite differently than in our own and, through this comparison, to il-
lustrate that our own approach is only a folk model. Ultimately, this
book will argue that sensing, which I will define for the moment as "bod-
ily ways of gathering information," is profoundly involved with a soci-
ety's epistemologr, the development of its cultural identity, and its forms
of being-in-the-world. 4
In elementary schools in what we might call mainstream America, stu-
dents learn (at the beginning of the twenty-first century) that hearing,
touch, taste, smell, and sight arc senses, but they do not learn to cate-
gorize ba/a11ce as a sensation or a sense. Yet balance is dearly treated as
a sense in contemporary textbooks from such disciplines as biology, psy-

3
4 Is There a Sixth Sense? Is There a Sixth Sense? 5

chology, and medicine (e.g., Lowenstein 1966; Aronoff et al. 1970; Bar- quickly emerge in our ruminations about a possible sixth sense? Balance
low and Mollon 1982). A sense of balance e\en has a corresponding is clearly important to many Euro-Americans (being upright and balanced
"organ"-the vestibular organ, or the labyrinth of the inner ear-as the is preferable to being off balance and unable to stand [cf. Lakoff and
other five senses (seeing, hearing, couching, tasting, smelling) have theirs. Johnson 1999:291)), and balance undoubtedly forms the basis of moral
By the time American scudents are in college, knowledge of the senses metaphors that are widespread throughout the world since it is rooted in
has not expanded much beyond what they learned in grade school. For what is probably a basic human experience of well-being (Lakoff and
a number of years prior co writing this book, I conducted exercises with Johnson 1999:311). But relatively speaking, Anlo-Ewc people seem co
my undergraduate classes, having chem first name and describe the var- give it a discursive and practical priority that Euro-Americans do not.
ious human senses or sensory systems. Typically each group rattled off Most Anlo-Ewe people grow up being encouraged to actively balance;
the classic five, and then someone inevitably raised the prospect of there they learn to balance their own bodies as infants, they balance small bowls
being a sixth sense. By "sixth sense" did they mean balance? In my mind and pans on their heads as toddlers, they carry books and desks on their
that would be one possible and somewhat logical extension of our basic heads when walking to and from school, and they grow into an adult ori-
taxonomy of five since we could point to the eye, car, nose, tongue, skin, entation in which balance is considered a defining characteristic of ma-
and then the cochlea or the macula (in the inner ear) as the physical or- ture persons and the human i;pecies in general (hence an important di-
gans that form the basis of our classificatory system. However, by "sixth mension of their ethos). Balance is "pcrformatively elaborated" (Csordas
sense" my students never meant balance. They almost always were re- 1993:146) in many Anlo-Ewe conrexcs in ways we do not see in either
ferring to something called ESP (extrasensory perception)-some kind Euro-American discourse or practices. 6
of extrasensory ability that subsequent discussion usually condensed or Why should this matter? I argue that a culture's sensory order is one
transformed into the term int11ition, once again removing it from our of the first and most basic clements of making 011rselves lmman. I define
popular taxonomy of sensations. sensory order (or sensori11m) as a pattern of relative importance and dif-
By contrast, when I went to Anlo-land in West Africa, the home of ferential elaboration of the various senses, through which children learn
Ania-Ewe-speaking people (pronounced AHNG-low EH-vay), several to perceive and to experience the world ai:id in which pattern they de-
individuals emphatically conveyed that-within their own cultural tra- velop their abilities. 7 1argue that the sensory order-or multiple, some-
ditions-they were not aware of any clearly delineated taxonomy or sys- times competing sensory orders-of a cultural group forms the basis of
tem for the senses. Still, I consistently observed practices that signified the sensibilities that are exhibited by people who have grown up within
cultural valuation of certain subjective and bodily modes. For instance, that tradition. Such sensibilities have been described by anthropologist
I often heard caregivers expressing to infants, "Do agba! Do agba!" Robert Desjarlais as "a lasting mood or disposition patterned within the
which was an imperative statement encouraging the babies to "Balance! workings of a body" (1992:150). Those moods and dispositions in turn
Balance!" They did this when infants were just beginning to hold up their become fundamental to an expectation of what it is to be a person in a
heads and sit up without support, but the attention to balance contin- given time and place.
ued with toddlers and beyond. "Head-loading" (walking with items bal- If Ania-Ewe-speaking people think about perception differently than
anced on top of one's head) was a common practice among people of all we do and include balance in t~eir sensurium (as well as other so-called
ages, especially women. Anlo-Ewe people considered balancing (in a interoceptors, or internal senses), this should influence the ways in which
physical and psychological sense, as well as in literal and in metaphori- their bodies hold and manifest a historical residue of personal and cultural
cal ways) to be an essential component of what it meant to be human. 5 habits (cf. Connerton 1989) and the ways they represent (in language and
Anthropologist Thomas Csordas has suggested that "the answer to the folkloric motifs) everyday experiences; the sensorial experiences should be
question of 'what it means to be human' is the same as the answer to the encoded and performatively elaborated in their rituals and cultural tradi-
question of 'how we make ourselves human'" (1994c:vii). How docs bal- tions. If we conceive embodiment as a process whereby history is turned
ance figure into the ways in which we Euro-Americans make ourselves into nature (Bourdieu 1977, 1984), their notion of the nature of the per-
human? What cultural value do we place on balance, and why does it not son and the nature of health should differ because of their unique reper-
6 ls There a Sixth Sense? Is There a Sixth Sense? 7

toire and configuration of senses. In turn, larger abstract cultural ideas can We still react with awe when we notice ourselves and those around us li\-
affect the structure of the sensorium. These are some of the issues taken ing by metaphors like TIME IS MONEY, LOVE IS A JOURNEY, and PROBLEMS
up in this book. My ultimate aim is to fill in the gap between cognitive ARE PUZZLES. We continually find it important to realize that the way we
have been brought up to perceive our world is not the only way and that it
models of perception and the phenomenal level of sensation, experience,
is possible to sec beyond the "truths" of our culture. But metaphors are not
and bodily existence by first examining how culture affects the very basic, merely things to be seen beyond. In fact, one can see beyond them only by
fundamenral stages of this whole process and by then using the analytic using other metaphors. It is as though the ability to comprehend experience
categories of practice, embodiment, sensibility, and identity to trace how through metaphor were a sense, like seeing or touching or hearing, with
these fundamentals affect more abstract processes. metaphors providing the only ways to perceive and experience much of the
I would like to begin, however, with a brief look at the culturally world. Metaphor is as much a part of our functioning as our sense of
touch, and as precious. (Lakoff and Johnson 198o:z.39)
specific construction of our own sensorium. Why is the most common,
popular candidate for a sixth sense something like ESP, or intuition, Ir is clear that Lakoff and Johnson think metaphor functions in such a
rather than balance? Americans seem to love the idea of an additional way that it could be included in a class of human experiences that we
psychic sense. Hollywood's The Sixth Sense grossed $70 million within usually restrict to the five fields of hearing, touch, taste, smell, and sight.
ten days of its release in August of 1999. With a plot revolving around Why do many Euro-Americans entertain ideas about everything from
an eight-year-old child who is visited by dead people with unresolved witchcraft, remote viewing, and metaphor to electromagnetic sensitivity
problems (he possesses a supernatural ability to interact with ghosts), as phenomena that could be classified along with our more mundane
the movie's popularity suggests a fascination not only with the paranor- abilities to see, hear, couch, taste, and smell? I would suggest that ir has
mal and parapsychology but also with the notion that things can be to do with the specific kind of mind-body dichotomy that pervades West-
known via channels other than the classic five senses. ern European/Anglo-American philosophy, cultural traditions, and ways
Of course, by "sixth sense" not everyone means the ability to receive of being-in-the-world. Almost everyone has had some kind of odd, un-
messages from the dead. A quick search on the Internet generated about canny, intuitive experience that they believe provided them with infor-
six hundred thousand marches for "sixth sense." Most references seemed mation outside of the bounds of the kind of "knowing" they have by
to have something to do with psychic or occult power. They included the virtue of their five senses. All people orient their body with kinesrhesia,
following: a third eye, a gut instinct, intuition, deja vtt, moments of just but because kinesthetic knowledge tends not to be conscious, it is the
knowing something that defies logic and reason, a religious sense (open- much more conscious psychic phenomenon, or even literary phenome-
ness or sensitivity to God), the act of skateboarding, a sense of humor, non, that is identified as a sense-even though the objective grounds for
a classic elegant style of dress that some women possess, an electro- psychic awareness are nor firm. But it seems that many Euro-Americans
magnetic sense (located in the bones and able to detect electrical fields, opt for something mental rather than somatic when contemplating a
so that the phrase "I feel it in my bones" is not nonsensical), a voice or sixth sense.
The Afflatus, an advertisement for a book entitled \Vitchcraft: The Sixth Despite rhc belief of many Euro-Americans, the five-senses model is
Seme, an organization called the Sixth Sense Campaign holding the goal not a scientific fact, and the enumeration of the senses has been a sub-
of "elevating balance in the public view ro the dignity of a sense," and ject of debate among scholar~ and philosophers for many centuries (cf.
the abilities of remote viewing from a physical distance, predicting the Classen 1993b; Howes 1991). "The reduction of the sensorium into five
future, and reading thoughts as skills that can be acquired by ordering senses was first determined by Aristotle, perhaps for near numerological
an audiotape called Using Your Sixth Sense. reasons rather than physiological ones; but Galen said there were six,
Another candidate for the sixth sense might be metaphor. Two emi- Erasmus Darwin thought there were 12, and Von Frey reduced them
nent scholars-linguist George Lakoff and philosopher Mark Johnson- down to eight" (Synnott 1993:155). From Aristotle to Aquinas and
lobby for metaphor as an aspect of our functioning that should be re- Descartes, however, cultural traditions have sustained a five-senses model
garded as a kind of sense. In Metaphors We Live By, they conclude with that privileges mental representations and external modes of knowing.
this reflection: This construct, I argue, is essentially a folk ideology.
8 Is There a Sixth Sense? Is There a Sixth Sense? 9

During the early and mid-nineteenth century a major shift occurred (8) labyrinthine apparatus, governing balance; and (9) affective appara-
in the Western world's approach to the study of sensation and percep tus (pleasant and painful), responding to impressions of tickling, itch-
tion. For several centuries prior to that, the senses were dealt with largelr ing, voluptuousness, desiccation, burning, distention, pinching, pressure,
by the empiricist philosophers (or philosopher-psychologists) such as and so forth (displayed graphically in Pieron 1952:32-33, but compare
Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Descartes. But the awakening of with Lowenstein 1966:188-197 and with Barlow and Mallon 1982). A
science in the nineteenth century was accompanied by the development second (and complementary) taxonomic scheme divides the sensations
and improvement of instruments of observation such as the microscope into three subcategories: extero-receptors, intero-receptors, and proprio-
and the telescope and an increase in experimental investigations. Ac- receptors. The exteroceptive sensations include the classic five, which
cording to one historian of the senses, such technological innovations provide a person with information about external objects. The intero-
led (in part) to a shift in intellectual climate so that the measurement of ceptive sensations exert action on internal surfaces: esophagus, stomach,
sensation became "an appropriate and reasonable undertaking" (Boring and tire intestines. Finally, proprioceptive sensations provide a person
1970(1942):34). To put it simplistically, the stt~dy of sensation and per- with inf9rmation about three conditions: the state of her deep tissue, her
ception moved at that point from being not only a philosophical inves- own movements and activity, and the effects of her own displacement in
tigation of relations between the external world and the mind but re- space (Pieron 1952:28). Neither the ninefold nor the threefold taxon-
search on the body's role as well-by physiologists, by sensationistic omy is accepted by all (see Pieron 1952:28-29 for limitations and con-
psychologists, and by researchers in a new discipline labeled "psy- tradictions, and see Boring 1970(1942):523-564 on historical develop-
chophysics." ments in acceptance or rejection of various sensory fields), but these two
In 1860 Gustav Theodor Fechner (a German physicist and philoso- schemes provide a general impression of where conventional science cur-
pher) established the then new field of psrchophysics and wrote that he rently stands. One only need look through contemporary textbooks on
envisioned it as "an exact theory of the ... relations of body and soul or, sensory psychology, perception, and physiology to note that while vision
more generally, of the material and the mental, of the physical and the usually receives the greatest amount of space (e.g., Sekuler and Blake
psychological worlds" (from his book Elements of Psychophysics, [ 1994] provide seven chapters on vision, two on the auditory system,
quoted in Sekuler and Blake 1994:489). He set out to formalize the meth- one on touch, and one that combines the chemical senses of taste and
ods that others had developed to study perception, and he aspired to smell), there is almost always information pertaining to proprioception,
measure the sensations that physical stimuli evoke in human beings. Such kinesthesis, and vertigo or a vestibular sense (e.g., Aronoff et al.
measurement had the potential to demonstrate, it was believed, the pre 1970:287-290; Alpern, Lawrence, and Wolsk 1967; Barlow and Mol-
cise ways in which the mind, bodr, and world interrelate. Eventually psy- ton 1982). The point is that while the taxonomies constructed by scien-
chophysics was abandoned and specific disciplines emerged so that tists (nine sensory systems, or perhaps three) differ from the model of
physics became distinct from sensory psychology (which focuses on the sensing accepted by most Euro-Americans (five senses, or possibly six),
response of the human subject to events described in physics) and from all of these schemes are culturally embedded. Even within the West, dif-
sensory physiology (which focuses on how the sensory equipment of the ferent cultural traditions have treated the senses in varied ways, so that
human subject transforms physical energy into forms that are useful to a French scientist named Claude Bernard spent his lifetime going against
our survival) (see Tibbetts 1969:14-16). the grain and trying to understand what he termed the milieu interieur.
Sensory scientists at the end of the twentieth century would probably In 1859 he explained, "The external phenomena which we perceive in
agree on a taxonomy of approximately nine sensory systems: ( 1) visual the living being are fundamentally very complex; they are the resultant
apparatus, responding to luminous and chromatic impressions; (2) au- of a host of intimate properties of organic units whose manifestations
ditory apparatus, responding to tonal impressions; (3) olfactory appa- are linked together with the physiochemical conditions of the internal
ratus; (4) gustatory apparatus; (5) tactile apparatus, responding to me- environment in which they are immersed. In 011r explanations we sup-
chanical impressions; (6) tactile apparatus, responding to thermal press this inner environment and see only the outer environment before
impressions; (7) tactile apparatus, responding to kinesthetic impressions; our eyes" (quoted in Alpern, Lawrence, and Wolsk 1967:140 , emphasis
[0 Is There a Sixth Sense? Is There a Sixth Sense? I I

added). I have invoked these reflections of Bernard here because he rep- washed away (in sociological as well as academic and scholarly venues),
resents a minority voice in the West but articulates what I believe many yet at the same time it is the basis of everything from minor neighbor-
Anlo-Ewe people would consider eminently reasonable: a concern with hood and interpersonal tension to full-fledged and full-scale genocide.
the milie11 interieur-the internal environment, or what Anlo people refer When an "Anlo person" lives in Toronto, Paris, London, Chicago, or
to as seselelame (feeling in the body, flesh, or skin). 8 New York, what is it that continues to sustain a feeling, an idea, or a
sense of being Ania? If one has lived in the West for twenty years and
spoken French or English most of one's life, what is the basis for con-
INTERl'RETIVE FRAMEWORK
tinuing to identify as Anlo?
This is a study of some of the processes by which history is turned into I believe this quality of "being Anlo" has something to do with the
nature (Bourdieu 1977:78), and I trace these processes through an ethno- very sensory orientations one develops in the early years of life, that these
graphic ex~mination of sensing, embodiment, and identity. 9 My starting ways of sensing and ways of apprehending the material world (or ad-
point lies in efforts to excavate the sensory order of a cultural commu- hering to reality) are formed through "the symbolic mediation of expe-
nity, because in the first instanc:e I believe that sepsing cannot be under- rience" (Shweder et al. 1998:887) and are so deeply inscribed, so
stood or defined in any universal way, but involves cultural variation (cf. "durably installed" (Bourdieu 1977:78), that they are unconscious, ha-
Classen 1993b; Howes 1991; McLuhan 196i.; Ong 1967, 1991; Stoller bitual, and literally "made body." So I start by trying to understand an
1989h; Wober 1966). 10 More important, however, to my theoretical Ania epistemology of sensing-to trace an indigenous theory of sensing,
point of view, I believe that in a cultural community's scnsorium we find or what seems to be a portion of a more generalized theorr of inner
refracted some of the values that they hold so dear that they literally states-because in that sensory order I think we will find some of the
make these themes or these motifs into "body." In other words, a cul- basic cultural categories used by parents and caregivers in their child-
tural community's sensory order reflects aspects of the world that arc so rearing strategies or in the way they shape bodily practices and psycho-
precious to the members of that community that (although they remain logical mentalities. This, I believe, has a great deal to do with ontology
largely unconscious and habitual) they arc the things that children grow- or Anlo ways of being-in-the-world. So to understand what it means to
ing up in this culture developmentally come to carry in their very bod- be Anlo, I try to trace what is carried in the body (the mind being part
ies. So the senses, I believe, are ways of embodying cultural categories, of the body) all the way back to how sensory orientations have been con-
or making into body certain cultural values or aspects of bei'1g that the ceptualized (historically) and deposited or installed-as if by nature-
particular cultural community has historically deemed precious and dear. into An lo persons. 11
In Ania-Ewe-speaking contexts, in fact, the notion of se or sese (which My study has as one of its precedents a long-standing though minor-
will receive a great deal of focus and elaboration throughout the book) ity or even marginalized interest within anthropology in issues of per-
not only is the closest idea we have to the English term for sensing but ception. I hese concerns date back as far as 188 3, when Boas's Baffin land
also refers in their world to the idea of obedience and adherence, which study of how Eskimos perceived the color of seawater led him to con-
I suggest illustrates the way in which sensing grounds a person in mate- clude that the eye was "not a mere physical organ but a means of per-
rial reality and forms a strong basis for the actua maintenance of san- ception conditioned by the tradition in which its possessor has been
ity. The perceptual framing of that material reality, however, is not with- reared" (Ruth Benedict quoted in Stocking 1968:145). Subsequent stud-
out a cultural basis, and hence we return to the problem of how history ies have either agreed with Boas or concluded that the most salient as-
becomes turned into nature. These embodied forms, then, constitute vital pects of human perception are precultural, and research has not ad-
aspects of a people's sense of identity, and within the notion of identity, vanced much beyond these two basic claims. For example, at the turn of
I believe, are subsumed their ideas and experiences of well-being and the century interest in optical illusions led to a series of tests by British
their conceptions of the person and the self. psychologist and ethnologist W. H. R. Rivers that led to the "carpcntered-
It is here that I feel the significance of this study can be found. We live, world hypothesis" (Bock 1988:10-II). Simply put, this proposal sug-
these days, with an intense and profound paradox: "difference" is being gests that people who grow up in an environment that is highly carpen-
I z. Is There a Sixth Sense? Is There a Sixth Sense?

tered will learn to use angles in perceiving distances whereas those who stems from the "natural symbol" of the body (Douglas 1970), all
live in round or oval houses will not develop such perceptual habits. And spawned an array of rich ethnographic research in the latter part of the
while additional research has been carried out on the susceptibility to il- twentieth century. Recent studies range from a focus on the symbolic
lusion of differing populations (Segall, Campbell, and Herskovits 1966), significance of different aspects of the body (e.g., Obeyesekere 1981;
the conclusions drawn are merely that the basic process of perception is Seeger 198 1) to the role of body imagery in health and healing practices
the same for all human groups and that where differences occur it is due and beliefs (e.g., Kleinman 1980; Lock r 980) and even the body as a site
to experience rather than a result of inherent .. racial" or "biological" where political consciousness is expressed through practices and signs
distinctions. (e.g., Cornaroff 198 5; Feldman 1991) or as a site where social contra-
Questions about the influence of language on perception were taken up dictions play themselves out (e.g., Lindenbaum 1979; Mullings 1984).
by Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf, who concluded that the effects Bui whill! sensing clearly involves something bodily, anthropological
were probably more on conceptual structure than at the actual level of studies focusing on the body as an object have paid little explicit or sys-
perception (Whorf 1956:158). 12 Hallowell (1951, 1955) was concerned tematic attention to sensory processes or to the way the senses servl! as
with how the cultural structuring of perception influenced personality or- culturally constructed orientational processes. ' 4
ganization and the practical experience of the individual, but his ideas were Sensorial anthropology, because it is concerned with "how the pat-
not followed up until quite recently (Csordas 1994b). Other significant terning of sense experience varies from one culture to the next in accor-
contributions to the study of culture and perception include work on prox- dance with the meaning and emphasis attached to each of the modali-
emics and the ethnography of communication, which clearly demonstrated ties of perception" (Howes 1991:3), appears, in part, to answer this
cultural variation in attention to and use of different sense modalities (E.T. deficiency. In fact, the senses seem to be experiencing somewhat of a ren-
Hall 1959, 1966). At the other end of the spectrum is ethnosemantic re- aissance, with a profusion of works appearing in the past decade from
search, which suggested that color terminology "evolves" in societies from wide-ranging perspectives. Most notable arc effons to define and set an
a simple to complex set in a fairly uniform order-implying a universal- agenda for the anthropology of the senses (Howes 1991) and various so-
ity to the way human groups apprehend certain "basic" colors (Berlin and ciohistorical analyses of the sensorium (Howes 1992; Classen 1992,
Kay 1969). However, controversy over this and subsequent color termi- 1993a, 1993b, 1997). In addition, sociological analyses of the body and
nology research continues (see Bock 1988:173-175 and, more sig- the senses in Western culture have served to excavate the sources of our
nificantly, Lucy 1992.:177-187 for a thorough review and critique, espe- assumptions about sensing in general (Synnott 1993) and to demonstrate
cially in relation to the question of linguistic relativity), the details of which the extensive symbolic power and significance of some of the less stud-
are somewhat beyond the scope of this study. Two things stand out about ied of the senses, such as smell (Classen, Howes, and Synnott 1994).
this small body of literature. First, most of the work-from Boas to Berlin Since the early 1980s, Paul Stoller has attended to the senses in his ethno-
and Kay-focuses primarily on sight or on audiovisual perception, ne- graphic work among the Songhay of Niger (1980, 1984a, 1984b), and
glecting other bodily and sensory modes such as touching, tasting, and ol- his approach ranges from epistemological challenges to the extreme vi-
faction (although Hall's work is an exception). Second, while there is good sualism of the West ( 1989a, 1997) to sensual ethnography aimed at evok-
evidence that perception is culturally shaped, it is a research arena that has ing tastes, smells, sounds, and feelings from worlds that anthropologists
been neglected by anthropology. 13 attempt to represent ( 1989b, 199 5, with Olkes 1987; also see
Beyond issues of perception, a second precedent for my study lies in Seremctakis (19941 for a similar approach). Furthermore, numerous re-
the more general interest within anthropology in the body as an object cent ethnographies pay close attention to the role of the senses in illness,
of study (Blacking 1977) and in the interrelatedness of body and mind healing rituals, and concepts of the body (e.g., Csordas 1994b; Desjar-
(Scheper-Hughes and Lock 1987). An early anthropological awareness lais 1992.; Devisch 1993; Lock 1980; Ohnuki-liemcy 1981a; Roseman
of cultural variation in "techniques of the body" (Mauss 1935), plus 1991 ), and while not all of these arc situated specifically within an an-
studies of the links between bodily habit and character (Bateson and thropology of the senses, they certainly demonstrate the symbolic
Mead 1942.) and an understanding of the extent to which metaphor significance of culturall) distinct sensory orientations. ts
Is There a Sixth Sense? Is There a Sixth Sense? 15

The past two decades have given rise, then, to fruitful studies that ex- 1999:63). Within this approach, the analytic attention to the "reciproc-
plore sensory experience and symbolism, the significance of sensory ity and murual cmbcddness of culture and psyche" (Shweder 1999:63)
meanings in cultural descriptions and analyses, and so forth. What seems necessitates that certain conceprs or principles deemed "basic" by many
lacking in this arena, however, is some explicit theorizing about the pre- general psychologists be reexamined for the socially constructed, histor-
cise processes by which sensing contributes to cultural difference. 16 So ically grounded, and culturally variable nature of their makeup (Markus,
in addition to cultural histories and political economies of sensory ex- Kitayama, and Heiman 1996:863-864). These so-called basics include
perience, we need a betcer understanding of the role played by culture in concepts such as "person" and "situation" and also principles and
developmental and psychological dimensions of sensory perception. 17 processes such as "representation," "persuasion," "knowledge activa-
My own study revolves around the following questions: What are the tion," and "information-seeking" (Markus, Kitayama, and Heiman
basic bodily impressions in a given tradition that constitute something 1996:864), and to this list I would add sensing and perceiving. So a fun-
we might gloss roughly as "sensations" or "immediate experiences"? 18 damental assumption in this approach is that "psychological processes
How are the boundaries of the foundational category of immediate bod- are nor just 'influenced' but are thoroughly culturally constimted, and as
ily experience defined? What components or what experiences do mem- a consequence, psychological processes will vary with socioculrural con-
bers of particular cultural groups include in this category? What mean- text" (Markus, Kitayama, and Heiman 1996:859). While nor denying
ings are then associated with the different components? And what are that there may be certain psychic universals within the human species,
the particular cultural ways in which different senses arc thought to cultural psychologists argue that "psychologists may be prematurely set-
synesthetically interplay? In other words, I am interested in the basic cul- tling on one psychology, that is, on one set of assumptions about what
tural meaning system that governs settsi11g within Anlo-Ewe traditions, are the relevant or most imporcant psychological states and processes,
practices, and philosophical thought. I am suggesting that we cannot ad- and on one set of generalizations about their nature and function"
dress more general problems of how perception and meaning-making (Markus, Kitayama, and Heiman 1996:858). This book will examine
take place until we grasp how a cultural group reconciles the set of senses some of those sociohistorically constructed generalizations about the na-
or immediate bodily experiences that warrant attention in the first ture and boundaries of what we refer to as "the senses," while simulta-
place. 19 I believe that comparative studies of personhood, identity, and neously describing another cultural way of depicting how sensation func-
"intentional worlds" (Shweder 1991:74) benefit from an explicit account tions in relation to perception, meaning-making, and identity.
of sensory orders and sensory engagement. And while this book does not Cultural phenomenology focuses on how embodied experience,
claim to represent a panacea for the problems and questions that I have thought, feeling, and psychological orientations all interrclare. Embod-
raised, it is a gesture in our efforts to build an explanatory framework. iment and orientation arc central rhemes within phenomenological an-
Theoretically, the present work draws on several different approaches thropology (Csordas r994c:340; Desjarlais r99i.;Jackson 1996; Stoller
within psychological antliropology, most notably those referred to as atl- r989b). For now let me just indicate that largely because of its extensive
tural psychology and cultural phenomenolotn~ It is from cultural psy- attention to processes of perception (e.g., Csordas 1990:8-1 i.; Hallow-
chology in particular that we can hear the strongest critique of general ell r 9 5 I) and its recognition of the body and bodily experience as the
psychology's assumptions about so-called basic psychological principles "orientational locus of the self" (Csordas r994c:340; Hallowell 19 5 5),
(Markus, Kitayama, and Heiman 1996). Cultural psychology refers to this approach has played a significant role in shaping my methodologi-
the interdisciplinary study of how "cultural traditions and social prac- cal strategies and argument. For instance, the assertion that perception
tices regulate, express, and-transform the human psyche, resulting less in begins in the body and ends in objects (rather than the other way around)
psychic unity for humankind than in ethnic divergences in mind, self, and has been borrowed from Merleau-Ponty and applied to anthropological
emotion" (Shweder 1991:73). It is the study of how "subjecr and object, issues so that we can address the question of cultural mediation in ap-
self and other, psyche and culture, person and conrext, figure and ground, . prehension of one's environment and apprehension of one's own orien-
practitioner and practice, !ive together, require each other, and dynami- tational states (Csordas 1990:9), or what Hallowell called ( 19 55) the
cally, dialectically, and joindy make each other up" (Shweder 1991:73, "behavioral environment of the self." This theoretical premise is not un-
16 Is There a Sixth Sense? Is There a Sixth Sense? 17

like cultural psychology's notion of kintentional worlds" (Shweder Throughouc years of scudying and contemplating the nature of cultural
r 99 r :73-76). Here I simply note that while other approaches within psy- difference, cercain ideas and concepts continually captured my imagina-
chological anthropology are occasionally brought into the discussion, tion: orientations, way of life, forms of being-in-che-world, practices and
cultural phenomenology and cultural psychology serve as the greatest mental scaces that reinforce each ocher, habicus, somacic modes of atten-
influences in this exploration of the social structuring of sensory per- cion, things thac are performatively elaborated within a cultural group,
ceptions and orientations. intentional worlds, and so forth. These various terms and ideas seem strik-
Finally, let me say a few words about why I have written this book and ing in that each is aimed at articulating the complex interrelationships
what I believe its significance is for anthropology. Identity and ethnic dif- among culture, psyche, soma, and sociality. In this same vein, I want to
ferences in how identity is defined are of enduring concern within anthro- propose that we think about sensibility as a term that unites individual
pology. But presently it is more popular to focus on cultural and transna- experience with perception, thought, cultural meaning, and social inter-
tional flows, on the blurred boundaries between (and the internal diversity action. I am therefore suggesting that a sensibility is a field where habit-
wichin) previously deemed homogenous "cultures" and on the picfalls of uated bodily sensations link to individual feelings, attitudes, orientations,
searching for "essences" thac definicively identify (perhaps scereotype) a and perceptions and finally to cultural themes, motifs, and ethos.
specific culcural group. In fact, essentializing a cultural group is probabl)
the greacest faux pas one can commit in anthropology these days. While I
THE ARGUMENT
agree ~ith many of che efforts to question and challenge certain assump-
tions about the uniformity of a given people or whac (in the past) seemed My argument begins with the claim that sensory orders vary based on
co produce a static and ahiscorical picture of a culcural group, some aspeccs cultural tradition, and hence sensoriums may be different from one cul-
of che current crend worry me. For inscance, anthropology's tum coward tural group to the next. 21 Chapter 2. provides background on what con-
greacer attencion co political economy, history, discourse, and power seems, stitutes Anlo-land and on what I mean when I use the phrases "Anlo-
at times, to be at the expense of attention to culture. What I mean is that Ewe" and "Anlo-spcaking people." Part 1 (consisting of chapter 3)
it seems all too easy to deconstruct culture or point to things that we can- describes the process involved in researching and documenting a sensory
not claim a group of people share exclusivelr or share in such a way that order, focusing largely on the first step of understanding the local lexi-
they constitute a "cultural group," a "cultural community," or (to use con for the senses and then laying out some of the local Anlo categories
Shweder's term (1999:641) a .. self-monitoring group." But the challenge for sensory experiences.
remains for anthropology to spell out precisely what it is thac a given set My second claim is that sensoriums also encode moral values in the
of people share and also how this so-called culcural stuff that they share is process of child socialization. Such embodied forms and sensibilities are
acquired or internalized. 20 This book, while not claiming to have a defini- learned (acquired, internalized, developed) at an early age through child-
tive answer to that problem, takes seriously che notion of sensibility and socialh.ation practices. Part 2. then focuses on embodiment and takes
the human function of perception as distinct aspects of chis process that de- the reader from the language of the senses to some initial ethnographic
serve more careful (and more deliberately theoretical) examinacion. 21 explorations of the socialization of sensory orientations. Chapter 4 re-
My interest in the senses and in the notion of sensibility, then, is inex- volves around kinesthesia, or sensations related to movement, and how
tricably tied to anthropological concerns about cultural difference, and I this domain represents a cultural category for Anlo nocions of moral
am in agreement with both the assertion that "it continues to be mean- disposition and character. Chapter 5 provides select discussions of
ingful to talk about different ways of life" and the claim that "the idea birthing and child-raising practices and beliefs thac illustrate the senso-
of culture invites us to make some kind of distinction benveen different rial dimensions of socialization routines. This chapter is not meant to
ways of life" (Shweder 1999:65). So while it may be currently unpopu- be a comprehensive account of childbirth and child-socialization prac-
lar to allude to notions of core and traditional culture as well as to theo- tices in Anlo-land but rather an exploration of my second proposition,
rize about what exactly that means, it is that classic and (in my mind) un- which focuses on how cultural categories and sensory orientations arc
resolved issue in anthropology chat is at the center of this inquiry. learned at an early age.
18 Is There a Sixth Sense? Is There a Sixth Sense? 19

Third, sensori11111s help shape notions of identity and of tl1e person. ter 9 I address initia.I issues related to being without certain senses in
That is co say, the lirsr two stages of this process help assure chat notions Anlo cultural contexts, such as the meaning and experience of blindness,
of the person both differ culturally and yet appear natural. The third sec- deafness, a loss of limb mobility and the kinesthetic sense, and so on. (
tion of the book focuses, therefore, on identity and takes up the onto- also take up the issue of how speaking is considered a sense by ma11y
logical question of what it means to be a person in particular cultural Anlo people and the ramilications of being mute, as well as how insan-
ways and how the sensorium helps us to understand this issue. Chapter ity is defined in this context as total loss of one's senses.
6 explores how the identity marker A11lo (as in their name) derives from The conclusion, consisting of chapter ro, begins with a synopsis of
an inward turning bodily posture (called l}b) enacted by an ancestor at my argument, then moves to a conceptual discussion of the four claims
a pivotal point in their migration journey three hundred years ago. I sub- advanced in the book. This explanatory section presents my interpretive
sequently argue that the cultural memory of l)b kinesthetically and sen- framework in abstract (rather than ethnographic) terms so that it might
sually encodes a complex dimension of Anlo ethnic identity: qb is the- be used by students of culture working in other areas of the world. ( then
matized and continually rehearsed in the conditioning of sensibilities conclude the final chapter with some remarks on the role of cthnogra-
about what it means to be a person in Anlo ways. Chapter 7 revisits the P9Y in res<;arch ori-~ensory orientations and on how the senses can help
argument about balance that I mentioned at the opening of this chapter: us co better understand cultural difference.
that Anlo-Ewe people consider balancing (in a physical and psycholog-
ical sense, as well as in literal and in metaphorical ways) to be an essen-
tial component of what it means to be human. Several significant com-
munal rituals are described in chapter 7 and then analyzed for what they
reveal about the prominent role that balancing plays (both the practice
of balancing and the bodily experience of balancing) in Anlo-Ewe cul-
tural heritage and historical traditions.
Fourth, sensori11111s also help to shape 11ndersta11di11gs and experiences
of health and illness. For insrance, hearing things that those around you
do not or cannot hear or seeing things that others deem invisible or non-
existent are symptomatic of insanity and losing one's grounding in real-
ity (or they indicate adherence to an alternate reality). Part 4 therefore
focuses on well-beit1g and explores what I call intracultural variation in
sensory orders. 23 I begin in chapter 8 by addressing cosmological theo-
ries as well as religious practices and beliefs, because it is only if we have
a grasp of this foundation that we can begin to understand Anlo episte-
mologies and modes of being-in-the-world. Anlo-Ewe traditional reli-
gion is reexamined as a system of the body or as a set of techniques for
sensory manip~lation. When interpreted through the lens of an indige-
nous sensorium, vod11 and other practices appear as external extensions
of the interoceptive, proprioceptive modes that are highly valued in other
domains of Anlo life. This chapter focuses, then, on how the senses are
reflected and incorporated in the cosmological realm and the relation-
ship that holds co perceptions of reality and co how people k11ow things.
In turn, definitions and experiences of well-being, strength, and health
are inextricably tied to spiritual or religious practices and beliefs. In chap-
CHAPTER 2.

Anlo-Land and
Anlo-Ewe People

The term Attlo is essential to this study of scnsoriums and experience,


and yet it is not an easy word to translate or define. It identifies a dialect
of Ewe, which is a West African language spoken by many of the peo-
ple who live in southern Togo and the southeastern corner of Ghana. But
for many Ewe speakers in Ghana, Anlo denotes a specific group of Ewe
people who inhabit the coastal area of the Volta Region, around the Keta
Lagoon, and whose traditions and dialect have unfairly been taken (by
scholars, missionaries, and other representatives of colonial regimes) to
represent Ewe culture as a whole. To complicate matters, this term that
variously refers to language, ethnicity, and place has a literal meaning
that describes a body posture of rolling up or folding into oneself (akin
to what Euro-Americans would call the fetal position). Clearly, the mix-
ture of feelings and interpretations around what it means to be an Anlo-
Ewe person is subjective and complex. With that in mind, this chapter
provides general ethnographic background for those unfamiliar with the
people and lands of West Africa and, more specifically, with late-r.ven-
tieth-century southeastern Ghana.

HISTORY, POLITICS, AND SOCIAL STRUCTURE

Anlo-Ewe people belong to a large group, or "nation," of more than a


million people located in southeastern Ghana and southern Togo. 1 As
Anlo-Ewe ethnographer G. K. Nukunya has explained, "language and

2.1
Anlo-Land and Anlo-Ewc People AnloIA1nd and AnloEwe People

common tr;lditions of origin formed the most important bases of Ewe cial structure too. According to Nukunra ( r 969h:2), Ewe speakers in
unit)"' (1969h:1). 2 The Ewe language is a part of the Kwa language Ho have hecn described as strictlr patrilincal, while the nearby Glidzi
group within the much larger classification of Niger-Kordofanian, which (Ewe speakers) reportedly passed down some aspects of their personal
spans from rhc wcsrcrn shores to the southeastern edge of the African property from a man to his sister's son, a matrilincal practice. "Because
continent (Gregersen 1977). Kwa, however, includes a much smaller set of these differences, generalizations embracing the whole Ewe-speaking
of languages spoken in present-day countries ranging from Liberia in the group arc bound to be misleading unless the sphere or area of their ap-
west to the eastern houndary of Nigeria (Greenberg 1973:76). Ewe it- plication is clearl)' delimited" (Nukunya 1969b: :!..). For these reasons, l
self is related more directly to Akan, Guang, and Ga (all spoken in limit m}' discussion to Anlo-spcaking subgroups lm.:ated on the coast of
Ghana), plus Fon (spoken in Benin), and Ibo, Ijaw, Yoruba, and Nupe Ghana, about fifrcen miles west of the Togo border, and hemmed in on
(spoken in Nigeria). 3 Within Ewe proper, then, over a hundred dialects the western edge by the mouth of the Volt:t River.
exist, and among them we can count i\u/og/Je-the Anlo language. Social structure among Ewe speakers in general is well documented
\X1hile rhe first layer of definitional boundaries for the identification (Manoukian 1952), as is that of the Anlo-spcaking area alone (Nukunya
A11/o-Ewe is clearly linguistic, the second unifying feature concerns a coin- 1969b). In historical terms Anlo speakers have been patrilincal and have
mon tradition of origin for Ewe speakers. It is commonly believed that negotiated kinship relations through both clan and lineage organizations.6
Ewe-speaking people came from the Oyo Empire and, more specifically, Most Anlo speakers belong to one of fifteen patrilincal clans, or hfawo-
from the political subunit and city called Kem (Oyo heing located in mod- clcfined as a group believed to be descended from a putative common an-
ern-day Nigeria, with Ketu further west in what is currently Benin). Ewe cestor and sharing similar totemic and ritual obscr\'anccs (Nukunya
speakers prohably left there some time in the fifteenth or sixteenth cen- 1969b: 2.1 ). While in a contcmporarr sense clans arc fairly well defined
tury due to the advent of war among the Oyo, Borgu, and Nupe states among Anlo speakers, rhe smaller grouping of lineage proves more prob-
(Locke 1978:8; Asamoa 1986:5). 4 When they fled Kctu, they divided inro lematic. This is due, in part, to the fact that from communit)' to commu-
at least three groups, and some claim they migrated to Wla (in southern nity (or between one village and the next) the Anlo term for "lineage"
lknin), Tado, and Notsie (both located in the southern half of modcrn- often varies. Secondly, within one community reside members of numer-
dar Togo) (Asamoa 1986:4). Others suggest that in addition to Tado and ous lineages (usually deriving from several of the fifteen clans). Nukunya 's
Notsic, they fled to an area called Dogho to the northwest of Ketu (Locke descriptions seemed to hold true in the area where I conducted research,
1978:8). Nonetheless, those Ewe speakers who traveled to Notsie arc of so I have relied on his explanation of lineage (or afeclo) as "that branch
greatest concern for this study because they arc the ancestors of Anlo- of a clan found in a settlement which comprises all those persons, male
Ewe-speaking people. While a fair amount of derail about life in Notsic and female, who arc able to trace relationship by a series of accepted ge-
has hccn documented (Amcnumey 1986; Asamoa 1986; Locke 1978), my nca logical steps through the male line to a known or putative male an-
interest is in the group that left Notsic, probably in the mid-16oos, and cestor and theoretically to each other. The genealogical depth of the lin-
began populating the area in southeastern Ghana now known as the Volca eage is about eight to ten generations" (Nukunya 1969b:2.6).
Region.-s (Chapter 6 recounts in derail the story of their flight and mi- Political structures within Anlo-land arc like those of many other
gration as it pertains directly to Anlo symbology, subjectivity, and cul~ African societies in that they re\olvc around authority invested in the in-
rural logic.) Thus, from Oyo and Ketu to Taclo and Notsic, some Ewe stitution called cbie{taiucy. The head of all Anlo-speaking people is the
speakers who are known in the early twenty-first century as Aulo began Awoamefia-which Nukunya translates as "King" but whom people in
inhabiting and populating their present-day homeland, in southern Togo Anlo-land usually referred to as "Paramount Chief." Two royal clans,
and southeastern Ghana, a liulc over three hundred years ago. Adzovia and Bate, alternate in producing the Awoamefia (Nukunya
Ar least one hundred twenty different subgroups have been identified 1969b:9). Below the Paramount Chief arc three senior chiefs, who tra-
within Ewe-speaking populations (Nukunya 1969b:2.), which inhabit ap- ditionally held positions involving militaq command; the next level in-
proximately ten thousand square miles of land (Locke i978: 1). In addi- volves chiefs of towns and villages; and, finally, there are chiefs who arc
tion to differences in dialect and locale, these subgroups vary in their so- heads of the local wards and lineages.
Anlo-Land and Anlo-Ewc People Anlo-Land and Anlo-F.we People

When I was in Ghana in the mid r 99os, it had been nearly three speakers with whom l worked. This admittedly awkward phrasing is
decades since Nukunya wrote about Anlo social structure, but the insti- meant to limit my claims so as not to give the impression that all Anlo
tution of chieftaincy was still fairly intact. On one hand, Anlo-speaking speakers think and perceive in a uniform way. In addition, culture is in
people living in rural areas continued to rely heavily on the expertise and a constant state of flux although certain themes and signs may be re-
jurisprudence of local chiefs. On the other hand, the authority of the produced consistently within a specific cultural community over long pe-
chieftaincy was being eroded or superseded by offices of so-called mod- riods of time. This point was brought home to me when a supposedly
ern political systems-such as district assemblies, or Ghana's Commit- annual ritual was performed in the village in which we lived (it will be
tee in Defense of the Revolution established under the Rawlings regime. described in chapter 7), but in fact this supposedly annual event had not
So those people still residing in the Anlo homeland had to choose among been staged for more than seven years. In addition, it was a rite that was
several authorities (on a regular basis) in terms of how to orient them- unfamiliar to many people who resided in the neighboring Anlo towns
selves or where to place their attention and allegiance. In turn, those re- of Keta and Anloga. How should an ethnographer describe a purported
siding in Accra or in other parts of Ghana, as well as those Anlo people "annual.Ania village ritual" that actually seemed to occur haphazardly
who were living abroad, also had to choose which of the competing au- and only in specific locations but that she happened to witness while
thorities they would heed. For example, I received quite conflicting ad- doing fieldwork? Certainly it cannot be presented as depicting "the way
vice about whom I should appeal to for authorization (actual permis- things are" in Anlo-land. Contemporary ethnographer of Ewe culture
sion or a simple blessing) to work and live in the village where we stayed. Judy Rosenthal has also commented (1998:45-47) on the lack of sta-
Some believed that the district assemblyman was the appropriate indi- bility in Ewe social structures and on the variation in practices from one
vidual since he was an elected official; others introduced me to various locale to another, even quoting a fellow scholar who frustratedly com-
chiefs since they were seen as representing the different lineages inhab- mented that in describing Ewe culture "you don't know what to write,
iting the village; and yet another faction took me to meet "the commit- and you can't make a synthesis of your material, because the culture is
tee man" (an individual placed there as part of the Committee in De- not unified."
fense of the Revolution) since this particular group felt aligned with him Working in Anlo-Ewe culture deepened my own belief that cultural
(and admitted they had not even voted in the district assembly election). anthropology cannot be about the production of scientific documents,
These processes of allegiance and orientation, I would suggest, were in- but rather what we leave behind are histories. What we write up, after
tegrally bound up with a person's sense of identity, and they help account extensive fieldwork, arc historically situated texts concerning a set of
(in part) for the heterogeneity of perspectives that I encountered in rela- people in a place during a time when we were present tu witness and
tion to other aspects of life in Anlo-land. In other words, Anlo society document the goings on-an admittedly strange blend of subjectivity and
was quite multifaceted at the time I was there-in terms of political and empiricism. Along the lines of producing a history, in this text I have
social structure as well as in cultural ways. In later chapters I will take opted for a style of presentation that aims for as much specificity in both
up the problem of how processes of identity formation and orientations time and place as I could manage, and I therefore tack back and forth
of the self necessarily involve "effort and reflexivity" (Csordas 1994b) between past tense descriptions and present tense analysis. That is to say,
in ~hat choices and alliances are clearly made within the context of a ethnographic descriptions are usually rendered in the past tense, to in-
specific cultural community. dicate that I am depicting something that occurred in a specific place, at
So while "language and common traditions of origin" (Nukunya a specific time, with a specific group of people, rather than suggesting it
1969b: 1) are a central aspect of what underpins a category of Anlo, it is is a set of behaviors, attitudes, and practices that all Anlo speakers
a grouping that nevertheless contains a great deal of intracultural vari- (throughout all time) would recognize and own. Analytical passages,
ation. It would be awkward and even disingenuous, therefore, to refer however, are generally presented in present tense for ease in reading. 7
to this cultural community as the An/o-implying that it is a monolithic Such writing strategics do not, of course, solve all problems related
and homogenous group. In the text when it seems appropriate to gen- to representing a category called Ania. For one, my presentation makes
eralize, I use the phrase Ania-speaking people or, more narrowly, Ania it appear as though language is the definitive characteristic of being an
.?.6 Anlo-Land and Anlo-Ewc People Anlo-Land and Anlo-Ewe People

Ania person, which is probablr misleading or false, and while it is a very sion, for in the past forty years the ocean had gradually swallowed up
significant marker of what it means to "be Anlo," it is not the only sign. entire sections of Keta, once a booming pore town. In fact, the ocean had
Some people, in fact, have grown up in Accra and speak Ga or Twi as cut through the littoral between Keta and the villages to the cast, thereby
their first language but still consider themselves Anlo because their par- destroying the road and bringing to a halt the traffic that used to travel
ents were born and raised in the Anlo homeland and their entire lineage through Anlo-land to Lome and other parts of Togo. Local people con-
and ancestry is Anlo-hence the "bloodline" criteria for identity. Still tinued to travel by canoe across the twenty-by-twelve-mile lagoon
other individuals speak the An lo-Ewe dialect and live in the Anlo home- (Nukunya 1969b:5). But Keta's loss of causeway and port status added
land, but they actually immigrated there from a Hausa-speaking area in to the poverty of the land and further impelled Anlo people to educate
northern Ghana. So while I include the former as "Ania-speaking peo- their children in the hope that they would be able to participate in the
ple" and exclude the latter, clearly language is not the sole criteria iden- national economy and even to migrate to the West.
tifying those who belong within this group. The point to keep in mind With such an extensive system of water surrounding Anlo-land,
is that Anlo-land is a dynamic place, Anlo-Ewe people are far from ho- fishing was historically the major source of livelihood (Nukunya
mogcnous, and this account represents a small slice of a complex cul- - 1969b:6-7). As a significant factor in the history and socioeconomic life
tural world. 8 of Anlo people, seine fishing (from techniques to the organizational di-
mensions of fishing "companies") was significant and has been described
elsewhere (Hill 1986). Although Ania-speaking people had only been
LAND AND LIVELIHOOD
fishing since they arrived in this area around three hundred years ago
Fish, shallots, and salt have traditionally been the major commodities (e.g., see Greene 1988:73 on historical developments of Anlo fishing),
produced within Anlo-land. While other areas of Ghana contain tremen- they quickly excelled. In fact, Ewe speakers in general and especially
dous wealth in gold, timber, cocoa, aluminum, and so forth, natural re- Anlo-spcaking people have been known to migrate to other coastal areas
sources in Anlo-land in the mid 1990s were rather poor. I was often told throughout West and Central Africa specifically for the fishing opportu-
that for this reason Ania-speaking people would send their children to nities (Nukunya 1969b:6; Greene 1985:83).
school, resulting in a large representation of their people in Ghanaian Shallot cultivation was also a very intensive and widespread occupa-
politics, professions, and civil service (this point will be elaborated in tion in Anlo-land with the products distribured all over Ghana (Hill
chapter 6). 1986:40-41). When living in Anlo-land, I was struck by the sheer
The terrain of Anlo-land was dominated by a water system of ocean, amount of shallots produced in this area, and when they were piled in
the River Volta, smaller creeks, and a lagoon. While the size of Eweland enormous heaps on the side of a road or in a lorry, the aroma was pow-
as a whole was about 10,000 square miles (Locke 1978:1), Anlo-land erful and pervasive. One scholar noted that "this astonishing industry is
alone was merely 883 square miles (Nukunya l969b:2). The northern unique in Ghana-yields being remarkable by any standard. By 1962 it
portion of Eweland included a hilly (somewhat mountainous) forest had developed particularly in an area of 11 500 acres near Anloga" (Hill
zone. The southern (Anlo) area, on the other hand, was lowland with 1986:40). And although dubious about the reliability of this claim, she
mangrove swamps and bulrush bordering the lagoon and savanna grass- states that "yields were said ... to have averaged 4 to 8 tons per acre per
lands on the northern fringes of the territory. People talked of the forested year of dried shallots" (Hill 1986:40). Regardless of the exact quantity
areas that used to exist in Anlo-land proper (e.g., see F. K. Fiawoo 1983 or volume, shallot beds dominated the landscape in certain sections of
about the woods in which criminals were buried), and there was still a Anlo-land.
small amount of thicket or bush-type vegetation along the rivers and In addition to shallots, other (mainly subsistence) crops grown in
creeks, but one of the most pressing problems Ghana faced in the 1990s Anlo-land included maize, cassava, peppers, tomatoes, okra, sugarcane,
was decimation of the forests. This problem was particularly acute in and garden eggs. The primary fruits grown in this area included mango,
Ghana's central forest zone, but Anlo-land too had been affected by se- coconut and banana. Rainfall, however, was scant at an annual rate of
vere loss of trees. A worse problem for Anlo-land, however, was sea ero- about twenty-five to thirty inches (Locke 1978:4). While most written
Anlo-Land and Anlo-Ewe People Anlo-Land and Anlo-Ewe People

accounts of the area claim that heavy rains occur in Ma)' and June and early as chc r96os the implications of the rising water line were noted:
chat a second, lighter rainy season transpires around September and Oc- "The Keta market ... attracts traders and customers from all over Ghana,
tober. people who live in the area reported that for many years little to Togo, Dahomey and Nigeria. But its importance is now decreasing, due
no rain had fallen during September and October and that the amount to the increasing menace of sea erosion, from which it has been suffer-
in May and June had dramatically dropped. Some stated that this situ- ing for a long time" (Nukunya r 969b: 3 ). In the mid 1990s the market
ation was related to the depletion of the forest. In the absence of rain, at Anloga (the traditional and ritual capital of Anlo-speaking people)
farmers watered their crops with buckets of water drawn from wells dug had surpassed that of Keta, but it still did not draw the crowds that used
throughout the fields. to converge on Keta.
The lagoon provided salt, which has historically been a major com- Many Anlo people also held jobs and occupations that were not di-
modity supporting Anlo-speaking communities (Greene 1988). The Keta rectly tied to the land. In the 1960s it was commonly believed that "in
Lagoon was described as a "brackish water, the coastal fringes of which the very near future Anloga will become a major industrial centre be-
evaporate during years of scanty rainfall, leaving large incrustations of cause of the rich deposit of oil recently discovered there" (Nukunya
salt which provide a most important article of trade for the locals. In ex- 1969b:3-4l, .l>ut no level of significant development had yet occurred.
tremely dry years almost the whole area is dried up" (Nukunya 1969b:5). Consequcn'tly, migration out (to work in Accra and.other areas) was
During those times the salt was collected and stored for later distribu- common. Since many Anlo speakers said that their people had always
tion and sale. been good at mixing with other ethnic groups, learning other languages
People in Anlo-land also engaged in animal husbandry on a small and other customs, and adapting to new situations, migration was a
scale, with the most commonly raised creatures being fowls, goats, and strategy used long before their homeland faced erosion due to the sea.
ducks. Occasionally people reared sheep and pigs, but cattle were ex- But this tactic had become particularly relevant during the preceding
tremely rare. Fresh and smoked fish, plus seafood (such as shrimp or decades. Keta used to be a booming port town, and the remnants of this
crabs), were far more common as a product for consumption or trade status could still be seen. Ornately decorated cement block buildings-
than were other kinds of meat. Cats were also raised and consumed pe- some constructed during the nineteenth century-lined i:he streets. But
riodically as a delicacy. very few shops were open, creating the feel and look of a ghost town in
Finally, weaving was another important source of livelihood for many certain respects. What little commerce was now conducted in Anlo-land
people in the Anlo area. Baskets, thick mattresses, and thin mats were had shifred to Anloga. Keta still was home to several schools and the dis-
all produced from various rushes or reeds that grew on the edges of the trict hospital, but Anloga boasted much more activity. So, in addition to
lagoons. Strip woven cloth (the Ewe term was kete, but most Ghanaians living off the land, people in Anlo-land worked as teachers, shoemakers,
called it kente) was another aspect of the weaving industry, though no booksellers, pastors, pharmacists, lorry or taxicab drivers, police officers,
longer accomplished through the use of locally grown materials. That is, tailors, and shopkeepers. The hospital and various clinics employed
at one time cotton was grown in the area and was spun and woven into nurses, doctors, midwives, medical officers, and additional staff. Other
cloth. More recently, however, cloth in the Anlo area was woven from occupations involved the production and sale of food in restaurants, in
imported threads (sec Lamb 1975 and Posnansky 1992 on Ewe cloth). "chop bars," or out of one's home. But there was also ~ fair amount of
All the various commodities mentioned above were bought and sold migration to cities (especially Accra) for other jobs and work in the pro-
in the context of an extensive marketing system (Dzobo 1995). "These fessional sector. In general, Ania-speaking people pursued education
multiple economic activities, and local specialization in certain products, quite seriously, and considering they comprised only 3 or 4 percent of
result in an exchange system among the various localities, which makes the population in Ghana, a surprisingly large number of Anlo speakers
trading an important occupation, especially for women. Indeed, West- was in civil service, at the university, in banking, in law, and so forth.
ermann was led to observe that 'there is hardly any woman who does Merely traveling through Anlo-land allowed a person to see the lack of
not trade.'" (Nukunya 1969b:7). Each locality's market fell on every industry and limited economic opportunities available to Anlo people at
fourth day, so traders made a circuit with their products. However, as the end of the twencieth cencury.
30 AnloLmd .md Anlo-Ewe People r\nlo-Land and Anlo-Ewe People 31

A small market operated daily in the cemer of Sr:>gboe. Major mar-


RESEAl{Cll SETTING: ACCl(A AND THE VI LI.AGE 01' SR=>GBOE
keting activities, however, were conducted at Anyanui every Wednesday
Between 1992 and 1995 I lived for more than twenty months among and at the Anloga and Keca market held every four days. In addition to
Anlo-Ewespeaking people in southeastern Ghana. Originally I had the traditional forms of work such as fishing, farming, and weaving,
planned to conduct a study focused primarily on rural lifeways and based SrJgboe had several small drinking bars, plus railoring and sewing shops,
in a village in the southern Volta Region. I was interested in under- com mills, and a .. fitter," or auto mechanic shop. The other oursrnnd-
standing how traditional medical practitioners know wbat tbe) k11ow- ing features in Sr:igboe were a number of lineage and community-based
about the bod)', illness, diagnosis, and cure-and wanted to study their shrines and several "culr houses" where people who adhered to the re-
use of the five senses. I lived in the former port town of Keta for two ligious sects of Yeve or Hlekete resided. Finally, a random census revealed
months, traveling across the lagoon and into the hinterlands to interview that Sr:>gboe consisted of approximate!)' 78 single houses, plus 63 com-
people and to search for a somewhat isolated village in which I could pounds (with each compound averaging three houses). I estimated the
conduct my study. By the end of my three-month pilot study, I had total population of Sr:>gboe co be about r,200 people in 1994, with a
identified a village that would be suifable. But when I returned to Ghana gender ratio of duce males for everr four females. 9
at the end of 1993, members of the Ania-speaking family that had Once my husband and I had seeded in SrJghoe, invitations and obli-
"adopted" my husband and me opposed our moving to that particular gations to attend events and visit "relatives" in Accra began co pour in.
1>lace. Their stated reasons at the time included not having enough rela- At first I considered these demands intrusive and perceived the family
tives in that area nor a proper house in which my husband and l could that had adopted us as having an undue influence and control over my
reside, and the)' preferred that we live in Kera, which they considered research process. But gradually I began to realize that this back and forth
more "Europeanized." But my persistence in wanting a residence in a lo- between the village and Accra, going from one relative's house to an-
cation they perceived as "typically Anlo" resulted in a compromise. By other, attending to familr obligations and reciprocating the visits of peo-
the beginning of r994 my husband and I had settled in a place called ple who had traveled to see us in the village, was an integral part of being
Sr:>gboe, which is the site of the family's royal or ancestral home. a person in t\11/o ways. w My research gradually took on a rhythm of ex-
Sr:>ghoe was a coastal village with a population (in 1994) of ahour pansion and contraction: outward toward Accra and the metropolis
1,200 people. The lagoon bordered the northern edge of the village, a where I participated in the flow of life of a network of thousands of dis-
creek flowed in from the west, and the ocean lay along the southern bursed Anlo speakers (some visiting Accra from their current homes
boundary. The main road that one traveled to go anpvhere from coastal abroad), and inward to a concentrated setting of village life in the Anlo
Anlo-land out (to Accra, to the regional capital Ho, etc.) cur directly homeland. Other people who resided primarily in the village were also
through Sr:>gboe and linked Sr:>gboe to a line of villages and towns, such traveling cominuallr to and from Accra-for reasons of health, business,
as Anyanui, Anloga, and Keta. At the time I was there, a private clinic births, deaths, and basic family obligations.
run by a doctor and his wife serviced some members of the communit)', A network of Anlo speakers in and around Accra, then, became as
though chc doctor spent a good deal of his time in Accra, and many vil- significant to my research as were the people living in the homeland. My
lagers preferred Anlo-style medicine. Sr::>gboe had two schools located imerest in being a person in t\11/o ways necessitated this shift from my
in its territory, but children from several neighboring villages also at- original intention of a purely rural setting (for the project) to one rha1
tended these two institutions. The Whuti-Sr::>ghoe Post Office serviced included the urban sphere-since personhood and Anlo identities en-
both Sr::>ghoe and the village immediately adjacent co the cast. Electric- compassed both domains. That is, I could not seem to talk to an "urban
ity poles had been raised in the village, hut wires were extended to only Anlo" without mention of the homeland; and I could not seem to talk
a few homes of people who could afford the installation fees and monthly to a "rurnl Anlo" without mention of Accra. While I do not want co give
upkeep. While there was no piped water in the entire Ania region, the the impression that absolutely every individual traveled back and forth
well system was excellent, so drinking and bathing water (as well as (between Accra and Anlo-land) on a regular basis, I would suggest that
water-borne diseases) were not a problem. this process of a contractive and expansive rnmement definitely affected
p. Anlo-Lmd and Anlo-Ewe People Anlo-Land and Anlo-Ewe People
33

every Anlo-spcaking family. Confirming my own sense of the significance laborators, teachers, or friends. For two and a half hours, while driving
of travel to Anlo worlds, Rosenthal has suggested that "Ewe culture trav- from Sr:Jgboe to Accra, we analyzed the ramifications of each word.
els and is a traveling (similar to the reciprocating morion of a film cam- Elaine had read none of the postmodern literature on the reflexive turn
era) as surely as anthropology is. Ewe personhood is a travel narrative" in anthropology, but still she managed to articulate most of the objec-
(Rosenthal 1998:2 7, emphasis added). Her development of the metaphor tions we might find there for referring to someone like herself as an "in-
of Ewe culture and Ewe personhood as a traveling narrative (Rosenthal formant." Finally, she proposed an Anlo-Ewe word, m:Jfialawo, which
1998: 120) is supported by my own account in which I discuss the refers to people who show or teach you the way. M:Jfiala (singular) could
significance of movement, walks, the Anlo-Ewe migration story, and ref- be translated into English as "guide,'" and further underscoring the no-
erences to Anlo-Ewe people who have emigrated to the United States. tion of Ewe culture as a traveling narrative (Rosenthal 1998), we can
So, during our longest stretch of fieldwork, from the end of 1993 and think of m:J{ialawo (the plural) in terms of "those who guide you along
into the middle of 1995, my husband and I traveled from Sr:Jgboe to the path or the road" (m:J: road, path; fia: teach, show; la: forms the
Accra on a regular basis for both business reasons and to fulfill obliga- noun agent). Since it was in the context of their culture that I was try-
tions within the large extended family that had adopted us. In Accra ~e ing to find my way, throughout the text I use this Anlo-Ewe tcrm-
interacted largely with Anlo and Ewe speakers and kept an apartment m:J{ialawo-to refer to people we might otherwise think of as "inform-
in an Ania-speaking compound in the Kokomlemle section of the city. ants." Finally, I do not use anyone's actual name, and I have concealed
The longer we stayed the more frequently we were expected to attend individual's identities by changing personal characteristics. In addition,
funerals, outdoorings, weddings, holiday celebrations, and so on, which several of the m:Jfialawo identified in the book arc composites of two or
required travel back and forth. The more entrenched we became in the more people I interviewed or consulted. In the tradition of certain other
society, the more members of the family we met, and the more interac- Ewe ethnographies, most notably Nukunya's classic Kinship and Mar-
tions we had with Anlo-speaking bankers, accountants, lawyers, doc- riage among the Anlo Ewe ( 1969b), I have retained actual place names
tors, civil servants, contractors, architects, auto mechanics, blacksmiths, and provided an accurate map. _Now let us cum to the language of sen-
professors, drummers, traders, economists, engineers, and so forth. I sory e~perienccs in Anlo worlds.
gradually came to understand that it was futile to try and distinguish be-
tween research with Anlo-speaking people and this traveling process that
is endemic to Ewe culture.
People in Ghana operated largely within ethnic or language-based
networks, and our negotiation of practical aspects of life (exchanging
currency, purchasing household items, having the tires changed on the
car) required a reliance on this network of Anlo-Ewe people. My hus-
band and I became quite close to many of the individuals with whom we
lived and worked, and I therefore had a difficult time thinking of them
as .. informants.'" Elaine worked with me almost daily-making intro-
ductions to people she believed could help me with the study, translat-
ing during formal interviews with chiefs, visiting village midwives and
herbalists in remote areas, and teasing me about coming half-way across
the world to learn about Anlo-Ewe b11ffalo affairs (her code word for
my delight in learning their proverbs). At the end of my stay in Ghana
in 1995, I explained to Elaine that in the book I would be writing I
needed a word that designated the role that she and these others played
in the work that we had done. I asked her opinion of terms such as col-
Ul
z
0
!-<
ca::
<
c..
CHAl'TER 3

Language and Sensory


Orientations

ON THE SEARCH FOR AN INDIGENOUS TERM


OR CATEGORY FOR "THE SENSES"

Among the many mofialawo with whom I w~rked, there seemed to be lit-
tle consensus ab~ut a precise culmral category that we could map into our
domain of the five senses. In fact, at one point in the middle of my research,
I seemed to have nearly as many configurations of sense-data as the num-
ber of people I had interviewed. I was fearful that I would never be able
to make sense of the lexical chaos I seemed to have gathered or generated,
so I made an appointment to meet with Mr. Adzomada. 1
Most Anlo people considered Mr. Adzomada to be one of the fore-
most authorities on their history and cultural traditions, so I was count-
ing on this interview to set things straight. Mr. Adzomada was in his
eighties when my friend Elaine arranged for me to talk with him. She in-
formed me that he relished oranges, so I purchased a dozen in the mar-
ket before traveling to his house on the outskirts of Anloga. At the pres-
entation of the aqutiwo (oranges), he inhaled the fragrance emanating
from the bag and I figured we were off to a good start. When I asked
him a question about the senses, however, he emphatically replied, "We
don't have that in our culture." During this interview and subsequent
conversations, no matter how many different ways I tried to broach the
subject of sensibilia, no matter which language we spoke, and whether
I used a translator or interviewed him by myself, Mr. Adzomada insisted
Lan~uagc anti Scnsoq Oricnra1ions Language and Sensory Orientations

that Anlo-Ewc cultural traditions simply did not involve the cultivarion and organizes the domain" (Lucy r997:i.98). He has argued that stud
of any kind of reificd model of sensory systems that dearly spelled out ics approached in this way "essentially end up showing the distribution
a theory for how we know what we know. He would then mme to in- of the world's languages relative to a fixed set of parameters dr;1wn from
structing me in the themes and morifs about which he believed I needed the Western European scientific tradition .... Language becomes a de-
to learn co understand Anlo history and culture. pendent variable, a device for coding or mapping a pregiven realitr,
I was initially discouraged by Mr. Adzomada. Naturally this was rather than a substantive contributor w its intcrprccation or constitu
somewhat depressing, the more so because the longer I reflected on his tion" (Lucy c997:300). In this vein, the grouping or taxonomy of touch,
position tlrnt "we don't have that in our culture" and the more I exam- taste, smell, hearing, and sight can he seen as a domain chat has been de-
ined the assortment of pieces and chunks of sense-data that emerged veloped largely within a Western European scientific tradition. I decided
from a wide array of interviews, conversations, and observed events, the to collect words used to describe what I considered scientifically as the
more deeply I appreciated the sincerity and truth in what he said. On senses. The lexicon for the senses that I present in this chapter, therefore,
one hand, Anlo cultural traditions have probably never involved an ar coufd be the result of how these terms arc used functionallr in referring
ticulated sensorium-an organized, delineated, almost reified or ob- to the domain of sensory experience, but they may lack "structural co-
jectified account of che bodily modes of gathering information-and it herence on language-internal grounds" (Lucy 1997=:1.99).
seemed almost spurious, then, to write about "an indigenous Anlo sen Only after having returned from the flcld and after analyzing much
sorium." On the other hand, they were clearly using their bodies to of the information I gathered in that initial trip did I realize that Luq's
gather knowledge. Mr. Adzomada looked, listened, touched, rastecl, and proposed "structure-centered approach" is probablr more fruitful for
so forth. research on sensory perception rather than a domain-centered approach
This is a classic anthropological problem. Anthropologists use the (sec Lucy 1997 for an overview). A structure-centered approach involves
word emit: to refer to the use of categories, distinctions, and concepts identifying a difference in structure of meaning between two languages
that are meaningful to people within a particular cultural tradition; by (such as Euro-American English and Anlo-Ewe) and then examining the
contrast, an etic perspective draws on categories, rules, and concepts de- interpretation of reality that is implicit in the structure of meaning that
rived from the outsider's point of view (Geertz 1983:56-57). An out we find in this difference (Lucy 1997:i.96). We would then look for what
sider, however, is necessarily grounded in his or her own respective emic the "language forms volunteer" in the area of sensing and perception
perspective, so etic perhaps more accurately depicts a point of view based and through the patterns of meaning trr to understand "how the world
on Western science. Since an etic perspective is implicitly Western and must appear to someone using such categories" (Lucy 1997:296). From
scientific, scholars might therefore argue that it is meaningless co the the lexicon, then, I move on to consider the implicit internal coherence
members of the culture to which the concepts are being applied. 2 How- of these terms. 3
ever, the real problem is not that dualistic, not really a question of which Unlike other areas of the world, in Anlo-Ewe conrcxts there arc no
pole represents authenticity. Anthropology inhabits the interstitial spaces, ancient (written or recorded) texts that we could peruse for epistemo-
and I maintain that authentic knowledge can be found both in the claims logical clues about their scnsorium. So the excavating of this indigenous
of 1'11y m:ifialawo-that "we don't have that in our culcure"-and in my theory of inner sratcs had to be done by combing through dictionaries,
own position that there docs indeed exist an Anlo cultural category that by listening to proverbs, and b)' scrutinizing conversations and notes
includes sensory experience. from my observations of habitual forms of bodily practicc. 4 Since a con-
I decided that to proceed I should use John Lucy's discussion of lan- sensus (in the strict use of the term) did not seem to emerge around a
guage variability as a model. In his work on linguistic relativity, Lucy ex specific set of senses, I finally chose polrvocality in my efforts to repre
plains, "A domain-centered approach begins with a certain domain of sent their scnsorium. That is to say, after interviews with dozens of peo-
experienced reality and asks how various languages encode or construe ple, I still did not have a definitive and finite set of sensory modalities
it. Usually the analysis attempts to characterize the domain independ- with specific names, and I often found disagreement over terminology
emly of language(s) and then determine how each language selects from and the parameters of individual senses. I found, however, that I could
Language and Sensory Oricmations Language and Sensory Orientations .p

make a kind of (provisional) inventory of sensory fields, and char is what Seselelame (which can be translated loosely as "feeling in the body")
I present below. is best understood in reference to what Thomas Csordas has called "so-
matic modes of attention" ( 199 3). By this phrase Csordas is referring to
"culturally elaborated ways of attending to and with one's body in sur-
CULTURAL CATEGORIES AND THE
roundings that include the embodied presence of others" or "culturally
DOMAIN OF FEELING IN THE BODl'
elaborated attention to and with the body in the immediacy of an inter-
In the late nineteenth century, Diedrich Westermann compiled an Ewe- subjective milieu" (1993:138-139). And he elaborates:
German dictionary (published in 1905), which was subsequently trans-
lated into English in the 1920s, and the term sense was rendered in Ewe Because we are not isolated subjectivities crapped within our bodies, but
share an intersubjecrive milieu with others, we must also specify that a so-
as sidzenu (Westermann 1973( 1928):214). When I first arrived in Anlo- matic mode of anencion means nor only anenrion to and with one's own
land in the early to mid 1990s, I tried to use this term to refer to a do- body, bur includes anention to the bodies of others. Our concern is the cul-
main of experience that includes hearing, touch, taste, smell, and sight, tural elaboration of sensory engagement, not preoccupation with one's own
but I soon found myself in the mid~le of a massive problem of transla- bo<ly as an isolated phenomenon. (Csordas 1993:139, emphasis added)
tion. Sidz.enu meant neither that set of experiences nor did it refer to an .
indigenous cat.egory of immediate bodily experiences that were mean- r4 Seselelame is an ideal illustration of a culturally elaborated way in which
ingful to the people with whom I worked. Sidz.enu instead meant some- many Anlo-speaking people attend co and read their own bodies while
thing along the lines of "thing recognized" (dz.esi: to note, observe, rec- simultaneously orienting themselves to objects, to the environment, and
ognize; nu: thing) and therefore implied a somewhat mentalistic and to the bodies of those around them. le is difficult co make a direct trans-
cognitive (rather than embodied) process or phenomenon. In addition, lation inro English of the term seselelame, for it refers to various kinds of
within the network of Ania-speaking people with whom I worked (which sensory embodiment that do not fit neatly into Euro-American categories
included highly educated people who spoke both African and European or words. On one hand, it seems to refer to a specific sense or kind of
languages, as well as individuals who had little exposure to either for- physical sensation chat we might call tingling in the skin (sometimes a
mal schooling or European languages), no m:flala ever proposed or even symptom of impending illness), but in other instances it is used to describe
passively agreed to the word sidz.enu as a translation for the English word sexual arousal, heartache, or even passion. In other contexts it refers to
sense. I soon came to realize that one discrete lexical term for "the a kind of inspiration (to dance or to speak), but it can also be used to de-
senses" did not seem to exist in the Anlo-Ewe language. scribe something akin to intuition (when unsure of exactly how you are
For example, one m:ifiala suggested chat senses could be called coming by some information). Finally, people used it to refer to a gener-
nusenuwo (1111: thing; se: to hear, feel; nuwo: things), which means alized (almost synesthetic) feeling in or through the body, and it was pro-
roughly "things with which you can hear or feel things." Later he ex- posed by some as a possible translation for the English tcnn sense.
panded the designation to l)lltila nusenuwo (l)ltti: exterior; la: flesh; (qu- Many people think of perception as cognitive and sensation as phys-
tila: human or animal body]; 1111: thing; se: to hear; nmvo: things), which ical, but seselelame actually straddles th'ft (upposed divide. In learning
can be translated as .. bodily phenomena with whid1 you can hear (or and employing the Ewe language, I usually translated the v~rb se or sese
feel, taste, smell, understand, and obey)." Another person described sens- mainly as hearing or feeling (although in certain contexts it could be used
ing in general as nusiwo kpena qe mia l)llti hafi mienyaa m1si le d!:iCV.:im to mean tasting, smelling, understanding, or obeying and also could be
c[e mia d!i, which can be translated as "things that help us to know what used in reference to knowing, hearing, or comprehending a language).
is happening (on) to us. " 5 Sensing was expressed by yet another Anlo- 1 But an _ve linguist recently suggested to me that se could actually be
speaking person with the phrase a/eke nese le lame, which means "how considered a basic perception verb, and he then translated the term se-
you feel within yourself" or "how you feel in your body." But the ex- se-le-la-me as "feel-feel-at-flesh-inside. " 6 So if se (in very broad terms) is
pression that seemed co be used most frequently was the very compli- "to perceive," we could also render se-se-le-la-me as "perceive-perceive-
cated and polysemous term seselelame. at-flesh-inside"-suggesting that seselelame then houses the cognitive
.p Language and Sensory Orientations Language and Sensory Orientations
43

funccion of perception as well as che somacic phenomenon of sensation scnsacion, cognition, or imagination), attention to the connections
(inside the flesh). seemed to be valued, and seselelame was often used as the meta term for
In addition, seselelame is also used in connection with certain emo- many if not most of these inner states of being.
tional states. As one m:ifiala explained (in English): "You can feel hap This point is illustraccd in the following quote from an interview with
pincss in your body, )'Ou can feel sorrow in your body, and you can feel Raphael, whom I ofccn talked with during my visits to Accra. He grew
ocher things, like cold. Seselelame describes all of these things because it up in Anyako, held two master's degrees from the Uni\ersitr of Ghana,
is l1earing or feeling in tlie body. Mesi le lame is what we say. 7 So from and subsequently earned his living as an architect. Herc he explains how
that we just made a verbal noun: sese/elame." And later he explained it seselelame, sidzedze, and gomesese arc related (though slightly different)
through the experience of going to the theater: "You go and watch it, experiences or phenomena.
and you feel something inside. You hear music, sec the actors act very
If you say sidzcdze-in this case we arc relating it to the \'arious senses thac
well, and you feel something inside. You applaud, get up and dance, or we have mentioned in the Western sense (hearing, touch, taste, smell, and
shout something. That is a feeling and it comes through seselelame." sightl-so if you say siclzedw1111 we mean in effect chat you have actually
Elaine was my main research assistant and translated for me when I taken the thing to mind or you have actuallr observed th'i situation,
conducted formal interviews with chiefs, herbalists, midwives, and so analyzed it and realized that no, this is the thing .... In every level of the
forth. She served as a central guide, or m:J(iala, for me in 1992 and then senses you can use it. Uccause it is like I said: you observe and then you an-
alyze the situation with your brain to find out why that sensation, why that
again from 1993 into 1995. In one of our many tape-recorded conver-
seselelame? (For example:] They sar that this l:uly has been knocked down
sations, Elaine described the range of ways she thinks about experiem.:es by a car. The man, her husband, is a good friend of n1inc. Your sense will
of seselelame: tell you that rou ha\e to visit them and express sympathy. Your brain has
quickly worked and actually told you your sympathy is called for at that
Seselelame can be a pain or a pleasure. I can feel pain in the hod); I can enjoy point in time. So we would say you have realized it yourself. So it
another thing in the body. Somebody might be-excuse me-holding my [seselclamel is like sidzechem1-it {sidzeclzemtl is an advanced form of scsc-
breast and then I feel, you know, I enjoy it. So that's sesclelame.. Lame is lelame.... Gomesese is understanding ... and is also nor roo different
the flesh, in the body. l.ame vim: I'm feeling pains in my body. Oh, /eke ttye because when you have a sensation-some source of seselelame-)'Oll must
dokome.dticlt:J k/1:J111: I am happy. Nye l'!me koe dticlt:J kp:'111: I am happ)' analrze and understand what that thing can create within )"OU or within the
within myself. Sese is hearing-not hearing by the ear but a feeling type hear other inmates of the house. So it is a message, an external message, that
ing .... Yes, se~elelame means feeling in the body but esia kple to means with you get and you have to-in a way-analyze it properly.
the car. Same spelling, same pronunciation, hue different meaning. Esia? Do
you hear? Esi le lame? Do you feel it in your body? ... Before you know that
you arc not well, you have to feel something in the lame.... You wake up Raphael's explanation demonstrates the close links among sensation,
and then you feel that, 'Oh, I'm not fine.' That means that you are feeling perception, emotion, cognition, and so forth and indicates how sesele-
something inside you. Seselelame qeve. Nye me/i uy11ie egbe o. Seselelamc /ame is best understood utilizing numerous categories or analytic tools.
ema. [Which means:! 'There is an aching, painful feeling in my body. I'm not Defying the divide between physical sensation and mental processes of
well, not feeling fine toda)". That is that feeling in mr body.' ... Sometimes perception, cognition, and imagination, seselelame is an indigenous cat-
you feel tiredness or a headache; you feel it through your body-seselelamc.
It's through the body that you know you're not fine. ego~y that bridges such traditional (perhaps Western-based) opposi-
tions.8 Secondly, Raphael comments that one must analyze and imag-
These discussions reveal that painful and pleasurable sensations along ine what the "messages" (messages that might otherwise be called
with emotional inspiration and physiological indications of illness are sensations, emotions, and intuitions) create within you and within the
all considered part of the category of seselelame. They can often blend other people in the house-revealing the intersubjectivc characteristic
together in people's experience or in their ideas about experience. So of seselelt1me, or how it is a way of "attending to and with one's body
while different words might be employed at different times (in Anlo- in surroundings that include the embodied presence of others" (Csor-
speaking contexts) to distinguish certain phases of experience (such as das 1993:138-139).
Language and Sensory Orientations Language and Sensory Orientations 45

vi\ing dogma") of the links among sensing, affect, dispositions, and vo-
EXPLORATIONS OF AN INDIGENOUS ANLO SENSORIUM
cational qualities.
If seselelame is a cultural category, then what is contained within this But reports of immediate bodily experiences associated with sesele-
class or domain? The answer to this question is not straightforward. It lame that I discussed with various Anlo speakers did not amount to a
requires both further research at the ethnographic level and extensive clear reflection of the structural pattern that I have outlined. Instead, a
discussion of the assumptions embedded in the "category as container" gestalt of all the bodily experiences and inner states that various
metaphorical concept deeply entrenched in Western philosophical m:>fialawo offered in relation to seselelame includes the following: 11us-
thought (cf. Lakoff and Johnson 1999: 51, 341 ). Here I will limit my dis- ese: aural perception or hearing; agbagbaqoc[o: a vestibular sense, bal-
cussion to a cursory account of this issue and then turn to several in- ancing, and equilibrium from the inner ear; az:Jliz:>z:> or az:>li11u: kincs-
depth examples of specific pcrceptory domains that will illustrate some thesia, walking, or a movemcm sense; also 1111/ele: a complex of tactility,
of the unique ways in which a category of immediate bodily experiences contact, touch; m1kp:>kp:>: visualitr or sight; 1111q:>c[:J and 11uc[:>c[:>kp:J:
is delineated and elaborated within Anlo cultural worlds. terms used to describe the experience of tasting; mwevese: olfactory ac-
One way to think about the kinds of phenomena that fall within the tion or smell; and finally, nufofo: orality, vocality, and talking (the prefix
catego.ry of seselelame is to look at the larger class of words to which 1111- in this case means "mouth" rather than "thing"). Furthermore, sese-
sense terms belong. This suggests that as the Ewe language evolved (it is lelame was provided as a specific sense by many people, in addition to
genetically related to the languages Fon and Yoruba), there was an en- serving as a descriptor for a class of experiences.
coding of a perceived relationship among ontological states of sensation, Here it is useful to borrow from research on the cultural psychology
emotion, disposition, and vocation. Sapir suggested ( 1921:100) that of emotion in our effort to better understand the cultural grounding of
"{l)inguistic categories make up a system of surviving dogma-dogma sensation. For example, Shweder suggests (1993:418) that we think
of the unconscious." In the Ewe language, sense words such as hearing, about the problem of "What is the generic shape of the meaning system
tasting, and seeing seem to belong to a larger class of words beginning that defines an experience as an emotional experience (cg. anger, sad-
with the prefix nu- (which can be translated as "thing"). 9 The following ness, or shame) rather than an experience of some other kind (eg. mus-
sensation terms begin with 11u-: nusese (hearing), nulele (touching), 11u- cle tension, fatigue, or emptiness)?" The same question can be asked in
<Jpc[:J (seeing), 11uc[:>c[:>kp:> (tasting) and 11ur:er:esese (smelling). In addition, regard to the senses: What is the generic shape of the meaning system
some words denoting emotions or affective states begin with 11u-, such that defines an experience as sensory rather than as an experience of
as 1mxaxa (grief, sorrow), 11ugbem1gbe (pain, rage, being beside oneself
some other kind? 1 For example, a problem I raised in chapter 1 con-
with anger or joy), nublanuikp:>kp:> (compassion, mercy, commiseration), cerns why balance is deemed "sensory" in one cultural meaning system,
and 11udrod!ro (desirous, covetous). Furthermore, certain dispositional while it is postural, locomotive, or a mocor skill in another. And what
states attributed to persons also begin with 1111-, for instance mw:>w:>la does this reveal in relation to an An lo-Ewe theory of knowing? One point
(a person who sins), mwela (a person who is economical or miserly), 11u- is that their category of seselelame may be quite fluid in both temporal
biala (a person who begs and asks for things), nunyala or 11u11yat:> (a per- and spatial terms, and it may have changed significantly during contact
son who is wise and knowing), and nubla11uit:> (a person who is de- with Europeans-with the influence of European languages, typologies,
plorable, miserable, or unfortunate). Finally, many vocational descriptors and categories and with European philosophical thought. How sesele-
also begin with nu-: nufiala (teacher), nutula (blacksmith), nut:>la (tai- lame is conceived and employed may also differ significantly from one
lor), and mmzela (potter). While there seems to be a social interpretation community of Anlo-Ewe people to the next.
implicit in this grouping, such a formal analysis needs confirmation from However, most of the Anlo speakers I worked with seemed to think
additional ethnographic evidence of how these ideas arc reflected in of sensing as "feeling in the body" (seselelame) and as "bodily ways of
speakers' behavior (Lucy 1997:296). However, these structural similar- knowing what is happening to you" (qutila 11use1111wo). Their concep-
ities may suggest relationships or associations that are embedded in the tualization of seselelame did not specify that the "information," or what
language, thereby pointing to an archaic notion (Sapir's "system of sur- was to be known, had to originate in a source outside the body. This is
I
L;mguagc and Sensor~ Orientations I Language and Sensory Orientations 47

quite diffcrcm from the Western folk model (bm surprisingly similar co az:J/iz;,z ., or az:>litm: kinesthcsia, walking, or a movement sense
some Western sensor)' sciemists}. Many Westerners make fairly clear dis- 1111/cle: a complex of tactiliq, contact, touch
tinctions between external senses (hearing, touch, taste, smell, sight) and
11uk/1.-,kf':J: visuality or siglu
internal senses (balance, kinesthesia, proprioception) and then emotion
(anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, surprise)--cspccially in our intellec- mic/pcl:> and muf:>qpk/1 ..,: terms used w describe the experience of
tual models. An lo speakers did not seem to limit their definition of sens- tasting
ing 10 a category describing only the physical instruments used for as- tmvei:cse: olfactory action or smell
sessing the external environment. Instead, they also included wa)'S of 1111/ofo: oralit}', vocality, and talking
monitoring internal states (interoccption) in sesclclame.
seselelame: feeling in the body; also synesthesia and a specific skin
I want to make clear, however, that Anlo speakers can distinguish be-
sense
tween cxtcroceptors and intcroccptors, or external and internal types of
sensing. 11 Their set of senses could almost be divided into two broad
groups: those components that begin with the prefix 1111-, meaning thing With that O\'ervicw, I will now turn to in-depth descriptions and discus-
sions of the various sensory fields ollllined.
or object, and the ones that do not contain mt- (plus an in-between ur
oddball sense of 1mfofo, or speech). All of the terms prefixed by the mt-
that means "thing or object" concern apprehending something external
NUSESE: AUDITION AND TllE AHil.ITY TO HEAit
(note that the mt- in tmfofo [speech I is pronounced with a different tone
and means "mouth"), while the other components (balance, movcmem Ewe is a tonal language, and slight inOections of pitch in single sylla-
or kinesthcsia, and seselelame, or senses of the skin) concern monitor- bics or the pronunciation of words can produce dramatic differences
ing internal states. in meaning or render an utterance completely incomprehensible. In ad-
Finally, while we may he ahle to say that exteroception is the primary dition, people evocatively play with the sounds of language for humor
orientation of a sensorium intellectually rcificd and popularly objectified as well as for sober events such as funerals (e.g., Agawu r99 5; Anyi-
in Euro-American contexts, it seems to be the case that in relative terms doho 1983; Avorgbedor 1983, 1994; Awoonor 1975). As a native Eng-
an almost opposite orientation (toward interoception, monitoring and lish speaker, when I express myself in Ewe the utterances arc so rich
stabilizing the internal environment) is more important within Anlo- that it feels like singing. Sound, in general, is arguably the most dy-
speaking contexts. This concern with valuation, or a relative hierarchy namic sensory field in not only Anlo-Ewe contexts but in many West
of senses, governs, to a certain extent, how the various components of African cultures (see Stoller 1989h:ro1-122; Peck 1994). Kofi Agawu,
their sensorium arc presented in the following section. I do not propose in fact, presents a soundscape for his beautiful book describing the
that the list should be seen as a rigid typology or a strict hierarchy, but rhythmic experience and rhythmic expression of people in northern
I am suggesting that some of the initial modalities are more highlr val- Eweland ( 199 5 ). And Daniel Avorgbedor ( 2000) has written eloquently
ued among Anlo speakers than those discussed coward the end. This issue on che "ontology of rnnmlilf Anto=Ewe culture" and on the "phc-
of ranking and classification, or valuation and privileging, is necessarily nomenolog}' of sound and its consequences." Avorgbcdor even lays out
complicated and will be taken up again at the end of the chapter when and describes different classes of sound forms that arc appropriate to
I revisit the sensotypc hypothesis of social psychologist Mallory Wober. differing Anlo-Ewc social sirnations, especially in relation to the use of
Given the various disclaimers just covered, a provisional account of sound in ritual healing. Given rhe profound role of sound in the cul-
an indigenous Anlo scnsorium includes the following components: tural experiences of Anlo-spcaking people, it may seem that auralicy
docs nor receive enough attention in my study. But this is in part be-
1111sese: aural perception or hearing cause others have written about music, rhythm, and sound in Ewe con-
agbagbac[oc[o: a vestibular sense, balancing, equilibrium from the texts, anJ my book aims to balance the scales by engaging the entire
inner car sensorium. 12
Language and Sensorr Orientations Language and Sensory Orientations 49

In the areas of Anlo-land in which I worked, the Ewe term tmsese de- An Anlo-Ewe speaker might comment on how delicious a soup
noted "hearing" or "audition" in the strict sense of the word, but it also smelled by stating, "Mese detsi la fe ve1~." The customary translation
signified a more general "sensibility" or "sentiment," as in a kind of would be "I smell the soup's aroma," but since the sentence contains the
ethos. "To hear" was expressed using the root word se, but se was noc lexical term se, we could translate the comment into English as "I hear
limited to sounds perceived and understood through their entrance into the soup's aroma." In fact, I often heard Anlo-Ewe speakers express
the ear alone. Se also was used to express feeling something (perhaps themselves in English using the term hear in circumstances where native
emotionally) or experiencing tastes or smells or to convey a deep un- speakers would use the word smell. It would be easy to dismiss this par-
derstanding: an obedience, compliance, or adherence to some phenom- ticular discrepancy as a mere lack of fluency in the English language. But
enon. Hearing, or nusese, therefore, occurred and was experienced in I believe that the larger picture suggested the possibility that different
more parts of the body than simply the ear. embodied experiences and different cultural logics were at work here.
Almost all terms proposed by various Anlo speakers as potential Anlo-speaking people with whom I spoke did not seem to experience or
translations for a categorical word for "the senses," in fact, contained conceptualize perceptual processes as restricted to five discrete channels.
this root word se. For instance, seselelamc (sese: hearing; le: within; lame: Phenomena such as "hearing in the skin" or "hearing odor" were not
body, .flesh, skin) implied tftat this sensation occurred more generally merely problems of language and translation but suggested a difference
within the body (or in the sense organ referred to as skin) rather than in embodied experience or aspects of a different being-in-the-world (to
merely in the ear. 13 Likewise, the term l)tttila nusenuwo (translated as use Merleau-Ponty's phrase), which was fundamentally aural (cf.
"flesh-embedded or bodily phenomena with which you can hear, feel, Avorgbedor 2000 for a phenomenology and an ontology of sound in
taste, smell, or understand and obey") drew on this same seas the ac- Anlo-Ewe).
tive aspect, or the dynamic dimension, of the idiom. Therefore, while the
term nusese in its simplest function connoted "hearing" or "to hear"
AGBAGBADODQ AS A VESTIBULAR SENSE:
(things), tmsese actually permeated (linguistically, conceptually, and phe-
ON BALANCING AND THE INNER EAR
nomenologically) nearly every other zone of the sensorium. In the 1920s
Westermann discerned (in compiling an Ewe dictionary) that Anlo-Ewe Many West Africans are often seen (in photographs, films, and in per-
sensibilities were fundamentally aural or at least fundamentally grounded son) balancing an object on top of their heads while walking through a
in a concept they referred to as nusese (1973[ 1930):2.62). Etymologi- market or down a road: a basket filled with mangos, a bucket of water,
cally, nusese was more akin to older meanings of the English term aural, a tray of carefully stacked oranges, a bundle of firewood, or even a bag
which referred to air, breeze, vibration, radiation, and so forth and which of cement. In Sr:>gboe, children often transported their desks atop their
could be discerned as much through the skin, eyes, and nose as through heads on the way to and from school.
the ear. Agbagbacf.oc[o denoted balancing a load and a sense of balance in the
Hearing, as we typically conceptualize it in modem Western terms, Anlo-Ewe language, and in his dictionary Westermann ( 197 3 ( 19i.81) in-
then, is not a very precise gloss for the more far-reaching nmese. For ex- dicated two slightly different applications typically attributed to this
ample, many Euro-Americans tend to associate auras with a sense of vi- term. In the first place the verb <[o ag/Jagba meant "to carry something
sion, we believe that aural phenomena are perceived through the car, and on the head without touching it with the hands" or "to balance" (West-
we consider aromas to come through the nose. Our forebears, however, ermann 1973(1928):82.), and the form agbagbac[oc[o then translated into
probably conceptualized these sensory experiences as more similar than English as "balancing." The second use, however, concerned a stage in
we do today, which would explain their etymological grounding in the early childhood development, explained as "to make the first attempts
Greek aer, which is the term for air. As Classen explains ( 1993b:56) in in walking (of a child)" (Westermann 1973( 1928):82.). Anlo-Ewe speak-
her study of the senses and language, a "perceived similarity of sound ers with whom I discussed this issue corrected Westermann. They ex-
and scent probably has to do with the fact that both are experienced as plained that it was not the first steps taken in walking but rather a baby's
carried on the air." act of raising up on two feet and not falling over, thus another way to
--------

so Language and Sensory Orientations Language and Sensorr Orientations

describe balancing. This skill, acquired in infancy, was so important that it an inappropriate gloss for a movement sense. However, an Ewe lin-
to never learn how to do it indicated the individual was an animal-con- guist clarified that z:> docs have to do with movement first and fore-
tinuing to crawl or move on all four legs. So for many Anlo-speaking most, so chat zo is not used exclusively to talk about human walks, but
people agbagbac[oqo, or balancing, was an essential part of their defini- a snake can also be said to z:> (move). 1-1 The technical term ki11esthesi~-~
tion of what it meant to be human. In fact, Anlo traditional religious be- implies perception through movement in the joints, muscles, and ten-
liefs included an understanding of evolutionary changes that occurred dons of the entire bodr, not just at the locus of the legs in the course
and separated humans from other animal life. That is, some Anlo-speak- of walking. While additional terms could be used to depict other sorts
ing people believed that standing upright, balancing and moving on two of movement (such as IXllXl}, many Anlo speakers associated the phe-
legs, was one of the major characteristics that distinguished us from other nomena of generalized movement (of living bodies} with the term z:>-
animals. to walk, to travel, to move. In fact, walking (azolizozo or az.?limt) car-
The vestibular sense, therefore, was an important dimension of t11<; ried such significance that the Anlo-Ewe language contained dozens of
phenomenology of perception among Anlo-spcaking peoples. Further- ways of symbolically essentializing the style or the manner in which a
more, l\S I will show when discussing "Being without Senses" in chapter person walks or moves. For instance, zo lug11illg11 referred to walking
9, some Anlo-speaking people believed loss of hearing was the most as if drunk; walking kadzakadza implied the majestic movement of a
grave impairment of sensory perception because with this loss would lion. In addition, a person could possess "walking about eyes" {tsa l)ku)
come a disruption to their sense of balance. Hearing and balance were or "walking about hands" {Isa asi). This issue of a lexicon for essen-
two of the most valued sense modalities and warrant placement at the tializing different styles of walk forms the basis of an extended exam-
beginning of an Anlo sensorium. In fact, Avorgbcdor (2.000:9) links the ple in the next chapter, but the point here is that movement was con-
two by arguing that Anlo-Ewe people "frequently employ the 'hidden' sidered by many Anlo speakers to fit within a category of feeling in the
and manifest properties of a variety of sound forms in their ritual per- body and to be a significant somatic and sensory experience.
formances that seek to restore balance or health in individual biophysi- Furthermore, walking was not simply a method of transport or a
ologies or in an entire village community." For many Anlo people, bal- purely practical thing, for it involved movement and gestural motion
ance and hearing seem to be closely linked. that emanated from the whole body. For example, women through-
out West Africa strap their infants to their backs within a piece of
cloth carefully wrapped around their torsos. One Ania-speaking

I
AZ:JLIZ:JZ:J OR AZ:JLINU:
m:J{iala explained this practice by stating, "You cannot walk if you
WALKING AS KINESTHESIA AND A MOVEMENT SENSE
have a baby occupying your arms." To prove her wrong I promptly
The English term kinesthesia comes from the Greek words kinein, which picked up her granddaughter, held the child against my shoulder, and
means "to move," and aisthesis, which means "perception." Kinesthe-
sia is therefore perception through movement, or more technically un-
. walked across the room. She took the child from me and sec her on
the ground, then molded my arms into a slightly bent position and
derstood as "a sense mediated by end organs located in muscles, ten- delivered further instructions in the proper manner for an Anlo
dons, anCI joints and stimulated by bodily movements and tensions, also woman to walk. In this exchange I learned that az:Jliz:JZ:J was not lim-
sensory experience derived from this sense" (Woolf 1977:635). In the ited to the propelling action of the legs, but involved choreographic
West, few people typically recognize or know much about this sense, but dynamics implicating the whole body. Furthermore, many Anlo-

I
it is a phenomenon commonly understood and discussed among dancers. speaking people maintained that a person's character was revealed in
Like dancers, many Anlo-spcaking people valued movement and believed his or her walk or mode of comportment: the moral fiber of a person
that much could be perceived and understood by and about a person was embodied and expressed in the way that he or she moved. The
through his or her carriage or walk. term awlime referred literally to the way or style in which a person
Since Westermann (1973(1928):2.99) indicated that the Anlo-Ewe moved and behaved, while it also denoted manner or course of life,
word az:Jliz:Jzo meant walking, marching, or gait, I initially considered deportment, nature, and disposition (Westermann 1973(1928):2.99). 15
Language and Sensory Orientations Language and Sensory Orientations n
Az.:>liz:Jz:> (moving), and bodily gesture in general, were so important had a certain correspondence to the various ways of conceptualizing pro-
to Anlo-speaking peoples, in fact, that they invested chis sensory prioception.
sphere with ideas of morality. In the opening chapter I explained chat proprioception is an English
term chat refers co an additional sense modality, and yet different defini-
SESELELAME AS SPECIFIC SENSATIONS, tions of this term exist. Some people define proprioceptors as nerves chat
AS SYNESTHESIA, AND AS A METASENSE keep a person "informed of what is taking place as he works his mus-
cles" (Hall c966: 55 ). In more technical terms, proprioception means "che
The term seselelame can be glossed as "hearing or feeling within the body, reception of stimuli produced within the organism" (Woolf 1977:924),
flesh, or skin," a more specific usage than described above. Se means "to and psychologists sometimes define proprioception as "the sense of body
hear, feel, taste, smell, understand, and obey," and when doubled to sese position and movement" (Aronoff et al. 1970:692.). These definitions
it becomes "hearing or feeling (tasting, understanding, etc.)." Le + lame make it difficult co distinguish kinesthesia from proprioception, as both
can be interpreted several ways but seems to derive from le and me (or le seem to depict sensations related to motion and movement. In the Ox-
eme), meaning "within," and la, which means "meat, flesh, or skin." ford English Dictionary~ proprioceptive is defined as "activated by, per-
Lame (in the skin, or in the flesh) can also be a word for the "body" taining to, or designating stimuli produced within the organism by move-
proper, so seselelame can. be glossed as "hearing [with)in the body" or ment or tension in its own tissues, as in muscle sense," while kinesthesia
"hearing or feeling [with Jin the flesh or skin." This detailed explanation is defined as "the sensation of bodily position or of strain or movement
seems necessary in part because (as I mentioned earlier in the chapter) of the muscles, tendons, etc., of one's body." Some people seem to use
Westermann did not include seselelame in his dictionary. Some of the peo- these two terms interchangeably, but for me they are separable. I think
ple I consulted speculated that the word seselelame was not used when of kinesrhcsia as (interoception) located primarily in the joints and liga-
Westermann did his work in the early twentieth century, but others in- ments, while I think of proprioception as (sensory stimulation) located
sisted that seselelame was an ancient word that was used by their grand- priprnrily in the muscles and skin. 16 The sensations would he distinct if
father's grandfathers ad infinitum. Some people suggested that recogni- a person learned to attend differentially to the stimulated sites. How then
tion of this word depended upon which village or locale a person was does this relate to Anlo-Ewe categories?
from, as lexical terms varied significantly in places merely ten miles apart. To answer the question of whether kineschesia and proprioception arc
Nonetheless, every Anlo-speaking person I consulted comprehended the useful concepts to employ when attempting co understand Anlo percep-
word seselelame-though they claimed to employ it in more or less dif- tual worlds, I must first jump ahead a moment and open the next win-
ferent ways and with differing frequency. dow, which looks into the sensory domain of tactility, contact, and touch.
One usage of the term seselelame can be illustrated with the follow- When many Euro-American people talk about touch they often initially
ing three situations. First, when a person was falling in love or was sex- relate it to the fingertips and hands, but upon asking them to consider
ually attracted to another person, Anlo speakers often mentioned phys- skin as a sensory organ they usually suggest that the skin's function is
ical sensations and charged feelings that occurred simply at the thought clearly related to touch. In scientific terms, however, skin actually houses
of the person or mention of the person's name. They attributed this ag- at least three sensory modalities: pain receptors, thermal (~emperature)
itation or these perceptions to seselelame. Second, when drummers beat receptors, and receptors for tactility or touch (Pieron 19 5 i.; Rivlin and
out rhythms such as agbadza (a particular Ewe form of music and dance) Gravelle 1984:3i.-33).l7This implies that humans have the potential to
and a person felt inspired to dance, many Ania-speaking people sug- distinguish between the following five discrete sensory fields: kinesthc-
gested that it was seselelame that moved the person into the circle. Third, sia, proprioception, pain, temperature, and couch. Anthropological ques-
when a person's "bones ached" and he or she felt a tingle in the skin and tions would then be whether any or all of these sensibilia have been cul-
sensed a sickness coming on, this was seselelame indicating that the per- tivated within the perceptual orientations of different cultural traditions
son was about to come down with an illness or become sick. Each of and how different peoples symbolically conceptualize and delineate these
these three cases contained a clearly physical and tangible dimension and perceptual phenomena. In the case of Ania-speaking peoples, many in-
Language .111d Sensory Orientations 55
Language and Slnsor~ Orientations

ing information not through their cars bur throughout their entire being;
di\iduals with whom I consulted made the following distinctions: what
the)' somehow '"knew something" but could not really account for how
Western science calls kinesthesia was a sense b) itself, generally referred
they knew ic. This kind of seselelame was considered deeper and more
to as az::>/iz::>z::i or az::ili1m; Anlo speakers placed what we consider pro-
mysterious than specific bodily sensations and was not necessarily at-
prioception, pain receptors, and thermal receptors inro a different do-
tributed ro them. This kind of seselelame was also more difficult for peo-
main and used the term seselelame as a sec of more or less specific sen-
ple to describe than when they experienced, for instance, specific sensa-
sations or what might he better translated as "feelings"; and thcv
tions in the skin. Some even expressed a fear of danger surrounding mere
considered most caccilc receprors co be mdelc.
attempts to put these experiences into words.
A reference point might be useful here, so before exploring Anlo sys-
tems in further detail, I will try to show how many Euro-Americans tend
to conceptualize these five phenomena. \Y/e tend to categorize the ther- NUl.ELE: A COM I' LEX OF TACTII.ITY, CONTACT, AND TOUCH
mal and the tactile receptors under a word we call toucb; pain is defined
While gathering information on sensory experiences in Anlo-land, the
as something distinct from or completely outside of the five senses; and
phenomenon I think of as "touch" was probably the most problematic .
. proprioception is something very few of us think about or name, hut
There seemed co be a profusion of expressions for what ali seemed to be
when we experience proprioceptive stimulation we attribute it to a purely
"tactility." Translation into my own experience and cognitive framework
muscular or mystical source. The meaning of "muscular or mystical"
prmcd to be extremely confusing, and I frequently made mistakes in
source for proprioception, will become more clear after I explain vari-
comprehension, expression, and interpretation. Taking this as a sign of
ous nuances of scsclelame.
the complexity of this sensory arena, mr own model (while representing
In discussing seselelame with Ania-speaking peoples in a variety of
a disrillation of a large array of information about sensations and expe-
places, such as Accra, Keta, Srogboe, DzelukoJe, Anloga, and elsewhere,
riences related to touch) is offered as a provisional scheme.
I collected a profusion of expbna.tions and examples of what it meanr.
Five root words appeared over and over again in my observations and
One usage of sesclelamc referred rather specifica.lly to a kind of skin- and
discussions about touch, and the)' arc arranged phenomenologically into
muscle-based feeling, like proprioception. A more general usage of sese-
a kind of continuum of intensit)'. In its barest simplicity, the continuum
lelame, however, was more like inruition or extra.sensory perception. This
consisted of Ii (caress), ka (contact), le (seize), t:> (push), and Jo (strike).
second type of seselelame struck me as rather synesthetic, resulting from
Initially I was reluctant to accept as tactilit) the last three categories of
a crossover or combination of senses (so that we might refer to it as a
seize, push, and strike (/e, t::>, and fo), but people consistently offered
metasense), and as a repository for somewhat mystical information (even
them as aspects of contact or touch and argued for the correspondence
extrasomatic, so that sensing may be part of a broader indigenous the-
with a kind of haptic experience. For instance, as I protested the inclu-
orr of inner sratcs that includes affective and dispositional conditions).
sion of fo (which is a verb for "to beat or strike") in an Anlo sensorium
So seselelame was sometimes used co refer to experiences that were very
one m::ifialll offered the following proverb (which utilizes fo): Alesi ts~
bodily based and that corresponded closely to the English concept of
Jo t1111e la, womeJrw dzo 11enema o. A literal translation suggests, "In the
proprioception. But at other times it seemed to be more akin co "intu-
manner in which rain beats on a person, he should not warin himself at
ition" and even had the flavor of what we in Euro-American contexts
the fire in chis way." Stated more elegantly: "You do not warm yourself
might refer to as "extrasensory perception." Ania-speaking people often
according to the severity of your wetness," or "A person does not need
described sensations for this kind of seselelame as uncanny feelings or
to warm himself as much as he was drenched by rain" (Dzobo
messages they received that turned out to be a premonition. Examples
1975:191). By citing this proverb, this mafia/a was crying co make the
include scselelame as a source of motivation to visit a relative right be-
following point: in this context rain was contacting or touching the skin
fore he died or as confirming the presence of an ancestor at a specific
(expressed as tsi Jo ame la), and the sensation in the skin produced by
communal event. A "message" was usually associated with these kinds
chis experience was best summed up br Jo (to strike, beat, or pound).
of seselelame experiences, and for that reason people often linked it to
The lexical rcrm Jo, therefore, represented a tactile experience, or it re-
the English term for "hearing." They spoke of hearing a message or hear-
Language and Sensory Oriemations Language and Sensory Oriemations 57

ferred to a kind of perception that occurred at the level of skin recep- book) calls for the term ka asi enu or de asi n11 qu. Westermann treated
tors, and it emerged consistently in conversations with Anlo-speaking these as verbs with no reference to sensing or sensations. He described
people when addressing the phenomenon of touch. Ii as "to rub, touch lightly, stroke, caress, pat" ( 1973 I l 9i.8 (: l 5 3), while
Before explaining additional Anlo-Ewe expressions and experiences ka was simply "to touch," and ka asi nu IJ" meant "to touch a thing"
concerning touch (identified as Ii: caress, ka: contact, le: seize, and t:>: (1973(1928):114). Some m:Jfialawo who also spoke English did not
push), let me briefly address the question of whether these various terms agree with his translations, however, and insisted that these were two
simply represent differences at the level of language or are experientially different sensations, two different ways of touching and experiencing
and phenomenologically distinct. The problem of precisely how much feedback from interaction with the different classes of objects. Further-
influence language has on perception is a complex issue and is not directly more, they expressed difficulty in finding words in English to express
addressed in this study (for an in-depth examination of the linguistic- their reflections on the experiences. In light of the fact that Western sci-
rclativity question, see Lucy 1992). Herc I am looking instead at how the entists now recognize or acknowledge that there are different nerve re-
senses that are valued and emphasized in a particular cultural tradition . ceptors that exist in the skin that allow the human body to distinguish
work in symbolic ways to orient the self in a particular direction. Euro- bcrween contact with soft and hard objects, the symbolic and culturally
American traditions of the past few centuries have emphasized five senses, constituted nature of perception is evident here.
and I would suggest that we thereby categorize much of our experience Within a continuum of various Anlo-Ewe concepts of tactility, the
and many perceptual events in our lives in terms of seeing, tasting, touch- final two lexical terms are le (to grasp or seize) and t:J (to shove or push).
ing, smelling, and hearing. The acquisition of language in our early years Like /o, discussed above in terms of "strike," it was difficult to concep-
aids us in differentiating among those five experiences or functions. Anlo- tualize "grasping" and "shoving" as sense modalities, yet le (in the form
speaking people generally did not have a notion of five specific channels of the word nulele (1111: thing; lele: grasping]l was probably the most com-
or five specific sensory fields into which experiences were packaged and monly cited term in the Ewe language that was offered as a way to think
labeled. In addition, they did not have an overarching term under which about tactility. Westermann ( 1973( 1928): 15i.) translated le as "to seize,
all touching, tactility, or contact seemed to be placed. Instead, children catch, hold, or grasp." Le was also used to denote "keeping" or "hold-
learned a variety of terms to describe or reflect on different experiences ing," in the sense of maintaining an idea or sustaining a sensory experi-
i;volving contact or touch. I summarized the array of experiences in the ence in one's mind. In addition, one could catch, grasp, or touch with
five lexical terms listed earlier, and from this continuum it is clear that parts of the body other than the hand, for example, certain sicknesses
there was a great range of intensity in the realm of contact or touch. These that affect the whole body are expressed as d:Jlele (d:J: sickness, disease;
various terms represented both language differences and discrete sensa- lele: seizing, catching, holding). In addition, while this will be discussed
tions that many Anlo-speaking people considered experientially and phe- at length in later chapters, it should be mentioned here that to contain
nomenologically distinct. harmful spirits also implicated thjs sensory realm since the same tactil-
However, distinctions symbolized by the terms are probably the basis ity-oriented le was contained in the term legba (ritual objects that served
for the phenomenological differences and are therefore intimately linked as guardians of thresholds). As for t:J, Westermann translated it as "to
to cultural logic. For instance, if we Euro-Americans place a hand or push, thrust, strike, knock, hit; to touch; to sting, to stab" (1973
fingertips on cotton cloth and then on a brick, we might describe the first ( 19281:238), so t:J seemed to represent a kind of focused, active, inten-
sensation as "soft" and the second sensation as "hard," but both expe- tional kind of touching, and this was the term used when making im-
riences are considered "tactile," or both encounters arc classified as perative statements. However, the specific part of the body to use in the
"couching." For many An lo-speaking people, however, these constitute act of touching had to be stated, so simply commanding someone to t:J
two distinct phenomena; a common term like toi1ch is not applied to an object was meaningless. Instead, it would be expressed as "touch it
these two distinct sensations. The first is typically described using the with your hand" (t:J asie), "touch it with your foot" (t:J afx), "touch it
term Ii or riali ekp:J (which could also be spelled naleekp:J), and the sec- with your elbow" (t:J ab:Jkugluie), "touch it with one finger" (t:J asibide},
ond situation (describing contact with hard objects such as a rock or and so on. Rather than speaking about a generalized kind of touching
;!l Language and Sensorr Orientations Language and Scnsorr Orientations

or exhibiting a cultural logic that subsumed a myriad of haptic experi- speaking ruo fell within a broader category of experience they referred
ences into one basic category, the expressions of many Anlo-speaking to as sesetommte: feeling in the mouth. This category includes sensations
people tended to indicate that thcr experienced a range of intensities and involved in eating, drinking, breathing, regulation of saliva, and sexual
types of tactile contact considered distinctive enough that we arc left with exchanges and also speech.
the question of whcchcr these arc discrete senses or sensations that con- Because Euro-Americans tend to think of speech as an "'acti\e exter-
temporary science suggests humans certainly have the ability ro feel. nalization of data" (Classen r993b:2) and to think of sensing as a pas-
sive receipt of stimulus from something outside the body, and because
we think of speaking as learned and sensing as innate, these two bodily
NUFOfO AS OllALITY, VOCAl.ITY, AND TAI.KING
experiences or functions are typically considered distinct. But Anlo
An overlap exists between the sensory component of touch and this sense speakers emphasized similarities and relationships in the experiences of
of 1111/ofu (speech) wich the common morpheme fo. While the basic, root speaking, eating, kissing, and so forth and called these sesetommze: feel-
meaning.of fo is "to strike," this word involves a wide range of deriva- . ing in the mouth.
tive usc's that include baking bread, cooking soup, shooting a gun, chop- Furthermore, words are not only information or knowledge but also
ping down a crec, and others (sec Westermann 1973(19281:62). In the sound, so in addition to their meaning, words have a phrsical force that
previous section I discussed how f o is used to depict contact or a kind operates not only at the site of the ear and mind but throughout the en-
of touching of or being touched hr an object or substance, as in one per- tire body. With the Anlo term for speech and talking (mtfofo) contain-
son striking another or in the sense of rain beating or drenching one's ing the morpheme fo (which means to strike, beat, blow), there is a sym-
skin. This section will explore rct another use of fo, which involves a bolic acknowledgment of the dynamic power ascribed to the words
striking accion or a striking sensation that Euro-Americans think of as themselves. While chis might simplr represent naming the phrsical thing
orality, vocality, or talking. that happens when people talk, some Anlo people with whom I worked
Among Anlo-Ewe speakers, 1mfofo generally referred simply ro the talked about speaking as involving striking or forceful sensations (or
act of "talking" or "speaking," and while "talking" is difficult for most sesetommte: feelings in the mouth). 18 In an abstract way, words were
Euro-Americans to accept as one of the senses, it was almost always of- thought by some to be projected and directed or wielded with force and
fered as one by my Anlospeaking m:>fialawo. That is, any time I asked also with the intention of hitting a mark. Such .. launching" or projec-
a m:>fiala to talk to me (in Ewe) about the different ways one can "feel tion could be done with positive, negative, and, occasionally (but rarely),
what is happening to oneself" (meaning experience or sense some phe- neutral intentions. This idea of the "power of words" has been well doc-
nomenon), 1mfofo was nearly always presented among the various sen- umented for numerous African cultures (e.g., Finnegan 1969; Peek 198 r,
sorr fields. r994; Ray 1973; Stoller 1984b; Yankah 1995), but here I would like to
While the English term oral certainly means "spoken" and "uttered adhere specifically to the sensorial and embodied dimensions of mtfofo.
by che mouth or in words," ir also means .. of, given through, or affect- Manr Anlo-spcaking people would agree with the idea that "sound sur-
ing the mouth" (Woolf 1977:806). Anlospeaking people often expressed rounds and penetrates the listener" (Howes 199r:171), since titer fre-
how their term mtfofo also had these two levels of meaning. Further- quently expressed to me that a listener could simultaneously be the pro-
more, they would elaborate on how substances and phenomena that ducer of sound when that sound was a result of the listener's own 11ufofo.
were "of, given through, or affecting the mouth" created sensations from Therefore, sound produced from within oneself travels through the
which one's surroundings (or the world) were pcrcei\'cd and interpreted. speaker creacing vibrations and force as in sesetomtme-fecling in the
In Anlo terms, things thac could flow in and out of the momh included mouth. In mtfofo, then, there was an implicit collapsing of subject and
breath, food, saliva, liquid, words, sounds, and so on, and therefore the objecc in that the producer of the sound was automatically (e\en if deaf
mouth and 1mfofo were regarded as a sire or channel for very powerful since vibrations can be felt) a listener too.
phenomena. Furthermore, just as sensing in their language was conccp Speech is therefore classified as a kind of sesele/ame or as involving
rualized with the more general term seselelame (feeling in the body), feeling that occurs wit/Jiu tl1e body. In many West African contexts
60 Language and Sensory Orientations Language and Sensor> Orientations

speech is believed to have a power or energy independent of its referen- ject, the contact causes vibrations to reverberate through one's own body
tial quality. This is illustrated by the following quotation from Stoller's as well as having an impact on the object struck; when engaging in nu
essay "Sound in Songhay Cultural Experience," which describes the at- fofo, the sound waves affect the speaker while simultaneously tra\eling
titudes of Songhay people of Niger and touches upon the ideas of Wolof- outward and enveloping the listener. Words in Anlo-land, therefore, were
speaking people of Senegal and the jelgobc Fulani of Burkina Faso. not just thoughts or mental phenomena but came from the body (as well
as the mind), and many Anlo speakers believed that there was power not
Words do not just have meaning-they arc breath and vibrations of air, simply in "words as carriers of referential meaning, but in the sounds of
constituted and shaped by the body and motives of the speaker, physically
the words," too (Stoller 1984b:568). Finally, later chapters will explore
contacting and influencing the addressee. So informants liken the effect of a
griot's praise-song on his addressee to the effect of wind upon fire (both some etiologies of disease and how nufofo could be the cause of a grave
metaphorically and literally, since air and fire are supposed to be basic con- illness many Anlo-speaking people referred to as enu (which literally
stituents of the body). (Irvine as quoted by Stoller l984b:567) 19 meant "mouth"). Enu would often result when bad words and ill will
were exchanged in the course of nufofo, so that many people believed
Many West Africans believe that when you produce speech you indeed that the circular flow of energr set in motion (during speech acts) could
can fetl it moving through you (as in sesetonume-feeling in the mouth- bring illness upon both speaker and listener but that it most typically
and as though inspiration comes in an embodied form and can be inte- preyed upon innocent children who were caught in the cross fire of neg-
roceptively sensed), and as others speak, your body registers or experi- atively charged nufofo (talking, or speech). Clearly, the mouth and
ences the impact of their speech. So the term for speech (nufofo) as speech were regarded by many Anlo people as a site or channel for very
"striking thing" symbolizes (or condenses and collapses) at least a strand powerful phenomena, and this illness called enu, along with other de-
of cultural logic about the dynamic power that words can contain. tailed implications, will be taken up at length in later chapters.
Moreover, in cultures where the written word and other visual modes
of representation are not as highly valued as they are relative to other
NUKP:JKP:J FOR SEEING, VISUALITY, OR SIGHT
sense modalities (or in comparison to their valuation in cultural contexts
such as Euro-America), the aural and the oral are in certain ways insep- Westermann ( l 973( 19i.8): 146, l 80) translated kp.J as '"to see, look, be-
arable (Howes 1991:8-r r). That is, one cannot conceive of hearing with- hold; to visit; to notice, observe; to experience, examine; to have, obtain,
out linking it to speech, so they implicitly belong in the same indigenous possess" and nukp:Jkp:J as "seeing, sight; possessing, possession, prop-
category of sensing or feeling within the body (cf. Yankah 1995 on how erty." However, "the gaze" (to use Foucault's terminology) was not nec-
the Akan royal orator functions as not only the chief's mouth, but his ears essarily as highly valued in Anlo-land as many scholars suggest it is in
as well). This may seem to contradict the beliefs outlined previously, and the contemporary West and in relation to the many other sensory fields
in our cultural logic it probably does, but I am suggesting tllat A nlg spc:ak- stressed in Anlo contexts. Anlospeaking people certainly employed var-
ers simultaneously hold these two views of the existential and functional ious visual terms or occasionally expressed things through visual idioms,
properties of speech. Among neighboring Fon speakers, "Critical to the but in the final analysis they had less linguistic elaboration around color
activatipn potential of speech is both its transfcrential nature and its po- terminology, for instance, than they had around textures or about car-
tent social and psychodynamic grounding" (Blier 1995:77). In Anlo con- riage and style of walk. On the other hand, while I placed nukp.Jkp:J
texts, too, the "transferential nature" of nufofo (speaking) included more lower on the list of senses than modalities such as touch, movement, and
than imparting meaning, or "mental ideas." Furthermore, words uttered audition, this does not mean sight was not important to most Anlo peo-
by one person were considered to form a direct link between the speaker ple, and in fact, n11kp:Jkp.J was a complicated phenomenon character-
and the addressee, so that a circular flow of energy was set in motion. ized by nuanced paradoxes.
The essence of this perspective was that a person could not say some- A well-known proverb among Anlo speakers (and many Ewespeaking
thing (or project something from his or her mouth) without feeling some- peoples in general) was Ne qku-gbagbat.J be yele kpe fu ge wo la, nyae he
thing, too. As an analogy, when one strikes a fist or palm against an ob- <[ee wo <[o af.J kpe ~:"If a blindman says he is going to stone )'OU, know
l-1nguagc and Scnsorr Orient;uions Language and Sensoq Orieniations

he has set his foot upon a scone." Dzobo ( 1975: 152) suggested chis was a African peoples, Anlo speakers also culti'ttc what Robert Farris Thomp-
saying chat concerned self-confidence and explained ic as "a commem on son has referred to as an "aesthetic of the cool." More specifically, and
what somebody W<lnts co do, and in that sense is another way of saying in relation to Yoruba culture, Thompson ( 1966:86) explains how the
that the person is sure of his ability to do it. He kuows what he wants to "equilibrium and poetic structure of traditional dances ... as well as the
do. He is sure of himself." As usual, however, multiple layers of frozen facial expressions worn by those who perform these dances, ex-
signification arc at work in this sa)ing, and two additional meanings re- presses a philosophy of the cool, an ancient, indigenous ideal: patience
veal something ahour ways of sensing among many Ania-speaking peo- and collectedness of mind." In relation to maintaining cool and to dis-
ple. The first connotation concerns the sense covered previously, 111tfofo, playing a so-called frozen facial expression, many Ania-speaking moth-
and simpl)' warns that people mea11 what they say. The second connota- ers with whom I talked about child-rearing strategics mentioned the im-
tion of the proverb relates to che sense of sight, instructing in the idea that portance of teaching their children different ways of hearing and seeing.
seeing is not the only modalicy that allows a person lO get something done. One such alternate way to hear or see involved taking things in but let-
The blind man could employ other senses, such as hearing, movement, ting them pass through and remaining "cool." Again, this issue will be
and touch, and despite not being able to sec, he could skillfully strike rou raken up in chapter 7 in relation to balance and in chapter 9 in relation
with a stone. to Anlo concepts of well-being.
While many Ania-speaking people readily admined to a fear or ab- Finally, while 1111kp:Jk/1:> may not have been the most highly \'alued
horrence of going blind, they also regularly rehearsed a kind of cultural sense within the whole repertoire, it would be inaccurate to suggest that
logic warning about the limitations of sight. That is, the idea of "seeing Anlo-spcaking people did not chink with \'ision-based terms, phrases,
is believing" was not axiomatic among Anlo speakers, who instead and idioms. "[nsofar as thought depends on language ... the sensory
seemed to cultivate a deep respect for unseen things. The existence of foundations of many of the words we think with demonstrate that we
"the invisible world" was not suspect for many Anlo speakers, and in- not only think about our senses, we chink through them" (Classen
stead they often held a firm belief in the existence of a whole arena of 1993 b:S-9 ). In the An lo-Ewe language, there were numerous terms and
things that human beings were simply unable to sec. Furthermore, it was idioms that referred to eyesight or vision. For instance, k/1.1c{equ was a
not considered particularly healthy to worry over or question this basic term denoting "example" but translated literally into English as "sec
fact, for when necessicy urged a greater knowledge about this realm (a near it" or "see around and close co it." When warning someone to be
"sounding out" or "seeing into" invisible domains), one simplr con- careful, one would declare, "Kp:J ll}'llie!" which meant "Look well!" and
sulted a specialist (such as a bob or amcgashi) for divination. But in was akin to shouting, "Watch out!" And Mam 1Jk11 o (your eyes are not
general, the existence of a great many invisible things was readily ac- open) was a way of commenting on a person's uncivilized or crude de-
cepted, and other senses (such as hearing, or even seselelame) were con- meanor. So, while the notion of "seeing is believing" did not necessarily
sidered equally reliable when compared with sight and when searclung hold much weight among many Anlo-speaking people, 1mk/1:>kp:i still
for confirmation or proof of some plu:nomenon. held a significant role in Anlo traditions and as a sensory field.
Another illustration of many Ania-speaking people's belief that there
were deep limitations to relying primarily on sight was the aphorism,
NUfJ:)EJ:J AND NUD:JfJ.'JKP:J FOR GUSTATION
"There is no arr to find the mind's construction on the face." Cited by
AND "TASTING TO SEE"
several m:>{ialawo, the saying \~as meant ro convey to me that what was
revealed in a person's visage was not a reliable indication of the content Nru[:x/.:J was commonly conceptualized as a taste-bud, tongue-based,
of his mind; no matter how much artistr)' one possessed, one could not bodily type casting and included a range of flavors such as sweet, salt}',
see what went on inside another person's heart or head. From this basic bitter, fermented, as well as the sensation of textures that were experi-
idea stem several other beliefs illustrative of sensory orientations and cul- enced during the consumption of food. Nm[:Jc[:>kp:> literally meant "taste
tural logic. First, other senses (in addition to sight) must be used to read and see" or "eat a thing and see." This was a metaphorically synesthetic
and understand human beings (amcg:mzesese). 20 Second, like other sense differing from straight mu/p<[.1 in that mu[:i<[:ik/1:> implied more cog-
Language and Sensory Orientations Language and Sensory Orientations


nitive qualities. Most tasting and eating was not considered to produce linked directly to the idea that "you are what you eat." While they had
mental images, according to many of the Anlo-speaking people with not developed as elaborate a set of beliefs around food as the humoral
whom I consulted, and was referred to as basic m1c[:Jc[:J (tasting) or system of South Asia (e.g., Laderman 1983:i.1-7i.), they did hold de-
1111<[11q11, which is the word for "eating." Bue if food stimulated the mind, cided ideas about the strength and weakness of certain foods. Akple, the
then it was experienced as mtc/.:Jc[:Jkp:> (eating and seeing). Nuc[:Jc/.:J was staple grain eaten in most Anlo households, was considered "strong,"
therefore commonly associated with quotidian consumption of food, whereas rice (eaten only on special occasions) was considered "weak."
whereas nuqpc/.:Jkp:J related sensations of taste to the mind. While not all Taste for rice and consumption of large amounts of rice was deemed to
m:J{ialawo agreed with chis division between m1c[:u[:J and nuc[:Jc[:JkfJ:J, both weaken a person and ultimately result in illness.
enough people suggested chat there were at least two different ways of In terms of links between tastes and identity, in the cosmopolitan set-
casting (or two distinct and general experiences in relation to sensations ting of Accra, where language was a common marker of ethnicity, many
of taste) that an Anlo sensorium was best described as encompassing at Anlo-speaking people also tended to notice and comment on the food
least these two. that people consumed in public places. Again, while symbolism encoded
Underscoring the interplay between emic and etic perspectives, which in food was not as systematically developed as in South Asia-and there-
is at che root of my efforts to construct an "indigenous Anlo sensorium," fore did not result in the extreme "gastro-politics" underpiRning certain
Western science also sometimes divides taste into two categories. Ac- tensions and conflicts in Sou ch India (Appadurai 198 1)-still, to a cer-
cording to some psychologists, "Taste, or guscacion, may be considered tain extent what a person ate in public (in Accra) identified (for many
in two ways: as the global sensation or perception that accompanies in- Anlo speakers) where the person was from or the person's ethnic iden-
gestion or as the specific sensation that accompanies stimulation of spe- tity. Not just Anlo speakers but Ewe-speaking people in general were a
cialized organs in the mouth" (Aronoff et al. 197o:i.84). While not an numeric minority in Ghana and consequently exhibited a great deal of
exact parallel with Anlo cultural logics surrounding gustation, both mod- sensitivity to issues of ethnicity and identity politics.
els suggest thinking about (or through) taste in two different ways. Och- A final example of how perceptory tastes link to cultural logic can be
ers have suggested that two is even an inaccurate reduction of human explored in rdigious rituals, which often culminate in the exchange of
gustatory sensibilities: "Taste ... turned out to be among the most com- food, offering of food to the ancestors, or consumption by initiates of
plex of the sensory systems" and it is "possible to make a case for con- certain herbs, liquids, or foods. In a discussion of "medicine cults"
sidering sweet, salty, bitter, and sour each as a separate sensory system" adopted into the southern Ewe area in the first half of the twentieth cen-
(Rivlin and Gravelle 1984:17-2.2.). While Anlo-speaking people had sep- tury, Fiawoo ( 1968) describes a practice referred to as atikec[ucf (eating
arate ways of describing sweet, salty, bitter, and sour, many categorized the medicine), the final act for initiates of the Blekete religious sect.
all four under the sensation of taste. However, many Anlo speakers dis-
tinguished between m1c[:JC[:J, which was a type of taste associated with Kneeling before the priest and the Blckete altar, the applicant makes the
following declaration: "I dedicate myself to you Nana and your senices.
the act of eating, and n11c[:Jc[:Jkpo, which related tasting to thought. Help my children to live. Save my family from evil influences." The priest
Taste is a domain where links between perception and cultural logic shares with the initiate kolanut which has been sanctified at the altar. The
and symbolic life may be more readily apparent than in relation to ocher chewing of the nut and the shaking of hands makes the receptiqn of the ini-
sensory modalities. Bourdieu's (1984) reintegration of elementary tastes tiate into full membership. (Fiawoo 1968:75)
for the flavors of food with more elaborated aesthetic and reflective tastes
as an avenue to illuminate distinctions and the legitimation of social dif- Missing from this account is any comment on taste, flavor, or the expe-
ferences is also relevant to the ethnography of Anlo-speaking peoples. riential aspect of atikecfuc[u (eating the medicine). While it can be as-
Preferences for certain tastes, as well as the activity of eating itself, were sumed that "chewing the nut" (along with shaking hands) structurally
associated by many Anlo-speaking people with distinctions in identity, symbolizes or signifies a transformation, is this experienced as nu-
elements, and terms of well-being and with ritual transformations of on- c[:J<f.:Jkpo, or "casting to see"? In other words, rather than simply n11c[oc[:>
tological states. For example, many Anlo speakers' notions of well-being (tasting), or even nuc[uc[u (eating), does chewing the kolanut relate sen-
66 Language and Sensory Orientations Language and Sensory Orientations

sations of taste (:u this pivoral moment of transformation) to im;1i;es in with the whole body. A similar conception of olfaction is described in a
the mind? If so, what docs this reveal about the powers of the taste cultural historr of aroma in the Western world:
procl.'SS to assist in the transformation from initiate to member? In mr
own research I did not have discussions with members of the Blekete seer Significant advances have been made in the understanding of 1hc biological
and chemical nature of olfaction, hut many fundamental questions have yet
and therefore was not able to inquire about lived and embodied experi-
lo be answered: is smell one sense or two-one responding to odours
ences of atikec[ttcb1 (eating the medicine). But these are some of the ques- proper and rhe other registering odourless pheromones (air-borne
tions that arise when attention is turned not only to the nuances of an chemicals).? ls the nose the only pan of the body affecrcd by odours?
indigenous scnsorium (to understand, for instance, why and how many (Classen, Howes, and S)nnon l994:3)
Anlo speakers make distinctions between 1tuc(:Jc(::>kfJ:J, tasting to see, and
basic 1111c[:ul:>, or tasting) but also to the experiential and embodied side Many Ania-speaking people would probably respond to these questions
of perception and cultural logic. with the affirmations that smell was definitely two senses and that the
nose was by no means the only part of the body affected by odor. 22
In fact, the second trpe of olfaction contained a metaphorical (if nor
NUIJEVESE AND NUVEVESESE FOR OLFACTION, SMELL, AND
literal) synesthetic quality. Nuvevescse contains the complex verb sese,
SYNES1'11E1'1C DIMENSIONS OF HEARING AROMA Oil SCENT
which could mean hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling, understanding,
As with Ania-speaking people's ordering of taste, there were at least two obeying, and so forth. Some m;)fia/awo characterized mwci:esese as feel-
conceptually different kinds of mn:e1:cse-a term chat corresponded to ing a fragrance or aroma all through and around the body. It was there-
the English word olfaction, or smell. N1wevese was described as actively fore more similar to hearing than sight since one could "hear odors" and
trying to know a scent by intencionally and consciouslr using the olfac- "hear sounds" that were behind one's body or even inside an enclosed
tor)' organ (i.e., one's nostrils or nose). The other kind was more pas- (hence, invisible) space. And when Anlo speakers expressed themselves
sive: an odor or seem flowed around or surrounded a person not unlike in English, some (even fairly educated) people used the word hear when
music or sound. Some people suggested that this distinction was reflected they referred to sensing a scent. When confronted with why they used
in the two terms mwevese (co smell) and mtvevesese (smelling), which on that word when aware of the English word smell, they would often ex-
one hand simply represented different grammatical forms of the same plain that they did not mean one was "hearing scent with the ears," but
word but also respectively signified "actively seeking to smell" and "pas- they did indeed mean to say "hearing scent through the nose" (and not
sively smelling." The idea that these were simply two forms of the same smelling it per se in the active sense of "to smell"). They felt an inabil-
word (and therefore referred basically to the same activit)' or experience) it)' to express this nuance in English but thought that using the word bear
was often expressed by Ania-speaking people who had a fair amount of was closer to what they meant than the word smell. Therefore, 1111-
formal education. Those with whom I spoke who had less formal edu- 1:evesese signified a more synesthetic t~pc of olfaction that affected or
cation seemed more willing to articulate (or accept) different experiences was sensed by more parts of the body than simply the nose and indicated
being categorized under these cwo cerms: mm:vcse (to smell actively) and that there were at least two kinds of olfaction within an Anlo sensorium.
mu;er,iesese (passively smelling). Stepping back fron1 the issue of vocab- This list should not he considered a finished product, bur rather it
ular)', however, most people seemed to believe or agree that there was should be seen as a starting point in our efforts toward understanding
nor one uniform experience of olfaction, and smelling did indeed involve sensory experiences, consciousness, and development of person and self
active and passive experiences. 21 in Anlo worlds. Toward that end, let me now turn to a discussion of how
The sensation referred co as passive mwevesese was often described co break away from typologies, hierarchies, and the impulse to modu-
as similar to hearing: when not tryi11g to smell an object (for instance, larize sensory modes and move toward an exploration of the "cultural
placing one's nose near or toward a soup or a piece of fruit), one could elaboration of sensory engagement" (Csordas 1993:139) in Anlo-Ewe
still he enveloped by an aroma or fragrance and simply "hear it" in or worlds.
68 Language and Sensory Orientations Language and Sensory Orientations

1
To me, the important issue is that in Anlo epistemological traditions
FROM WOBER S "SENSOTYl'E" TO BOURDIEU'S "llABITUS"
and ontological practices, bodily movements specifically in the form of
AND CSORDAS'S "CULTURAL ELABORATION OF
rcified kinds of walks arc instrumentally tied to forms of thinking and
SENSORY ENGAGEMENT"
reasoning, especially about moral d1ari1ctcr. We now move i1Way from
for many people, the list that I generated earlier in the chapter consti- any impulse toward sensotyping and instead focus on very local concerns
tutes the end of the story, or represents, in their estimation, what ought around "somatic modes of attention" and on the "cultural elaboration
to be the culmination of this book. That is, when I converse with people of sensory engagement" (Csordas i 99 3 ). In doing this I will not sys-
about what I do, or when I present my work in a public forum (includ- tematically cover each of the sensory components I laid out pre\'iously
ing academic audiences) many people want me to outline what we might (which is in part what I mean when I use the phrase "impulse toward
call "an Anlo sensotype" (even though very few people actually use that scnsotyping"), but rather I will focus on those sensory fields that are
phrase in their request). They want to know first and foremost what "pcrformatively elaborated" (Csordas 1993) in the habitus inhabited by
senses Anlo speakers "have" (and are particularly interested in the noto- those Anlo m:>fialawo with whom I worked. It is here that I believe we
rious "sixth sense," which I discussed in chapter 1). Second, people won- can come to understand more about how sensory experiences arc piv-
der which senses are most important to them, so they want a hierarchy otal in the formation of identity and cultural difference.
or a ranking of the sensory modes valued by Anlo people. And finally,
some people ask about measuring and testing for the relative abilities to
hear, balance, and see (etc.) between Anlo-speaking people and Euro-
Americans (or among other ethnically or culturally different groups).
This set of concerns represents one level of work in the arena of cul-
ture and the senses. Bue even if I addressed all of those questions, I am
not certain we would have gained much by way of any greater under-
standing of meaningful differences between cultural worlds. A sensotype
is on the surface an intriguing notion and one that fascinated me for a
period of time while I was in the field. Sensotype was a term employed
more than three decades ago by Mallory Wober to refer to a "pattern of
relative importance of the different senses, by which a child learns to per-
ceive the world and in which pattern he develops his abilities"
( 1966:182). Ac~ording to Wober's claim, individuals tend to develop
abilities grounded in senses that are more highly valued or more fre-
quently utilized in the pattern of sensory orientations characteristic of a
particular place or within a specific cultural milieu. But let us pretend
that at this point I provided you with a conclusive study demonstrating
that the average Anlo-Ewe person scored higher than the average Euro-
American on a test measuring vestibular skills (the ability to balance
while walking a<..-ross a beam, or the ability to maintain an object bal-
anced on top of one's head, etc.). In the large scheme of things, what
would that prove? What significant issue on the world's stage would that
piece of information help us to come to grips with? For me, it would an-
swer very little by way of meaningful, palpable differences between two
different cultural groups.
CllAPTl'R 4

Kinesthesia and the


Development of
Moral Sensibilities

In his work on embodiment, Csordas ( 1990:40) draws a distinction be-


tween his own argument about the body as the existential ground of cul-
ture and self and the point of view taken by Johnson ( 1987), who treats
the body as the cognitive ground of culture. While my own use of em-
bodiment follows Csordas to a great extent, I am also interested in John-
son's cognitive approach. for Johnson, "the term 'body' is used as a
generic term for the embodied origins of imaginative structures of un-
derstanding" and "our embodiment is essential to who we arc, to what
meaning is, and to our ability to draw rational inferences and to be cre-
ative" (Johnson 1987:xv, xxxviii). Both approaches inform my own
study, which simultaneously explores existential and corporeal rever-
berations of the sensorium outlined in the previous chapter and attends
to Johnson's "rational inferences" or the "imaginative structures of un-
derstanding" that correspond to (or even stem from) this culturally con-
stituted sensory order (cf. Lakoff and Johnson 1999). In other words,
looking at symbolic life in terms of c11lt11ral logic as well as embodiment
involves exploring cognitive inferences that analogically extend from (or
are integrally tied to) a culturally constructed sensorium as well as ex-
ploring "embodied processes of perception" among Anlo speakers, or
what Csordas describes (1990:9) as "the experience of perceiving in all
its richness and indeterminacy."
Mcrlcau-Ponty's phenomenology involves a rejection of the empiri-
cist model that suggests external objects stimulate our internal organs
7-1 Kincschcsia and 1he Dcvelopmem of Moral Sensibili1ics Kinesthcsia and chc Dc\'clopmcnt of ;._,(oral Sensibilities
75

such that we register scnsorr data and instead embraces the idea chat 1hcir mother shoming in a distressed voice something about how they
perception begins in the body and ends in objects (Csordas 1990:8-9). were walking l11g11/11gu. Mr cars perked up when I heard that adverb,
Merleau-Pontr's concept of the preobjecti11e, therefore, suggests that "we lugulugu, as I had n:ccmly begun making a list of different kinds of walks
do noc have any objects prior to perception," or "objects arc a second- or st>les of comportment. I already knew that one could z;> kacv.akacf/_,z
ary product of reflective thinking" (Csordas 1990:9). Furthermore, since (walk like a lion), or z.:> mbiyamirzya (walk stealthilr, as a person who
a separation of subject from object is the result of analysis, it is inde- eavesdrops), or Z-' megl1emcgbc (walk backwards, implying deception).
pendent of (or irrelevant co) the experience of being-in-the-world. The As Kobladada (Kobla's mother) shouted at them from behind her kitchen
adapta1ion to anthropology of Merleau-Ponty's approach is conceptu- wall, I watched them darting from one side of the compound to the other,
alized b)' Csordas in the following way: "If our perception 'ends in ob- swaying perilously on the outer edge of a foot, feigning to nearly fall
jects,' the goal of a phenomenological anthropology of perception is to down, and evidently mocking their mother for her charge that they were
capture that moment of transcendence in which perception begins, and, moving lug11l1tg1t on their war to the well.
in .tbe midst of arbitrariness and i11determi11acy, consticutes and is con- Many Anlo people considered az.:>liz::>z::>-movement, walking, or
stitured by culture" (Csorda~ 1990:9, emphasis added). The pre\ious kinesti1esia-to have scnsorial qualities, and ther wanted this phenom-
chapter laid out various components of a sensorium as the initial step in enon included in my\vritings about their scnsorium. In addition, several
mapping how perceptions experienced by Anlo-spcaking people "con- m:>fialmvo had been insisting that I include "morality" among the senses
stitute and arc constituted by culture." That is, identifying some of the that Anlo-Ewe people held dear. One of the reasons they believed that
terminology Ania-speaking people adopt as they learn to isolate and moralicy had scnsorial qualities was that a close association between
focus (both cognitively and in terms of sensations) provides a window kinesthetic sensations (in az.:>liz:>z.:>, or movement) and dispositional feel-
on how (in the midst of arbitrariness and indeterminacy) perception can ings (in az.:>lime or z::>z::>me, one's moral character). Both concepts share
be seen as culrurally patterned among An lo-speaking people. At the phe- the root Z.J-to walk, travel, or move one's body generally. Kobla and
nomenal level or from the experiential standpoint of being-in-the-world, Aaron's mother's accusation of their lugulugu approach to getting water
analytic categories of language, cognition, sensation, perception, culture, from the well seemed like an opportune incident to probe for the logic
and embodiment exist as a complex and sticky web, which the follow- behind these associations.
ing ethnographic example and extended discussion aims to illustrate. I began by asking Elaine, my research assistant and friend, what l11g11-
In chapter 1 I suggested that in a sensorium we find cultural categories /11gu really meant. She explained that while a word such as z:> lug11lug11
or a scheme (an implicit model) for organizing experience; we find that referred in the first instance to bodily motions such as swaying, tarrying,
values have become "embodied" and "naturalized" through the course dawdling, or moving as if drunk, it could also be used to refer to a per-
of history and through the practice of traditions; and we find that these son's character. In response ro a daughter's statement that "Kofi is the
embodied forms and sensibilities arc learned (acquired, internalized, de- man I want to marry," Elaine explained that parents might discourage
veloped) at an earlr age through child-socialization practices. Here I ex the young woman by exclaiming, "Oh, ame lttgttl11gu!" The expression
plore ~inesthesia (a sense located in muscles and tendons and mediated reveals the parents' perception that Kofi was a lugulugu man: nor sim-
by bodily movement) and the way it is not only highly valued in many ply a person who lllO\'cd in a tarrying or dawdling fashion, hut a person
Anlo-spcaking contexts but is also integrally bound up with Anlo ways who was noc serious-an aimless, irresponsible fellow. An Ewe linguist
of understanding and expressing morality. clarified that lugttlttgu is a "manner-denoting idcophone" that refcrcnc1..-s
Two young boys in our compound, Aaron and Kobla, never seemed winding, meandering, zigzagging, and such. He explained that Elaine's
to go straight to the well when their mother sent them to fetch water. I characterization is accurate in that a person can move in a lugulugu man
often observed them horsing around as they made their way through the ner, but we can also talk about a road (which docs not move) as being
compound and out the gate to the community well in the village where lugttlttgu (meandering). In terms of our discussion here about kincsthc
we lived. One dar, as I watched them running in circles, chasing each sia and morality, the point is that in Ewe contexts, words like lugulttgu
other, walking backwards, and swinging their buckets to and fro, I heard arc often used to extend ideas ahout the manner of movement (and for
76 Kinesthesia and the Development of Moral Sensibilities Kmcsthcsia and the Development of Moral Sensibilities ,'/

humans, the manner of walking) to manners that sum up a person's be- such as cognitive, li11guistic, and even embodied as analytical and not
havior.1 experientially discrete phenomena.
So were eight-year-old Kobla and ten-year-old Aaron alread}' hope- Perhaps we ha\'c a similar cultural logic in our own folk epistemol-
lessly lugulugu? I wondered, does a person begin walking lugulugu first ogy. For example, in searching for a translation for lug11lug11, the term
and then become a lugulugu person or vice versa? In response to my in- "wishr-wash)"'' comes to mind (in addition to "zigzag" and "meander").
quiries about this, Kobla and Aaron's mother (along with several other Many English-speaking Americans probably believe that if a person feels
caregivers in our compound) made it clear that they had to be vigilant wishy-washy day in and day out, then the person might actually carry
about the possibility of either (on the significance of parental belief sys- himself with a wavering sort of comportment and in general have an in-
tems, see Harkness and Super 1996). That is, a child could develop ei- decisive demeanor. But here I want to argue that in Anlo-Ewe contexts
ther a kind of /ugulugu laziness or lugulugu slouch, but either way it we find a "pcrformativc elaboration" (Csordas 1993:146) of movement
would permeate or pervade the person. So in the process of fetching and moral character that is both quantitatively and qualitatively differ;
water from the well, when Aaron and Kobla were consistently "going ent from what we find in most Euro-American contexts.
this way and that," fooling around, distracting each other from the task, One striking feature of /11gulugu (as well as other kinds of movement
and stirring up trouble, the concern this evoked in their caregivers was adverbs, such as mi11yaminya or kadzakadza) lies in the fa~t .that many
that the phenomenon that was embodied in these displays would begin of them are ideophones, and many (not always the same ones) are formed
to dominate their character. The logic expressed was that if you move in through reduplication. 2 In other words, "walks" (which also cssential-
a lugulugu fashion you experience sensations of /ugu/itgu-ness and begin ize one's sense of morality or depict comportment) are often symbolized
thinking in a lugulugu way and become a lugulitgu person, which is then with "picture words (onomatopes), which attempt to express by their
evident to others from the way your lugulugu character is embodied in sound the impression conveyed by the senses" (Westermann 1930:107,
your /ugulugu walk. Or, if you consistently think in a lugulugu way, you emphasis added). Their language, therefore, reflects the belief chat
would also move in a lugulugu fashion and basically develop into a lugu- az.,/i1111 (walking, movement, kinesthesia) is eminently sensory. This helps
lugu person. Clearly, the specific case of a kinesthetic phenomenon called to explain why az:>liz:>z:> (movement) and az:>lime (dispositional char-
lugulugu shows how analytic categories of language, cognition, sensa- acter and moral feelings) fall into the cultural category of seselelame (feel-
tion, perception, culture, and embodiment are not experienced in dis- ing in the body) for many Anlo-Ewe people.
crete stages at the phenomenal level or from the existential standpoint While the English language certainly contains instances of reduplica-
of being-in-the-world. Here we see how local understandings of how hu- tion (e.g., wishy-washy, mentioned earlier), such repetitive constructions
mans process information (summed up in their categorical term sesele- are pervasive in Ewe (e.g., Ameka 1999; Ansre 1963; Sapir 192.1:76-78;
lame) capitalize on synesthetic modes of knowing. Westermann 1930). 3 Ansrc suggests (1963:128) that eight out of every
The point is that in terms of a cultural logic found among many Anlo- one hundred words spoken in Ewe are reduplicated terms. In a more re-
speaking people, there is a clear connection, or association, between bod- cent study, Ameka indicates ( 1999:78) that Ansre's estimate about redu-
ily sensations and who you are or who you become: your character, your plication in Ewe is probably too low. Furthermore, Samarin ( 1967: 3 5)
moral fortitude is embodied in the way you move, and the way you move makes the fascinating observation chat in the written version of a par-
embodies an essence of your nature. My Anlo neighbors did not suggest ticular Ewe-language play, there arc few ideophones, but wh~n he al-
that people saw the child walking /ugulugu and then thought that he was tcnded a performance, "the actors ad libbed by adding ideophones to
wayward. Rather, they suggested that the sensations the child would ex- the prepared script" (Samarin 1967: 3 5). This undoubtedly enhanced the
perience in the body (interoceptively, or in terms of seselelame) would sensory quality of the experience (which the performers of the play
necessarily involve imaginative structures that would develop in the seemed moved to do). 4 ldeophones have been described as "vivid vocal
mind, and that whole would then be perceived by all as a culturally con- images or representations of visual, auditory and other sensory or men-
stituted and objectified phenomenon called lugulugu. Here bodily habits tal experiences" (Cole 1955:370). They have also been defined as "nouns
and psychological outlook are deeply intertwined, rendering categories of sensory quality" (sl>e Newman 1968:109 n. 11) and as words that de-
;8 Kinesthesia and rhc Development of Moral Sensibilfries Kinesrhesia and the Development of Moral Sensihili1ies 79

scribe sound, color, smell, manner, appearance, state, action, or inten- megbemegbe (:<.:> megbemcgbe): walking backwards; backing up
sity (Cole 19 5 5:370). Evans-Pritchard called ideophones "poetr)' in or- (leaving deceptive footprints); not waming ro attract attention, a
dinarr language" ( 196 2.: 14 3). In a technical sense, reduplicated forms person simply steps backwards a bit
arc distinct from the idcophone prnper, and here I want ro make clear minyllminya (z.-, mi11yaminya}: moving gently and stealthily like a
that I am not trying ro take up the linguistic debate about what precisely cat, gliding without making noise; used in eavesdropping
the ideopho11e is or docs (e.g., Ameka i..oo 1 b; Newman 1968; Noss
kadwkadza (z:> kadzakadza): moving or walking like a lion, decid-
198Ci). What I do wane to stress is that both the reduplication strategy
edly and with power; moving in a vigorous and furious manner
and deployment of idcophones function at a certain level to sensorially
evoke that which they represent. Indeed, when I witnessed Kobla and hanyalumya (z:> hanyabmiya}: walking as if one "has a load"; the
Aaron swaying and tarrying and swinging and when I heard their mother kind of movements people make when needing to relieve
shouting lttgttlttgtt, I experienced a very visceral (rather than merely in- themselves
tellectual) realization of what was going on-which takes us back to the ba{oba{o (z:> bafoba{o): the walk of a small man, his body moving
issue of reduplication specifically in the arena of movement or walks.
Earlier I mentioned that while I was in the field I compiled a list of Ewe
briskly
b:>hob:>ho (z:.> b:>hob:.>ho): a fat man's heavy, laborious walk
.
terms that indicated styles or types of comportment. This list is not meant
<[:.>c:>e:> (z:J c:Jc:>c.,): walking slowly or leisurely; sauntering
to be read as a classification system per senor as an exhaustive or complete
mi eme: passing by intentionally, keeping in motion without
program of movement rcrms from the Anlo-Ewc language. But this sam-
stopping or saying hello
ple illustrates the richness of an Anlo-Ewe lexicon for mcwemem and walks:
atiz:>ti: literally a walking stick, hut can also be a person who serves
az:.>liz:Jz:J: walking or moving in general as your walking stick: an assistant, a crutch
az:.>lime: style of walking, shaping character and way of life tsadzadzc: restless or inquisitive; a busybody

az.-,li1m: walking, "walking thing" tsa asi: "walking about hands"; feeling, groping with one's hands

z:>z:.>me: implies the same as az:>fime, but literally means "in tsa l)ktt: "walking about eyes"; letting the eyes wander, search; un-
walking" or "in movement" (comportment) and represems a dercover investigating
kind of short hand for talking about your character, your z.:> amc g:.>me: to spy on a person, to find out his secrets (literally,
manner of life "walk inside a person")
z:>k:.><[ui: walking with your shoulders bent, hunched over, hobbling mez:> <{e t)ltwo: respectful greeting when arriving at a person's
along like an old person house: "I walked well getting to your house"
z:>k/ofoe: walking a long disrance alone; walking straight on
without stopping In addition to these kinesthetically related terms that I recorded in my
z:>gboz:.>e: moving back and forth, coming and going, co the right ficldnotcs, Westermann compiled ( 1930:107-109) a set of ad~erbs that
and to the left; a loitering, lingering, up and down sort of can modify Z:J (to walk) "according to the manner of going." The fol-
approach lowing arc excerpted from his sample:

atsy:>z:.>fi (z:.> tsy:.>z:>li): walking affectedly, putting on pretense or


z:.> behebebc: describes the slouch of a weak man
airs, moving majestically, proudly, with style, like a king or
queen z.:> biabia: the walk of a long-legged man, who strides out
/ugulugu (z:> /ugulugtt): walking or moving in a swaying, tarrying, Z:l lmfabula: to walk without looking where one is going
or dawdling manner; moving as if you arc drunk z.:> dt.edte: a free, breezy style of walking
fl
'
80 K111cs1hesia and the Devclopmcm of 1\loral Sensihilicies Kincsthcsia and the Development of Moral Sensibilities

Z:J c[aboc[alm: to walk shakily like a duck mcntcd on my Z:J dziadzia style-walking wirh purpose, moving imently,
Z:J gblulugbl11l11: to walk looking to the front like a buffalo as if on a serious mission.
In their essay "Sounding Sensory Profiles," David Howes and Con
v hlo)ihloyi: to walk with many objects, clothes, etc., dangling
stance Classen suggest that in the realm of language (only one of many
round one's body
avenues to studying the senses), "the number of terms for each of the
z:J kaka: to walk straight, without moving one's body, proudly senses is an indicator of the relative importance of that sense, or else of
;p kodzokodm: 10 walk with the body bent forwards, stooping the different ways in which it is understood co operate" ( 1991:263). Here
z.1 kpac[ikpaqi: to walk with limbs joined closely together I am suggesting that in the Ewe language, the number of sensory words
z:> kpuc[ukp1u[11: the hurried walk of a small man (onomatopes, ideophones, picture words, icons, etc.) used in the kines-
thetic realm or to depict the feel and image of the ways in which people
z.1 takataka: to walk without care
move is an indicator of the extent to which movement and walking (or
z:> tyem[etyenc[e: to walk, moving one's bell}', and with slightly bent kinesthetic activity) is deemed a sensory experience in Ewe worlds.
hips A brief consideration of color in an Euro-American context may
z:> tyac[ityac[i: to walk dragging one's body, with a slight limp deepen our appreciation for how complex kinesthesia was to Anlo speak-
z:> t)':>ty:>: the stately, energetic walk of a tall man ers. Through forays into a paint store in the process of redecorating a
house, or in playing with a child and her Crayola crayons, many Euro-
z:> w11d:>w11J .,: the weary walk of a stately person, especially
Americans develop the idea that, given the opportunity or motivation,
women (respectful)
one could learn (to perceive, identify, and name) distinctions among tones
z:> v:>lav:>la: to step lightly, hurried, unhindered labeled pink, red, blue, purple, magenta, fuchsia, lavender, scarlet, and
z:> v:>11iv:>11i: to walk quickly so forth. Within the Anlo-Ewe language, color terminology. was limited
to several basic words for primary colors, with more exotic hues described
These lists-a kind of cultural catalog of comportments-indicate that by employing "like" or "similar to" and pointing out or referring to an
there arc more than fifty rcrms in Ewe representing different kinesthetic object with a comparable shade. But in Anlo-Ewe contexts there was a
styles: from z.1 bafobafo and z:> bulabula to z:> kodzokodzo and z ., lu- large repertoire of terms for the way a person walks or moves. Clearly,
m:Jl11m.1. 5 The sheer number of ways one can talk about csscntializcd ki- humans arc capable of experiencing and manifesting a multitude of kines-
netic modes (diffcrcm styles of az:Jlim1 or z;,z;,me) alerts us, on one level, thetic motions and postures, but the predilection for essentializing and
to the significance of this domain in Ewe cultural worlds. And the fact labeling these patterns is limited to those cultural traditions that have
that most of these terms are onomatopes or idcophones (sec Westermann placed a high premium on kinesthesia and proprioception.
1930: 107) indicates a kind of "pcrformativc claborarion" (Csordas Fafa Odoo [>resents a case in point. One afternoon while I was work-
1993: 146) of rhe sensory dimension of az.1liz:>z:> (movement) and ing with my research assistant, Elaine, in the front room of our house,
az:Jlime (moral essence). Or, as Sapir commented in relation to redupli- we heard a commotion as Fafa Ocloo appeared in the compound to pay
cation: "the process is generally employed, with self-evident symbolism, respects to her aunt, Adzoa Kokui, and to pour libations to their ances-
to indicate ... plurality, repetition, customary activity, ... added inten- tors. The driver had parked her Mercedes outside the gate, and Fafa
sity," and so forth ( 1921 :76, emphasis added). With self-evident sym- strode in, gracefully negotiating the sand with her high heels. A slit up
bolism, then, Ewe speakers refer to kinetic modes, styles of comport- the hack of her fitted skirt allowed Fafa to walk. Her skirt was matched
ment, or simply "the way you walk" with language that is saturated with by a purple and bright green Dutch wax-print blouse embellished by the
sensory valuation. In fact, when I was in Ghana for only a few months signature balloon-shaped sleeves of West African women. As a head-
in 1992, I did not have time to adjust to the pace of the culture and was wrap, Fafa donned the same wax-print, her face adorned by starched
always rushing around trying to get things done. Several m:>fialawo com- wings jutting up toward the sky. I wondered aloud who this visitor might
------------
- - - - - - - - - - - - - ------
82. Kinesthesia and the Development of Moral Sensibilities Kinesthesia and the Development of Moral Sensibilities 8;

be, and Elaine commented (largely in jest) .. Ele z:n::m1 atsy:Jz:>li l)ltt:J!" head and hands and eyes must be free co move. It is better to move
(She is "walking atsy:>z:Jli" very well). quickly, set down your load, and then atsy:Jz:i/i."
Atsy:Jz:>li, it turned out, was an affected comportment generally in- The other extreme was expressed as z:>gboz:ie (z:J: walk; gbo: come;
volving atsy:Jcf.oc[o, a highly revered form of adornment and dress. Elaine z;,e: walk). In Accra, a Z:lgboz;,e man lived in our compound for several
explained, "It is walking majestically. When you put on fine clothes and months. His aunt would send him to the market to buy cassava, pepper,
arc going to church or to a ceremony-atsy:JZ:Jli-you walk like a queen. and fish; he would return carrying a can of condensed milk. His uncle
I cannot make atsy;,z:ili in these clothes." She gestured toward her every- asked him to repair some wiring in my room one afternoon. He appeared
day garb. "I must wear kente or fine clothing. You must wear fine with a screwdriver, spent an hour removing the plate, then left for town
clothes-or be a person who is very proud-to atsy:JZ:Jli on a daily co go and purchase the wire. When he returned, several hours later, he
basis." I asked Elaine, can anyone be or do atsy:>z:>li? "Yes, but you must had neglected to bring the cutter. By evening the plug in my room still
put on the cloches and the airs. Some people do it all the time. Most peo- did not work. "Tsy:J! Ame Z:Jgboz:Je," his aunt complained. (Going and
ple only do it on special occasions. Some people are born to walk like coming, cannpt get the job done, a sorry and pathetic sort of guy.)
that. They say, Eh, as for chat woman, Esia ko Z:J tsyoz:Jli loo! That's just I have d~cribed the character or disposition of some individuals as
how you walk [she demonstrated): swing your arrris, walk slowly, turn summed up by terms simulraneously used to depict how they carry
your head to the side, smile a little, look at those as you pass, a faintly themselves or walk. Many of the adjectives and adverbs discussed here
snobbish air. That's atsy:Jz:>li. 000000. Um hmmm. That's how Fafa can be used not only to describe movement but also a person's eating
Ocloo walks! She doesn't say bye-bye when you are going. She doesn't behavior, the way the person laughs, general mannerisms, and so forth,
walk with you to the roadside." and people seemed to comment liberally (using terms from the lists pre-
So was atsy:>z:Jli a positive or negative thing? Elaine explained, "If sented earlier) on such demeanor. 6 Comportment, then, was of concern
you arc endowed with the natural and the material things to atsy:>z:J/i, to many Ania-speaking people with whom I worked. Many believed
no one will abuse you. People kind of enjoy it, or admire it. But if you that bodily movement both shaped character and revealed demeanor. It
are snobby along with it, then people don't like it. That's atsy:Jdada- is striking how two prominent Anlo-Ewe poets, Kofi Anyidoho and Kofi
peoplc say rou are vain." (In Westcrmann's dictionary, atsy:Jdada is Awoonor, also attend to walks or kinesthesia in their work. Anyidoho
translated as "a dandy" [1973(19:z.8]::z.62].) Elaine said, "It depends on dedicated his book AncestralLogic and CaribbeanB/ues to several
the other qualities of the person. If the qualities are snobby, then people women "for walking in bala11ce back home" (1993, emphasis added).
don't like it. But if your other qualities are fine, then people enjoy and In the opening of Awoonor's novel This Earth, My Brother .. (1971),
admire atsy:Jz:>li." Fa fa Ocloo, according to Elaine, was teetering on the he introduces each of the characters largely through highlighting their
brink between ats):Jqoqo (adornment, embellishment, display) and at- walks: "He was marching up and down with a long bamboo cane. He
sy;,dada (putting on pretenses, vanity, being a snob). At this point in our stamped his feet in military precision just to impress and frighten us"
tape-recorded conversation, Elaine laughed heartily and mused: "You (p. 3 ). Another character "hurried onwards in his jerky walk in which
can't balance when you're focused on atsy:Jz:Jli. No, agbagbaqoc[o and his heels did not touch the ground" (p. 10). And, "the second day my
atsy:>z:>li don't mix!" It is not clear to me, in retrospect, if Elaine was father said, You look like a sleepwalker" (p. 4). As for the woman, she
speaking ii1 literal or metaphorical terms. I was too caught up in the joke, could "read my steps from afar.... In her sleep she knew it when I
laughing uproariously with Elaine, to seriously question her intent. But walked towards her room" (pp. 1-2). Awoonor acknowledges that tra-
the fact that she made an association between the two (balancing and ditional Ewe cultural-aesthetic forms serve as deep inspiration for his
walking affectedly) is remarkable, and her laughter and tone of voice be- writing (1975::z.o:z.-:z.17). To that last description he could have added
a
tray playfulness and a level of philosophical significance to this com- that with seselelame "she read my steps ... she smelled me from far
ment that the bare words on this page fail to convey. She concluded, "It away." It was that feeling in the body (sese/elame) that allowed her to
is difficult to atsy:JZ:Jli if you have a load on your head. Some: people can, "read my steps at all hours," to know-even in sleep-"when l walked
but it will hurt your neck." Here she snickered mischievously. "Your towards her room. " 7
"
84 Kincsthcsia and the Development of Moral Sensibilities

In 1995, shortly before I left Ghana, a man shot and killed an Ewe
man for collecting sand from the footprints he had made earlier in the
day. That is, the Ewe man was caught picking af:>ke (foot-sand) from the
other man's prints. In fear for his life, believing the Ewe man in his front
yard would work powerful juju with the sand that held a residue of his
body and his walk, the man shot the other and pleaded self-defense. Herc
Bourdieu's habitus encodes aspects of the world that are precious and
dear or deemed so valuable by members of a cultural group that they lit-
erally make these themes or motifs into "body." In Anlo contexts, the cul-
tural elaboration of the way one moves represents a way of being-in-the-
world that is socially reproduced and imbued with moral meaning.
Eventually I came to realize that this entwinement explained why many
of my m:>fialawo (including Mr. Adzomada) were reluctant to focus co1n-
pletely on sensing in their discussions with me and instead wanted to teach
me about their history, folklore, and traditions. I asked about tasting and
touching; they wanted to talk about z:>z:mie and az:>lime (comportment
and moral disposition). As I listened more closely to what Anlo speakers
wanted me to know, I began to see the bridge between the two agendas-
between my concern with excavating an indigenous Anlo sensorium and
their focus on Anlo-Ewe traditions or core cultural values. In many ways
that bridge is built around the concept of seselelame, which I translate
loosely as a kind of interoceptively oriented feeling in the body, because
sese/elame has a direct bearing upon how self-awareness is produced1n
this cultural context. Moreover, balance, movement, and a more gener-
alized feeling in the body (seselelame1 are critical components of an in-
digenous theory of inner states. Now we turn to the way these under-
standings arc embedded in the child's earliest experience. 8

Young entrepreneur in Anloga with his roulette wheel


it .::1w~2]~::~;- ~

Political rally in Anloga for President J.J. Rawlings, whose heritage includes
Anlo-Ewe ancestry

'. ~~~:~?:,,:;:.~~f~iJ;t}tf;~{ ,,

Mother back tying her daughter while stirring soup

View of the Keta Lagoon on the northern edge of Sr.Jghoe and Winni, with
young Anlo boys taking their hoat out fishing
Farmers weeding and watering family shallot fields near Anloga. Shallots have been a
commercial crop since the late nineteenth century, partially replacing the copra industry
when disease wiped out coconut palms.

Girls hanesting cassa\a, one of the staple foods of West Africa


r.

Market women in Anloga waiting for customers to purchase their chickens

Seamstress working in the Anloga markec. She is pointing at a locall> woven


basket known as a kevi.
Iv-..
. .
-'i
~ ~;

..

Sr:Jgboe children sitting on a bench. The girl on the left is exhibiting proper
Grandmother reaching for baby in a box to prop her up and encourage posture.
greater bodil> balance

Two women both engaged in atsyoz:>li: walking with style


Father supporting his haby with a cloth thread through the child's armpits, en-
couraging the not-ycc-wddlcr to stand and walk
(~Ider ladies at the l-logbctsotso lcstival cna..:ung their ancestor's escape from
Nome 111 the m1d-~evcntcenth ..:entury. Ead1 woman on the left displays an
Vod11 ..:a.mony in J '>.1cn:d grove in Sr:igboe during the T:igbui Apim iesti\al
old-style ats1/Jla (pillow strapped to the buttocks I; periumed skin applications
on their arms and backs arc referred to as ,uike1c1,c.

~f~;
rt ,1
/

Le1-:ba empowerment obje..:t (guardian of thresholds) in a Kera alley


Author-ethnographer conlcrrmg with .111 Anlo-Ewe schol.11
CHAl'l"Ell 5

Sensory Symbolism in Birth


and Infant Care Practices

In many human societies, ideas about health, personhood, and social re-
lations extend into the period before a child is even born, and in this
arena Anlo-land was no exception. Conception, pregnancy, birch, and
the first weeks and months of a baby's life were surrounded by ideas
about sensory symbolism and meanings ascribed to various interactions
and practices chat involved different sensory modes. Human beings are
ushered into (Bourdieu's phrase is "durably installed" wich) their cul-
ture's sensorium, which, as I have suggested, reflects some of the most
fundamental values. The ushering in begins symbolically in chc (ritually
packed) birth event itself and continues during early childhood experi-
Elderly couple in their home ences. In this way, phenomena em-bodied, or made body, arc "placed
beyond the grasp of cons~iousness, and hence cannot be couched by vol-
untary, deliberate transformation, cannot even be made explicit" (Bour-
dieu 1977:94). They arc some of the most "ineffable, incommunicable,
and inimitable" aspects of being, and as Bourdieu suggests ( 1977:94 ),
there is nothing "more precious, than the values given body, made body
by che transubstantiation achieved by the hidden persuasion of an im-
plicit pedagogy" embedded in cultural and socialization processes.
This chapter does not purport co be a comprehensive account of child-
birth and child-socialization practices in Anlo-land, but rather a sam-
pling of those elements that the m:J{ialawo with whom I worked stressed
as significant dimensions of their culture and those elements chat illus-
trate the connections between sensory socialization and embodiment. A
Sensory Symholism in Binh and lnforu Care l'racriccs Sensory Symbolism in Hirrh and lniant Cart Practices

more systematic examination of d1ild-socialization pr;1cticcs should pro- carved wooden scool and felt how resting in such a (balanced) position
vide much richer ethnographic information to further support the fol- stills the body's proprioceptive and kinesthetic sensations. Nonetheless,
lowing claims, and additional research needs to be carried 0111 to more the image of the babr atop a zikpui or "placental stool" drew on cul-
deeply understand how children internalize cultural meanings (Strauss tural categories of balancing (aglMgbm(oc(o), kincsthcsi'1 and movement
and Quinn 1997) about sensory categories. Uut this chapter provides ini- {m:.::>liz:iz:>), and the more general sense of sese/elamc (feeling in the bodr,
tial information on how sensory valuation is reflected in pregnanq and flesh, and skin).
birth rituals and enacted in child-socialization routines. I hasten to add that chis is not all that is involved. The symlmlism sug-
gests that the baby is linked to the mother via the placenta as the indi-
vidual is tied to the lineage through the ancestral stool. l An ancestral
POSTURE AND BAl.ANCE:
stool is considered a symbol of heritage and authority, being a "seat of
TREATING THE PLACENTA AS A STOOi.
power," and it plays a significant role in religious rituals of the lineage,
Birth attendancs and village vixelawo in Sr:>gboe, \Vhuti, Atob, and_ Or clan. Amoaku ( c975: r 19-120) explains "the symbolic significance of
Kplowotob sometimes called the placenta zikpui, which is a term refer- the ancestral stool as the source of all craditional political and spiritual
ring to a traditional African stool on which chiefs sit. While they \\ere power among the Ewe." In ritual contexts, stools arc even "fed" and
dear that in the Ewe language the word ame11:J was the technical or lit- "given drinks" (Glover 1992), which is suggestive of a nourishing ca-
eral term used to describe the afterbirth, I often heard them talk about pacity paralleled by the placenta being the life-support system for a baby.
the placenta as a stool (zikpui). Before elaborating on the significance of Stool festivals (called zik/mimt or afcdcmu) involve offerings of food and
calling the placcma a stool, let me note here that I distinguish between drink to the ancestors (Nukunya 1969b:27), often literally in the pres-
three different categories of people who deliver babies. When l use the ence of or while standing before the ancestral stool. While I do not know
term "midwife," I mean a person who has rccei\cd biomcdically based how conscious these connections may have been on the part of the var-
training as a nurse-midwife. The term "traditional birth attendant" is re- ious traditional birth attendants and village vixelawo who referred to
served for those who have participated in a brief government-sponsored the placenta as a stool, the symbolism suggests that just as it is from the
craining progrnm to upgrade their delivery skills. I use "village 11ixela" to placcnrn thm the baby derives nucricnts, oxygen, and blood, it is in re-
refer to other people in the rural area who deliver babies on a regular lation to the ancestral stool that members of the lineage sustain them-
basis but who have not received formal or state-sanctioned training. 1 selves (by knowing who they arc and to what group they belong). Just
Man}' traditional birth attendants and vixelawo reported imagining as the ancestral stool is treated reverentially, the placenta is typically
the baby sitting on a little stool inside the womb, and after delivery ther buried somewhere in the compound that serves as the baby's lineage
would talk about waiting for the "baby's seat" to emerge. This belief ground. It is a place to which mosc Anlo-speaking people return regu-
was not literal; they were amused by my questions about whether they larly to par homage to their ancestors and is therefore instrumental in
really thought the baby was sining upright (on top of che placenta) in- the formacion of identity.
side the womb, and the}' clearly understood that a preferable presenta-
tion during dcliverr was head (rather than feet) first. The symbolic ex-
CRAVING AND CONSUMING liYli
pression is striking, however, in the association it conjures to stools
(which hold profound spiritual significance in Anlo-land and chrough- A second pregnancy practice with relevant sensory symbolism revolved
our \Vest Africa) and to posture and balance. There is an imagined baby around beliefs about and consumption of a clay or earthen substance
composing or arranging her body into a still and balanced form, poised known in the Ewe language as e)'e. Throughout markets in Kera, An-
on an African stool, even in the womb. loga, Anranui, Anyako, and so forth, a small number of women ran stalls
Those experienced in the meditative arts of yoga might readily un- from which the)' sold an assortment of usually oblong or egg-shaped
derstand the underlying concept here, burro truly appreciate the sensory pieces of baked clay. Conversations with village vixelawo, traditional
experience symbolized by zikpui, perhaps one needs to have sat on a birth attendants, and midwives indicaccd that pregnant women often in-
88 Sensory Symbolism in Birch anJ Int.mt Care l'ra.:11.:e~ Sensory Symbolism in Hirth anJ Infant Care Practices

gested rlll'sc substances as J w.1y oi coping with nausea, heartburn, ex- which I attributed largely to their noc having been inscrucccd that it was
cess sJliva, and vomiting. The physiological causes and consequences oi detrimental to a woman's health.
this worldwide practice (variously described in the literature as gcopluz- Women in the rural area in general had a good deal of sympathy for
gia, pica, and cravings) have been debated among anthropologists, cul- the practice. It was believed to help calm an upset stomach and the vom-
tural geographers, and medical practitioners (Reid 1992). Typically iting that occurred with such frequency during pregnancy. One woman
viewed as pathological in the context of Western medical traditions, Reid reported that sometimes they did not even cat the ere, but "just want to
( 1992) found little e\idcnce for the efficacy of geophagia in cases of ane- smell it, crave the scent. We just bake it, put it in the oven and bake the
mia but concluded that the adaptive \alue of consuming day seemed to eye. Or we also bake sand to smell chat too." Vermeer ( c971 :69-70)
lie in its antidiarrheal, detoxification, and mineral supplementation pos- commented similarly: "Informants repeatedly related that the scent of
sibilities. Specifically in West Africa, although Vermeer ( 1966) suggested the clays is a strong factor motivating purchase and consumption, espe-
that consumption by pregnant women among the Tiv might be explained cially on wet, rainy days. Presumably the aromatic quality of the clay is
as a source of mineral supplementation (of calcium and magnesium), a akin to the smell of the 'good earth' on wet days among rural inhabi-
sii.nil;r study among Ewe speakers (Vermeer 1971) did not reveara clear- tants in Western societies, and this mar have a possible bearing on the
cut physiological need. Given Reid's ( 1992) more recent and more ex- initiation and perpetuation of the practice." In addition to the appeal of
tensive scudy of geophagia, the case among Ewe speakers most certainly the aroma, Vermeer made further observations ( 1971:70) about the sym-
deserves revisiting, but the biomedical implications of this phenomenon bolic value of certain visual (and even haptic) attributes: "The shape of
did not interest me as much as simply what people in Anlo-land thought eye seems further related to the ... condition of pregnancy. Traditionally
about this practice. Who was inclined to consume ere? Under what cir- eye has the shape of an egg, a food which in Ewe culture is ascribed the
cumstances or for what purposes? Was this seen as a positive, negative, attributes of promoting long life, health, well-being, and fertility. Inges-
or neutral phenomenon? What were the percei\cd benefits, conse- tion of eye, therefore, imparts these qualities to the pregnant female who
quences, or outcomes of eating ere? considers herself in a subnormal condition and prone co illness."
In Anlo-land I never observed or heard of male consumption nor did What village i1ixe/awo and traditional birch attendams consistently
I encounter much about nonpregnant women eating eye. Vermeer, how- told me, however, was that excessive ingestion resulted in a buildup of
ever, reported (1971:66) on a small number of Ewe-speaking men con: the substance covering the baby's skin. This idea is illustrated in the fol-
suming the clay for medicinal purposes, simply for pleasure, or in the lowing translated excerpt from an interview I conducted with a tradi-
context of ritual practices. Consumption was almost always described tional birth attendant in Tcgbi Ashiata.
as a response to either pregnanq cravings or as a palliative for the nau-
sea and acid indigestion that occur during pregnancy, and in two differ- TBA: The women just feel they must cat it. I don'1 care whether or not
ent instances I was even suspected of being pregnant when I was ob- ther cat it. It's up to them.
served purchasing and later unwrapping my parcel full of differently KLG: Do you notice any effect it has?
shaped pieces of eye. Opinions as to its neutrality, detriment, or benefit TBA: Yes, it sticks to the baby's skin.
varied widely. Midwives cended to perceive it as a harmful praccice. As KLG: So when the bahy is born you can ac1ually see it?
one midwife, who I am calling Janice, explained, "It just makes the TBA: Yes, the baby comes with eye on it. Then we have to use soap and
women constipaced. They have a craving for it. And if they can't get ere. akutsa [a sponge made from a locally grown creeper! to push it off
they just cat dirt. It's very bad for them." Traditional birth attendants during the first bath. When they cat a little, it doesn't show. But
when 1hey ea1 plenty, it shows. It cover~ 1he whole body of 1he babr.
often reported that previously they thought it was all right to cat small
It doesn't affect the baby, as such, but it sticks on the baby for a
quantities of ere for morning sickness and other discomforts of preg- long time. You wash the baby and it still docs not come off. It takes
nancy, but then they learned in their government training courses that several days, weeks, even months before it finally comes off. And if
ingesting eye was counterproductive. A few village vixelawo with whom it doesn't come off, then it leaves an everlasting scent on 1he ha by.
I discussed the practice seemed to feel quite neutral about the subject, K l.G: You mean it is in the skin? And you can smell it on the baby?
r
!
:

90 Sensory S)mholism in Uirrh .11111 lnianr Care l'racriccs Scnsorr Symbolism in Birth and lnfam C.uc l'racti..:es
91

TH1\: Yes. Two years later, when I had returned to Anlo-land and attended ap-
Kl.G: When you say "e.,.crlasring," what do )'Oii lllc;111? proximate!) fifteen different births, I saw that there were still conflicts
T/Jt\: For )'cars-if you don'r give a good hath. You h:wc to scrape it all over the coating found on many newborns. Since many traditional birth
during infancy. When it (rht bahyl is growing ;rnd docs not get a attendants were instructed that consumption of e\'C was a detrimental
good bath, it [the ere. the scent! stays. So, ir's not good for them. practice for pregnant women and rhey associated the amount of mucus
on a neonate's skin with the level of ingestion of clay on the part of the
ll1is "everlasting scent," traceable to the stale of the neonate, was re- woman, I witnessed several instances of intense scolding by the tradi-
ferred to as dzigbec[i (<11.iglw: birthday; <[i: dirt, filth), or "birth dirt." tional birth attendant as she wiped and washed the l!emix caseosa off
While some people reported that dr.igbeqi was essemially a strong body the baby's skin. None of the delivering mothers protested chat they had
odor that certain individuals possessed as a result of a weak first bath, not consumed eye, so that seemed to further support the idea that they
more extensive discussions re\ealed that for many people dzig/Jec[i sym- were perceived to be related.
bolized a more generalized improper upbringing. The association here links a gustatory practice or craving, the visible
Nearly all the birth attendants and village i1i.'l:elarvo with whom I and textural covering on some newborn babies, the everlasting scene that
w~rked believed that the greasy or cheesy coating on a newborn was due would be embedded in the skin and plague a person for the rest of his
to the mother's ingestion of e\'c, while Ania-speaking midwives invari- or her life, and badness. It is indisputable that the clay known as eye re-
abl> understood it to be vcmix caseosa (a medical term for the substance sembles in both color and texture the 11cmix caseosa coating a ncwborn's
that covers the fetus in urero). This was evidem in a dialogue that en skin. Even I had to give pause in a couple instances when I obsened the
sued when Janice took me to the village of Lumc-A\'Cte to talk with sev- heavy substance covering a neonate and listened to the discussion be-
eral birch attendants during the summer of 1992. While traditional birth tween the birth attendant and the mother. Yet it seems likely that the
attendams had a great deal of experience delivering babies and had been local sensorium enhanced the connection.
through a two-week government-sponsored intensive training course, In ontological terms, an association existed for many people between
Janice (in her capacity as a dedicated midwife and a very active member eating something (e,'e), seeing and feeling it affect one's offspring (a coat-
of the Ghana Registered Midwives Association) continued to visit and ing on the baby's skin), and the potential for a condition of great social
instruct :l 'immber of traditional birth attendants in the vicinity of her stigma (dtigbec[i, or the everlasting scent). Similar to che case of /11gulug11,
Maternity Home. In accompanying her on one of these visits, I asked the the concerns expressed about dligbec[i were largely rooted in the cultural
birth attendant what she thought of the substance on the baby's skin category of scselelame-a complex notion weaving together physical sen-
when it was first born. She replied that she used to think it was caused sations with moral sensibilities, emotional states, and intersubjective rc-
by pregnant women eating too much eye, but on a number of occasions lations.Lldgbec[i is particularly striking because of how it necessitates a
she asked her clients and they denied having engaged in the practice, so conditioning quite literally of the skin. I he foundational logic of sesele-
she began wondering if it came from something else. lamc (feeling in the body, flesh, and skin) combined with the ideas about
At that point Janice interjected (with a bit of frustration) that all the the potential harm of birth dire helps explain a social practice (the ritual
traditional birth attendants seemed to think the wmix caseosa was from first bath) that if not properly performed could affect the entire familr
eating clay or dirt, and in turn cher would scrub the baby vigorously (out by signifying that they had not given the individual a proper upbringing.
of fear it would leave cl.dgbcc[i, the everlasting scent). Janice stated that The epistemological and ontological properties of these beliefs and prac-
she had been trying for years to get them to "drop this belief," and she tices illustrate the quotidian affect of a culturally constructed sensorium.
expressed frustration that she continued to find this idea to be wide-
spread. She then rook time co instruct this particular traditional birth at-
BATHING THE NE\'l;'BORN AND REMOVAL OF IBIGIH!Dl
tendant about the natural coating that a baby acquires while in the womh
and to explain chat the whitish gray film on the skin had no relationship Turning to the customary first bath, lei me first address tltl" importance
to a pregnant woman's consuming clay or dirt. of bathing and cleanliness in general. Nearly thirty years ago, in a study
Sensory Symholmn in Birth and Infant Care Prac1ice~ Sensory Symholism 111 Birth .md lni.rn1 Cm: l'r.Kllces

focusing on how Ewe-speaking children learn pr.1ctices, traditions, and membranes, actual birch and issuance: oi the placenta, cutting and rymg
morals emphasized within their own cultural heritage, Egblcwogbe of the umbilical cord, and bathing oi Adzoa (the delivering mother) hy
(1975:24) explained: her own mother and the traditional birth attendant (referred co simply
Ewe people la)' greal emphasis on cleanliness. Children .ire washed al least as "B"). The baby was initi.1lly called Kwaku, which was the day nanw
twice a day. Older ones arc caugh1 how to wash themselves. Splimcrs or for a hoy horn on \Veclnesday.
twigs of soft-wooded trees are used as chewing sticks. Clothes arc washed
at least once a week on days when no farming is <lone. It is the duty of chil- B wiped up some of the floor, bur 1he flies were beginning to amass in till'
dren to sweep the rooms and the compound early every morning and IO room-attracted by the lluids and blood. About that time two clderlv ladies
fetch water from the wells .... Any woman who docs nor keep her house came in, and then K [another traditional birth attendant I came in. B; then
dean ... is referred ro insultingly as one covered up with dirt, and this there were also children coming in and out of the room-some to look,
detracts very much from a woman's integrity. some to help B carry water, srools, etc. H asked K "Where have you been? ..
She then explained ro nw that they were going to bathe the baby. K picked
While many older Anlo-speaking people complained to me that scan up the wash basin full of bloodv water from Adzoa's bath and carried it
dards of cleanliness and hygiene (both personal and environmental) had outside on her head. More buckets of water were brought into the room,
deteriorated significantlr in the last few decades, 1 found Egblewogbe's along with a clean basin, and a bench for the elderly ladies. They sat ro my
statement to still ring true. left. B was across from me and K sat near her. B placed the basin direct!\' in
Shortly after I arrived in Sr:igboe, I jotted down the following obser- front of herself, then placed her legs 0111 straight across the basin and with
her ankles and calves resting on the orposite edge. She placed the baby
vation in my notes: .. This evening Fortune [a four-year-old girl! was across her legs. She then told me I should bring my husband in to watch 1hc
standing in a pan in front of her house covered from head to toe in white bath. I wenr out to get him. A young boy brought a chair for my husband
foam. She was squealing and splashing the water. Her grandmother was to sit on and placed it right next to my stool. K took the bar of soap and
giving her a bath. This is a child who almost always looks grimy, filthy, lathered up a sponge that was shaped and textured like a net. She handed i1
as if she just rolled in the mud. But I see that she is bathed (SCRUBBED! I to B who began scrubbing the baby's head. B held him with her left palm
across his chest .find her thumb and fingers under each of his arms. \'\'ith
thoroughly at least once a day." A few months later I wrote the follow-
her right hand she scrubbed his head with 1hc sponge and plenty of lathery
ing generalization based upon observations of more than five different soap. She lathered, scrubbed, and rinsed his head, all the 1imc talking with
families and twelve to fifteen children with whom we shared a com the elderly ladies and K. Meanwhile at least 6 to 10 children had come in
pound: .. Children arc bathed frequently and often 'in public'-that is, side and lined up behind the elderly ladies to watch, hut everyone rcm.1ined
in front of their house, in full view of the entire compound. They are quiet. After Kwaku's head was rinsed, B placed him on his stomach aero"
her 1highs and lathered and scrubbed hi~ hack, buttocks, and legs. This sec
covered with soap and scrubbed, and they are scolded for going too long
tion was rinsed thoroughlr and then he was placed on his back across her
without a good bath." legs and his stomach, neck, underarms, genitals, legs, feet, and so forth
The bathing of children in this context was more of a social than an were thorough!> cleaned. After rinsing the front, B repeated the entire rou-
individualized phenomenon. Not onl}' were children often publicly bathed tilll'-hcad, back, then front--one more time. Kwaku was relatively calm
in front of other families but the implications of poor hygiene extended and cried very little during this "work-out." B then dipred the sponge inio
far beyond the individual self. That is, whether uncleanliness was seen, warm to hot water and pressed it against Kwaku with more force than she
previously used. She pushed against his legs, especially at rhe knee joints.
smelled, f~lt, tasted, or heard about, the stigma of bad hygiene tended to
She pulled on the legs with her left hand and pressed the sponge against
adhere to a person's relatives as much if not more than it pertained to the him with her right hand. He started putting up a bit of a fuss at this point.
individual self. Families were blamed for not having trained the child well His skin began turning more pink. I-le was on his stomach across her
or for having failed to begin as early as the baby's initial bath. thighs; she pulled on his legs, then placed his arms behind his back, crossed
While living in Sr:'lgboe I attended more than a dozen births and wit- 1hc hands and pressed against the elbow joints. All the while she kept plac-
ing the sponge in and out of the warm or hot water. She then pressed and
nessed the bathing routine given to neonates. The following is an excerpt
rubbed the sponge from the front to the hack of his head. She also
from my fieldnotes that specifically describes this practice. The baby's thoroughly cleaned the umbilical cord with the antiseptic liquid in the jar
bath was preceded, of course, by several hours of labor, rupture of the containing the strings used to tic the cords. This last section of the bath was
r
9-1 Sensory Symbolism in Birth ;rnd lnfam Care l'rac1iccs Sensory S~mholism in Hirth .111d lnfont C.trt' l'raciices ') j

rougher than 1hc beginning .11111 Kwaku cried a bi1, hm it only lasted a few orous scruhhing, and it w:1s cbngcrom Ill applr hot water and pn.s-;1m:
minutes. Soon n was drring him off, and rubbing shca buuer into his skin.
to the skull (in their efforts to shape the baby's head). She believed till'
She also powdered him with 1;1k or haby powder of some son. And she
dearcd tbc passageway of his 1hroat by pressing her finger down beyond entire ritual was completely unnecessary and had nothing to do with the
his wngue. When she limshed aml pulled her finger out, he was llllite calm health and well-being of the child, but was simply a "traditional prac-
and just made a small and hricf crying sound. Finally, Adzoa and her sister tice" that was almost impossible to convince people to forego.
were rummaging through a bag of b.ihy clothes to find a suitable garment. Finally, two things become clear to me in these discussions about hy-
l11ey gave n a blue and while feminine looking dress which she rejected giene and bathing. Many people believed they could know things about
since he was a hoy. B pointed to :1 pink colored simpler garment. Adzoa
each other and about the moral status of various families from the sen-
handed it co her. Kwaku was lying on his hack across B's legs at this point,
and his arms were sticking straight up into the air. B laughed and said, sory dimensions of hygiene in that when uncleanliness was seen, smelled,
"He's ready!" since she was able co slip 1he sleeves right O\'Cr him. She b11t- felt, tasted, or heard about, the stigm:l was attributed to the failings of
3
toncd it down 1hc back, then picked up a clmh that was the same paucrn the fomilr at large. St.-cond, bathing was an explicitly social phenomc
as the one Adzoa was current!) wearing, and she wrapped Kwaku in the non. While Kwaku's entire birrh e\cnt involved numerous members oi
doth.. She held him up :md e\cryonc smiled and nodded affirmations. B
the family, the baby's bath attracted the largest number of observers. The
handed Kwaku to K who handed him 10 me. The rwo elderly ladies left.
Three little girls sat next to me smiling and watching Kwak11. Meanwhile B ritual could even be described as a "performance," with those watching
and K helped Adzoa get up and wipe off a bit more. The)' helped her (such as the elderly ladies, the children, my husband, and myself) as an
change the doth that was :1bsorhing the blood still flowing from her. She "audience." One's hygiene and, by extension, one's health was a matter
then wrapped herself back up in the cloth that matched Kwaku's and she of social concern, and this began with life in the womb and during thl'
lar clown on the straw mat and cushion. I handed Kwaku to Band she scr birth evem itself.
him down next to Adzo.i, right near her head. We dosed the window since
The importance of cleanliness and its relation to health extended not
the sun was streaming in and falling direct!)' on Adzoa's mat.
emir beyond individuals to their families hue to the larger sphere or thl
This bath was fairly typical of the many I observed, though variations body politic we might refer to as Anlo. At the Hogbetsotso festival
could include pouring of libations, the use of a local sponge (akutsa) in- (which will he discussed at length in chapter 7), Togbui Adeladze (the
stead of the plastic net-like doth, and more pressing and shaping of the Paramount Chief of Ania-speaking peoples) declared in his speech,
head. Also, when the birth was difficult or dangerous, additional rituals "Cleanliness is next to godliness and helps to eradicate diseases, so let's
were ofren performed to ensure the health and safety of the mother and keep our environment clean." In J.J. Rawling's speech, which followed
new child. shortly after the Paramount Chief's, the president also made note of the
While the potential for <V.igbec[i (the everlasting scene) was believed to significance of hygiene and sanitation in Anlo traditions. He declared
be the most extreme outcome of not administering a proper hath and the that the area of Anlo-land used to be the shining example in Ghana of
presence of l!Ye made scrubbing all the more urgent, in general people people taking care of their environment. He bemoaned the deterioration
believed that if the family and the traditional birth attendant (or 11ixcla) of those previous standards, citing garbage strewn along the sides of the
did not.cleanse the baby well, as the child grew to an adult he or she roads and in the town as well as the riddling of many beaches with
would retain and exude some degree of scent. Furthermore, failure to human waste as examples of eroding moral values and a significant com-
flex the joints would result in poor posture and coordination, and fail- promise to the health and well-being of not only Anlo people but the na
ure to massage the skull would result in an oddly shaped head. In regard tion at large. Clearly, a babr's first bath was perceived as not only pre
to the skull, the fear was that without proper attention the two parietal venting cl!Jgbeqi, or an everlasting scent, but also served to symbolically
bones would migrate apart, leaving a gap between them. io complicate usher the child into a way of being-in-the-world with ramifications ex
matters, however, certain Anlo-speaking individuals did not believe or tending far beyond the individualized self.
accept chis point of view. Janice (the midwife) was quite vehement in her A final point about the ritual first bath revolves around the issue of mak-
opposition to this practice, stating that people often used water that was ing flexible bodies and the development of adaptability as a character trait.
much too hot, they caused pain to the baby with harsh brushes and vig- In the sketch of Kwaku's first bath in the excerpt of fieldnotes presented
Sensory Symbolism in Birth and Infant Care Practices Sensory Symbolism in Birrh and Infant Care l'ractices 97

earlier, I described how the traditional birth attendant "pushed against his Afrs. Odoo: Yes. Then after that, the :mns. You put the baby on its stom
legs, especially at the knee joints. She pulled on the legs with her left hand ach, across your legs. Then you get the two arms: place the
and pressed the sponge against him with her right hand .... He was on his hands together behind the baby's back. You rry co straighten
stomach across her thighs; she pulled on his legs, then placed his arms be- the dhows. Do the same for the legs, also.
hind his back, crossed the hands and pressed against the elbow joints." KI.G: And what is that for?
This specific routine (focused on the knee and elbow joints) was not lim- Mrs. Odem: They say babies ... well, the)' don't want the elbows sticking
out. So they want it supple ... so that when you arc mming ...
ited to the first bath alone, but was repeated by many Anlo-speaking fam-
well, you watch a typical Anlo ... a typical Anlo woman walk-
ilies throughout the first few months of a baby's life. The ritual massage ing, just swinging the hands like this [she stands and demon-
was intended to enhance flexibility, which was thought to be best initiated strates! ... With the elbows placed like this [she bends her
and rehearsed at a very early age. arms slightly, elbows pointed forward, arms are no longer
Many people believed that flexing the joints, stretching and manipu- passively hanging against her sides!.
,lating them as part of daily bathing of an infant, would produce in the Kl.G: So right from the beginning you flex the baby's arms so that ...
individual an agile and elegant bodily shape, posture, and movements. Mrs. Oc/oo: They don't get stiff. It's our tradition. Right from the start the
child gets the routine.
While this practice was aimed at an embodied aspect of being, it seems
to me al~o related to the high value placed on adaptability. Under the Mr. Oc/c)O: We want our people to be supple. TI1cy need to be able to
move freely ... Not rigid in their body or their thinking. Our
rubric of Anlo forms of being-in-the-world, in chapter 6 I will introduce people have to go live with the Fanti, the Ga, the Ashanti, and
the proverb Ne 11eyi akfJ:JkfJbwo fe dume eye wotsy:J ak:J la, wo l1a 11at- ther have to be able to get along with them. So you start early,
S)':J ab (If you visit the village of the toads and you find them squatting, make them flexible from the beginning.
you must squat too) and explore how altering one's body posture sym-
bolizes adaptability and how the saying relates to the value placed on
flexibility. As I argue there, adaptability in dealing with other culcural or This is verr similar to how the sense of az:JliZ:JZ:J (walking or movement)
ethnic groups throughout Ghana and West Africa was a character trait was directlr linked to az:Jlime (one's character and way of life), or how
many Anlo-speaking people prided themselves on exhibiting. Experi- in many Anlo contexts the way a person walked and moved symbolized
encing and knowing flexibility ilt an embodied dimension and at an early the moral stance of an individual's life. Again, in the context of this cul-
age (through manipulation of the joints during an infant's bath) helped tural logic, no rigid distinction exists between the development of bod-
to produce flexibility i11 one's character and psychological outlook. While ily habits and psychological outlook. One flexes the baby's joints to im-
living in Anlo-land I spent a great deal of time in the company of Mrs. part both somatic agility and adaptability of character.
Sena Ocloo, who was a retired school teacher, and her husband, Mr.
Kobla Ocloo, a retired medical officer. In the following tape-recorded
OUTDOORING AND THE NAMING CEREMONY
conversation, the discussion moves from bodily massage aimed at phrs-
ical flexibility to Mr. Ocloo's comment about flexibility in character and Approximately seven days after a baby's birth, many families performed
in social interaction. an "outdooring," or "naming ceremony," for the child. Usually, the baby
was first carried out of the house, then back inside, and over the thresh-
old in this manner seven times. Placed on the ground, one of the rela-
KLG: At some of the baths I've seen, they manipulate or massage
the elbows and knees. tives (preferably someone who shared the babr's day name) would ap-
Mrs. Ocloo: Aha. That's how we do it-take the elbows and knees and proach the baby and query, "Who is this I have found in the wilderness?
flex them. That's how the babr becomes supple. First you Docs this baby belong to someone?" The mother of the child then de-
start with the head .. clared, "Yes, it is my baby, it belongs to us." The mother then paid the
KLG: [I describe Mrs. Odoo's hand gestures.] Round, form, or mold finder a token few cedis (like pennks) to get the baby back, co bring the
the head? baby inco the family and out of the wild, or to join the child to a human
f
Sensory Symbolism in Uirth and lnfa111 Care l'racticcs Sl"nsorr Symholi~m in l\irch and lnfon1 Care Prac1iccs 99

group. lf the family still had a thatched or corrugated iron roof, they our backs in order to straighten ourselves out." \X'hile it was not dear
might splash water on the roof and let it sprinkle down 01110 the haby's how widespread these beliefs were among Anlo-speaking people, it was
face. With the sun and the wind, the dripping water introduced the child dear that the practice of 11ikpak/M (carrying the babr on the back) was
m "the clements"; this was to assert that he was still a creature of the associated wirh the highly valued senses of balanCl' and posture (agbag-
natural world. Finallr. since 1111fofo, or speaking, was considered by /Jac[oc[o), kinesthcsia and movement (a;;:J/iz.n:.:> or az:J!ilm). and llexihil-
many to i1wolw important sensory qualities, many outdooring cere- irr in general.
monies included dropping a bit of gin, schnapps, or something pungent Mr. and Mrs. Odoo spelll many hours, during 1994 and 1995, help-
like salt water onto the baby's tongue to ensure that the child developed ing me contemplate and write about different aspects of Anlo culture.
a sharp edge in his pattern of speech.~ When I asked them tell me about vikpakpa, one of the first items they
Not all families in Anlo-land performed this ritual for the newborn offered was the phrase Vin:>ko me11ya kpac[o. The saying literally meant
or orchestrated the ceremony in precisely this way, and there was dis- something along the lines of "a baby cradled in the front (11i: baby; Jt:J:
agreement as to which components were borrowed from neighboring mother; ko: stomach) would not know (me11ya) the doth used to carry
groups and which were traditionally practiced in An~o areas. Neverthe- a child on the mother's back (kpa vi: co tie a child on one's ha'ik; cf.o:
less, this particuhir version of the ritual exhibits a tension between l wo countrr doth, possibly a Dahomean or Fon word)." While I never heard
different ways of being: feeling water, sun, and wind on the skin sym- this phrase used in' conversation or in a natural context, the Ocloos ex-
bolizes that )'Ou arc a child of nature, while at the same time hearing it plained i1 as a very serious insult used by parents or grandparents to re-
declared that you belong to a familr lets everyone know you arc nor a mind a yotmgster not to be impertinent because he pruhably did nm re-
creature of the "hush. " 5 This symbolism will be revisited later in rela- ally k11ow what he was talking about. For instance, Mrs. Ocloo suggested
tion co agl1agbac~>c[o, or the human capacitr "to balance." While a num- that if a child from a wealthr family made fun of one of her peers who
ber of m;,fialawo stated that the final segment of the birth ritual was an was less well-off, the parent might scold Vi11:Jko me11ya kpac[o and elab-
Akan custom that Ania-speaking people had recentlr adopted, it sym- orate hy telling the child that, while her family may possess money at
bolically displays an association between tasting a pungent flavor and that point, when she was a baby they did not have even a cloth to tie her
speaking sharply and clearly, or being articulate and quick with one's to her mother's back (and, hence, she was cradled on the from). Or per-
tongue, which arc values shared by many West African peoples. haps, Mrs. Odoo embellished, the parent would tell the child that she
was wrapped and carried in a rag (c[o v11v11) rather than a fine woven
cloth (ketc)!
CARRYING THE BAU\' ON TllE BACK (VIKP1\Kl'1\)
The implications of the Vin:Jko mcuya k{Jaclo interaction described by
Not limited to the Ewe-speaking area, throughout West Africa there is the Ocloos begin with the deep insult of claiming a child was carried at
a widespread practice in which women attach their small children to their the mother's front, since it is believed that vikpak11a (back tying) is in
backs by wrapping the children in a cloth bound around their abdomens part what establishes strong bonds between child and mother, strong
and breasts. This is referred to in the Ewe language as vikpak/u1. In sup- connections between a child and his or her lineage, and a general sense
port of a functionalist interpretation, one m:J{iala explained that in Anlo of security and attachment. So, if carried in the front, the very nature of
contexts women placed their habr on the back to free up their hands to your being has been compromised in that you did not develop the strong
grind corn, to work at the farm, to cook, and to perform other everyday bonds with rour mother and the relations with your family that arc per-
tasks. In addition, however, many Anlo speakers argued that the close ceived to be the result (in part) of prolonged attachment at the back. This
contact and position on the back created a strong bond or attachment point was further grounded for me during a conversation I had with
between mother and child; the child felt safe and secure strapped to the Adzoa Kokui, my elderly neighbor, after she had spent the previous week
mother's back and accompanying her for prolonged periods throughout in Accra. She asked me if all Americans carry their babies on their stom-
the day. Another m:Jfiala said, "Since we carry babies on our front dur- achs, even after they are born. I was not sure what she meant and asked
ing their first year, by the time the)' arc born we have to place them on for clarification, so Adzoa explained that while she was in Accra she had
f
100 Sensory Symbolism in Birth and Inf.int (:arc Practices sl'llSorr Symbolism Ill nirth and lnfam C.1rl' Practi..:cs IOI

seen an American woman carrying her hahy m a kind of pouch at the tween being wrapped and carried in a rag (qo 11wu) compared with ;1
front, and she idt sorry for them. tine wmen doth (kcte). Those earlr sensations need to be sustained, it
I later followed up on this exchange during an interview with her. In is believed, to truly know where you came from and co cultivate a healthy
that more in-depth conversation Adzoa Kokui described how a woman's sense of identity. The moral metaphors associated with 11ikp,1k/1tl, there-
body was not meant to carry the baby in the womb for almost a year fore, illustrate yet another area where somatic modes of attention and
:md then continue carrying the baby (once horn) in front, but rather sensory experiences arc directly linked to cultural logic and issues oi the
11ik/n1k/M (back eying) ensured that a woman's bodr would be balanced nature and relations of being and the grounds of knowledge.
out after the process of childbearing. Second, she stated that the baby In direct relation to vikpakp11, over the years Anlospeaking people
would simply not develop properly if strapped to a woman's front. The have utilized an object variously referred to as atsibla, atibla, or t1t11/i1.
baby that she had seen in Accra was facing out, with his back against Appearing like a perch or a shelf on which the baby (strapped to the
his mother's stomach, and Adzoa expressed mortification at what a baby back) might rest, this was indeed one of the original functions of atsi/Jla,
must experience in the process of being exposed to the world in this though it is seldom (if ever) used that way today. Not in daily use in tht.
way-moving along in fronc of his own mother when only two months early part of the twenty-first centur}', these days an .itsibla is typically
old! I told her that many times the baby would be carried facing in or employed during festivals as a "display of traditional flavor.n 7 In the
even cradled in a kind of swing wrapped over the woman's shoulders. early 1900s, however, when Westermann compiled his dictionary, he de-
Despite my explanations, Adzoa insisted on the superiority of 11ikpak/1a scribed atibla as "a cushion which women tie on their back when car-
(back tying). She emphasized that in terms of seselelamc (the sensory and rying a child" ( 1973[ 19:z.8)::z.31) or "a cushion worn by women in their
emotional feelings the infant would have), clinging to the back was the dress at the back, on which children arc carried" ( 1973l 19z.8J:z.48). l\y
best place. It prO\ided the baby with a way to move through the mar- the 1960s the function of atsibla seemed to have changed in chat
ket, travel along the road, or ride in a canoe across the lagoon with the Nukunya explained in his ethnography: "Atsibla is a kind of under-
feeling in the bod) (feeling in the flesh or the skin) of his mother there garment for women worn immediately aboy.c the buttocks, and is made
in front securing the way. Adzoa Kokui's rationale for the merits of by tying several pieces of cloth around the back end of the waist-line
11ik/1ak/u1 (back tying) provided an interesting comment on somatic beads. It has the effect of hiding the actual shape of the buttocks by mak-
modes of attention to movement, balance, and the blend of sensory and ing the protuberance of the rumps more pronounced" ( 1969b:89). The
emotional feelings in the body (seselelamc). 6 evaluation and meaning of atsibla changed through the years from being
To return to the Vin.Jko menya kpac[o interaction (the insult that if functional (the early 1900s description of a cushion for carrying tht
you were cradled on your mother's front, you would not know the doth baby) to being merely a piece of clothing (the under-garment version de-
used to carry you on the back), it also implies that you do not know your scribed in the 1960s) to being purely ornamental in the 1990s (a deco-
own family's past. That is, the insult essentially accuses the child of not rative object worn only on special occasio_.n.s....).,___ __
k11uwi11g some fundamental things (with the symbolic implication that Indeed, some older women reported to me thac carrying a child on
one develops this knowing through the connection and the attachment one's back (vikpakpa) was easier when they used atsibla and that their
that develops by being carried at your mother's back). More broadly, the posture remained straighter, more "in line," or balanced. They com-
insult is aimed at reinforcing the importance of knowing where you come mented that it was a strain to carry the baby without atsibla, and it was
from, or understanding the details and sources of your identity. This kind harmful to the constitution of the young women who persisted in doing
of knowing in\'Olvcs a sensibility grounded in bodily forms and bodily so. This deeper dimension of atsibla links it co an evaluation of the body
experiences such as being carried on your mother's back in a particular I that puts the kinesthetic and vestibular senses at the forefront of cxpe-
kind of cloth. Here we encounter a specific notion of how 1ve know ~ rience and appreciated form. Westerners might perceive an atsibla as a
things that suggests it is built up (in part) from the tactile sensations merely decorative (and visually appreciable) object, and indeed some
prominent in the mother-infant bond. In addition, it implies there would Anlo speakers may even embrace that point of view, but the older and
be certain "durably installed" understandings about the distinction he- more traditional aspects of atsibla were far from purely \isual and dee-
f
10!. Sensory Symlmli.;m in l\inh and lnfa111 CMc l'racticcs Sensory Symholisrn in Birth amt Infant Can: Pra..:tkes 10;

ornti,e. Instead, 11tsibf,1 was meant IO he used (not simplr viewed), and something on the head without tom:hing it wirh rhe hands; to balance;
it cnh;uu:ed bodily movements and experience in sensory terms (kines- and (i.) to make the lirs1 anemp1s in walking (of a child). \X'hcn I tried
thetic and \'estibular as well as seselelame, or a more general fedi11g in to use the term according !'O his second rendering, however, I w;\S con-

tl1e lmd)) alrcadr shown to hold great value for manr Anlo-spcaking sistently corrected. Do agba, I learned, was not the first attempts at walk-
people. ing hut rather the stage prior to even the first step-1he critical point
A proverb th:lt drew on the symbolism of atsibla claimed that Vi 11:i when a baby mastered standing and bal1mci11g on his own rwo icer while
lt)'O wu ,1111f11 ga (A wicked child is bcrrcr than a big cushion, or a big the sibling let go of his hands. Walking usually followed shordy cherc
atsibla). In the first instance, this saying was clearly me;rnt to illustrate after, bur the skill of balancing on one's own was deemed a critical mo-
the high value placed on children that is characteristic of most African ment in a baby's development.
societies. However, in discussions about this proverb with a number of Moving forward required further refinement inn baby's abilitr to bal-
Anlo-speaking people, manr .restated or interpreted the meaning as a ance, but very quickly after the child was able to get around, they placed
preference for feeling the weight of the bal1y (even if it was a wi~ked an object (often a small pan) on top of her head. So rhe sense of bal-
child) o\"er walking around with an empty pillow (thoug!1 the atsil1/a by ancing (agbagba<f.oc[o) was integrally bound up with the practice of head-
itself would certai1tly be lighter on one's back). Their evaluation down- loading, or carrying packages and cargo on top of one's head. As I
played the visual sense and drew largely on kinesthetic and haptic sen- watched children in my compound develop this understanding and learn
sibilities as well as on the more generalized state of feeling i11 the body, the skill, I wrote in my ftcldnotcs:
or seselelame. That is, an outsider might read or interpret this proverb
as meaning that it would look or appear foolish to merely wear an atsi- Ycsterd;1y I asked the children to help me fill chc huge h.1rrcl in our
bathroom (for coilet flushing) with huckecs of water carried from chc well.
b!d, and people would thereby sec that you were childless or barren. In
:\Ii ;111d Aaron were the main assisc;uns. Mawusi and Kodw helped. But
discussions with Anlo speakers, howe\'er, issues of 11f'l1e,m111ce or what most remarkable was che fact th;u Peter made all 6 or 7 trips with us, car-
it would look like to others ii they had no baby on the back were never rying a small pan on his ciny :!.. year old head. I was impressed. Children
offered. The concern signified by the proverb was interpreted in terms seem to ohscnc and begin practicing head-loading from a \'cry earlr age.
of a bodily sensation, a feeling within and through the body, or in rela- The)' b1.ogin 10 do ir themselves without any real pro111p1ing. Or accually.
tion to st?selelame: the emotional and sensory imporr of being childless. Peter got lots of positi\e strokes and encouragement for what he was
doing. Afi and Aaron cheered him on. We all stood in the doorway (after
we had all poured our water into the harrel) waiting for l'erer who was
EMPHASIS ON LEARNING TO BALANCE struggling along, his small bodr carrring a load of water on top oi his
head. We smiled, encouraged him, and waited until he finished hefore we
In addition to being carried on a mothers back, children were often aII set out for another load.
placed on mats in the center of our compound and encouraged to sit up,
to crawl, and to begin trying r[o aglhl (an imperative term used to en- I chose to include this particular excerpt from my ficldnotcs in part be-
courage the infant to balance-which was done at this stage with the as- cause I corrected myself in the middle of documenting and reflecting on
sistance of an older sibling or parent). These stages were precursors tu my own observations. That is, I first wrote down th;tt the children en-
walking and eventually balancing a load on one's head.M Balancing (ag- gage in this practice spontaneously or "without any real prompting." I
bagbac[oc[o) was considered a vital component in each stage, such that then retracted and wrote that in actuality, in this cultural setting children
sitting up properly involved balance, as did teetering on the feet while a were actively persuaded and inspired to balance during various stages in
sibling held hands or fingertips raised high above the baby's head. In fact, the devclopmenr of motor skills. \Xfhat appears 10 he a kind of "natu-
the conflation of these differenr bodily actions with balance seems to ral" development of abilities is culturally elaborated or augmented
have led Westermann to a slight misunderstanding in his translations. through habitual practices and everyday discourse. All over the world
For the term agbClgba, or the verb r[o agbagba, Westermann recorded children learn, of course, to walk in a balanced manner and to carrr ob-
( 197 3{ 19 i.8 j:S i) two different meanings in his dictionary: ( l) to carry jects.nur in this setting, balancing seemed co be emphasized to a degree
r
104 Sensory Symbolism in Hirth and Infant Care l'r.u:ti.:cs Sensorr Symbolism in Birth and Infant Care Practice~ 10;

not found in all cultural groups, and after a certain point in a child's de- Afrs. Odoo: Aahhhh. You have to /Jt1lm1i:c the thing on your head.
velopment in Anlo-land, head-loading, balancing, and walking bcc:une Gbaglu1: it's 1hc same thing.
Mr. Ocloo: Ir's a balance: Just as a child stands and tries to balance i1sclf
nearly inseparable.
on its legs, so you have to halm1cc the article you :ire c.irrying
The following is a discussion I had with Mr. and Mrs. Odoo con-
on your head and leave it. Balancing like that, ge1ting llll on
cerning how the bah}' learns to walk, which culminates in <l commcm two legs, that's human.
about more philosophical dimensions of rhe human capacity to balance. Kl.G: If you cannot balance like that, do people s;1y anything? Is it
awkward if you live here and you don't have the ability to
KLG: In Sr:ighoc, some of the mothers and the older sisters sar c{u carry things on )'Our head?
agbaglu1 to their babies.
.Mrs. Ocloo: [Laughs.) You sec, formerly when we were carrying loads,
.Mr. Ocloo: Yes, agbaglmc{o<(o [he correc1s Ill)' pronunciation)-it means rou would learn easily to do this thing ... learn to ...
balancing.
Mr. Ocloo: Do agbagba!
Mrs. Ocloo: Toddlers ... when the child is being taught how to s1:md ...
Mrs. Ocloo: But these da)'S lorries are carrying the things, and you h;l\'c
1\.lr. Ocloo: To step: to stand and step. porters carrying the things, so these days it is not. But
Mrs. Qcloo: Ther say t1g(Jagbac{oc[o. formerly, as you go along, with your friends, going to the
KLG: Usually the bah) was sitting down on the mac, on its rump, market, or going to the water, and all that ... you will he con-
when the girls and ladies in Sr:igboe said it. versing and then )'OU will qo the aglJt1gb11 .. .)'OU will put the
Mrs. Ocloo: So you raise it up, "Aqo agbi1gb11 ....1gbagba kcdc ... 11g'1t1gl1a thing on your head. You will learn it naturally. So there
kede!!!" So he also gets up. You say that when you arc rnising weren't people, really, who couldn't do it.
the baby up on its feet. Yes. ''1\glmgbac[o agbagba .... 1\gbag Mr. Ocloo: But you know, it is cumbersome to hold the thing with your
bac[o agbagba" ... so the child tries and then gets up, gets up hands on top of your head.
on his feet. Kl.G: Holding it with your hands is cumbersome?
Mr. Ocloo: Balances himself. Stands. Mr. Ocloo: Yes, holding it with your hands! So when you c[o 11gbagba you
.\frs. Ocloo: After that }'OU sar "Ta, ta, ta! And he tries to walk. feel free and you can go. That's all. You have to let go .
KLG: "Ta" means what? Kl.G: So it is basicall)' that you begin, as :1 child, putting 1hi11gs on
Mrs. Ocloo: Just "til, ta, ta .. !she said this as she put one foot in front oi your head, and then )'OU find as )'OU grow and go along that
the next). It describes the movement. Or tabula1t1b11lti. That's you get tired if )'Ou lca\'C your hands up there to hold it?
how a toddler moves: :Z.:J talmlt1talmla . Z.:1 tab11lat11lmla. [She Mrs. Ocloo: Yes. That's it.
crept ahead gingerly, wobbling like a small child trying to Kl.G: So you learn to drop them, your hands, and go free.
learn to walk.) Mr. Ocloo: You learn to drop them and go without using them, with the
Kl.G: So ta is just the sound of the footsteps, of the feet, and load on )'Our head. It's about balancc ... and it's good training
tab11latab11la the movement of the bodr. for life.
.Mrs. Ocloo: [She continued to demonstrate.[ "Ta, ta cfp agbag'1t1 kccle ...
ta, ta, ta ... c[o agbagba kede t11, t11 . " until he docs it. Our conversation then turned toward the meaning of that comment: that
Mr. Ocloo: But before then, you say "Ta, dcvit1 ta tum, ta tum" which physically balancing things on your head was "good training for life."
means he is crawling on his knees. That one is done before the
Mr. Ocloo admitted chat his own abanol)ko (drinking name) included
ag(Jaglmc[oc[o because they have to crawl before ther can
stand up. the word agbagbaqoc[o and that it was considered a virtue to remain bal-
KLG: So when they first start to move ... anced and even-tempered (on the meaning and significance of drinking
Mr. Ocloo: .. on the knccs ... that's 'devi11 ta t1m1."
0 names, see Avorgbedor 1983). Mr. Ocloo believed there was a fairly ex-
KLG: And then it stans-c[o agbag/Jt1. plicit connection between the physical practice of balancing and a tem-
Mr. Oc/oo: Tata is "to crawl." Tatam: crawling. peramental quality of being level-headed and calm.
KLG: Tata ... tatam ... devia tatam: the baby is crawling ... And isn't Not only for Mr. and Mrs. Ocloo but for a number of m:Jfialawo, bal-
another meaning of agbagbac[oc[o to carry things? ancing was described as one of the ultimate symbols for being human.
f
106 Sensory Symbolism in l\irth and Inf.Int Cm~ l'r.1.:1iccs Sensory Symbolism in Birth amt lnfam Cut l'ractins 107

They considered upright posture, the ability to balance and move on two In s11111111arr, many pregnancy and child-raising prnctic,~s illustrate the
legs, as pan of what separated humans from other animals. Conse- culrural elaboration of sensory and somatic modes oi anemion. I have
quently, despite Mrs. Ocloo's comment that there were no 1\11!0 people shown how cveqday routines such as removal of cldgf)('(li (birth dirt),
who could not halance, some people reported worrying over children flexing the haby's joints, or rnrrying infants on the hack (vikpak/m) il-
who had initial difficulty mastering this physical skill. Adzoa Kokui ex- lustrate wars in which (symbolic) values arc .. gi\cn body, made body by
plained that if a child was 1101 ahlc to balance, he was considered a wild rhc transubstantiation achic\cd hy 1he hidden persuasion of an implicit
animal or a creamre from the hush (~/Jcmela). Wildness was in general pedagogy" Wourdicu 19n:94 ). In mhcr words, embedded in these so-
associated with the bush and not the village-the village heing the place cialization processes arc some of the values that arc so dear, so precious
that some Ewe people deemed the "place of quintessential humanness" that they literally make this ideology into bodr with each generation. In
(Rosenthal 1998: 109 }. While not focusing specifically on the somatic chis process the sensor)' order is reproduced through sensory engage-
mode of balance, this distinction between becoming a human or re- ments in routine practices and the enactment of traditions. Persons arc
maining.a wild animal, or living in the bush, was also addressed in di- thereby "durably installed" with the sensory orientations and the "the-
rect relation w Ewe child-socialization practices: matizcd aspects of the world" (Csorclas 1994c) that scne as a \'ital as-
pect of Anlo identity and sensibilities.
The ideals for which the Ewe people s1rive in the education of 1hcir But these processes are i1either automatic nor mechanically implanted
children arc reflected in the way the society assesses individual character: into passive individuals. They arc what consrirurcs the stuff of experi-
A wcll-hehavcd person is spoken of as i:w::i amc or e11ye amr, me.ming
roughly he or she is a person." In the first of these expressions, whid1 lit ence, the feelings that make up the micro-level of social interactions (or
crally means "he makes a person," the stress is on "becoming" (he makes sensory engagements}. They arc, as C:sordas says, "self-processes" or
or has made himself a person). In the second, emphasis is on hcing (essence 'orienrational processes in which aspects of the world arc thcmatizcd"
as opposed to existence). Education for the Ewes is, therefore. 1hc 1m1killg ( 1994c: 3 40). The self, he sars, is "neither a. subsra.nce nor entity, bur an
of a child to become what the society accepts as a person or hum.111 being indeterminate capacity to engage or become oriented in rhc world, and
(m11c). Indeed anyone who behaves contrary to the rules of the society is re-
it is characterized by effort and reflexivity" ( 1994c: 340). We become per-
ferred ro simply as an animal: ed::o 1'1 or enye la (he is an ;111imal, i.e. a
fool); or dzimakplc (born-but-nm-bred, i.e. ill-bred). ( Eghlewoghe sons in the midst of complex social relationships and interpersonal power
r975:i.1) dynamics as well as in the midst of continuous historical and cultural
change. \Vic all have individual stories and narrati\'cs that reflect con-
Becoming a person, making a child into a human being, invohcd devel- gruence with and disparity from others in our cultural group. These sclf-
opment of other sensory fields in addition to balance. For instance, learn- processcs, including those of sensory <mention and orientation, require
ing to hear, listen, and obey (m1sese) was of primary imporcance in par- effort or agency and intentionality, some kind of engagement with the
ent-child interactions around discipline and development. Children were process of life. We move to this dynamic next.
instructed and corrected in a variety of sense modalities, hut ro under-
stand an~ cmnplr was synonymous with hearing. Parents asked, "Esia?
Esia?" which meant not only "Do you hear?" but usually implied "Do
what I told you co do" (hence, "Obey!"). Many older /\nlo speakers used
a proverb, Vi m11sem1 mpkae k11a to Ill!, which meant, "The car of the
disobedient child is always pulled hr a vine thorn." To be disobedient or
obstinate was rdcrrcd to as having "hard or strong cars" (toscsc), and
the term for /nmislmtent was equivalent to "car pulling" (to/Jc/Jc). Thus,
aurality was emphasized early in a child's life, which would be conso-
nant with the fact that the Ewe langmlgc is tonal and therefore requires
development of finely tuned auditory abilities.
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CHAl'TER 6

Toward an Understanding
of Anlo For1ns of Being-
in-the-World

In this chnptcr [ concemr:Hc e\en more intensely on aspects of the world


that arc thcmarizcd in Anlo contexts, beginning wirh perceptions of their
homeland, their migration story, and the qb of their appellation but then
turning to issues of morality and personhood. 1 I explore the themes and
motifs consistencly presented to me as dimensions of Anlo core culture
(categorized in anthropological terms as emic} in terms of the etic issue of
the dmecailing of the senses, culture, and identity. Thematized aspects of
Anlo personhood arc probed for what ther reveal ahour sensory, emo-
tional, somatic modes of attention and processes of the self. just as part 2
did not purport to contain a comprehensive account of child-socialization
practices in Anlo worlds, part 3 is not meant co be an exhaustive account
of the topic of personhood and the self. Rather, it is an analysis involving
my third working proposition: chat the local sensory order affects the dm-
cept and experience of being a person in the world.
\Y/e have seen how a local thcorr of immediate bodil)' experience,
summed up by the term seselelame, highlights or culturally elaborates
interoceptive as well as cxtcroceptivc sensory fields. To really grasp the
meaning of personhood and self processes in Anlo contexts one must ap-
preciate the emphasis placed on interoception or internal sensory modes.
Anlo sensibilities and Anlo forms of being-in-the-world involve a culti-
vation, I would argue, of interoceptive modes.

111
r
i Anlo Forms ot l\t:m~mthl' \Vorld
11!. Anlo Forrm oi lkin~-111-dw World ' 11 \

increased and the nation iaikd to erect a barrier wall, miles and miles of
PAST AND PRESENT, BODY AND LAND
Keta and other parts of the Anlo homeland were lost to the water.~
Some time in the late 1980s, sc\'eral years before I tirst traveled to Ghana, As I entered the Anlo homeland for the first time in 199 i., how much
an Anlo-Ewe friend of mine named Kwame related two pieces of what of Kwame's sense of the place of his childhood did I carry with me?
he considered vital information about his people. The first item con- Kwame's perceptions, built through cm placed experiences, were of a
cerned his ancestors' escape from slavery, cluec hundred years ago, and poor, almost disintegrating place, and the (eeli11g(u/11ess (to use Feld's
how they came to inhabit what is now the southeastern corner of the phrase) in Kwame's portrayal of the destitute situation uf An lo-land
Volta Region in Ghana. Lan: colonial and postcolonial times constituted would be hard to shake. His brother drove the .Mercedes that I rode in,
the setting for the second item. By this time, Kwamc's account detailed, and I remember being awed (shortly after passing through Dabala Junc-
his people were no longer slaves, but rather they made up a prominent tion) by specific silk-cotton trees majestically standing alone in an ex-
and vocal political force in contemporary Ghanaian society. 2 Linkages panse of grass and then again (once we had reached the coast) by luxu-
between the two parts of his account arc at once rooted in the land (the riant green carpets of flourishing shallots. But I put aside the pleasant
terrain and soil often refem.d 10 as an Anlo homeland) and in thcJmdy and sensuous associations I gleaned from those isolated items and in-
(the ways in which their name, Anlo, has its origins in a body posture stead concentrated on perceptions of .. poorness" that I felt obligated to
we refer to in Euro-American contexts as "the fetal position"). feel and see. I did this because by the time I made my first trip to Anlo-
"As place is sensed, senses arc placed; as places make sense, senses land, in addition to Kwamc's account, several Anlo people (in the United
make place." Stc\en Feld calls this assertion of his a "doubly reciprocal States and then in Accra) had conveyed to me with deep sadness the ad-
motion" ( 1996:9 1), and Edward S. Casey invokes fcld's phrase to make \ersity they felt their relati\'es lived with in a poor place that was dis-
the point that we are simultaneously "never without perception" and solving into the sea. In fact, on the morning of my tirst day in Kera,
"never without cmplaced experiences" ( 1996: 19). Kwamc described the Kwame's cousin took me to meet one of their elderly relatives, who we
place that he grew up as poor. By poor he did not mean culturally dc- found sitting on a chair on the porch of his house as water washed up
pri\ed, because he often spontaneously danced Agbadza and maintained the steps and spilled onto his feet. His house would be gone in a matter
that American jazz and other Western art forms derived from the music of months or a year, but he refused to abandon his home. His relatives
and inspirations of his very pcoplc. 3 .Bu~ by poor he meant that the sandy checked on him daily to make sure he had not washed out to sea along
soil on the coast of southeastern Ghana consistently failed to produce with the portal.
more than "small-small garden eggs" (eggplants), bitter oranges, dry "As place is sensed, senses arc placed," according to Feld ( 1996:91 ).
tomatoes, "hard-time corn," and so forth. His perceptions of Anlo-land What were the implications for Kwame and other Anlo people of the dis-
as poor seemed to be shaped by two other significant factors. First, he integration of their natal place? In 1994 when I had returned to Ghana
contrasted his Anlo homeland with the land held by the more famous I met an American linguist who had been working with Ewe speakers
ethnic group of Ghana, the Asante, which readily yielded the lucrative on and off for twenty-some rears. We had a brief conversation, but I will
products of cocoa, timber, and gold. Second, Kwame lamented the point never forget his asking me, "Don't you find Ewe people rather morose?
in the 1960s when his homerown of Keta was overlooked in favor of I feel exhausted and depressed as I work through translations of their
Terna as the site of postcolonial Ghana's national port. In his youth Keta poems and songs and as I listen to narratives about their ancestors and
thrived as a port town: the docking of European ships provided Kera traditions-because they seem so invested in the woe that they associate
with a continual flow (in and out) of cloth, beads, vegetables, spices, and with their history and lives." I was startled not by the content of his ob-
so forth. His mother was a bead trader and his father served as a man- servation but by his frankness and his use of the term morose. I felt re-
ager in the United Africa Companr. The bustling atmosphere of business luctant to generalize or characterize an Anlo or an Anlo-Ewe ethos in
and trade in Kera that Kwamc remembered from childhood came to an such a way, not simply because generalizations tend to be unacceptable
end when Terna, a town closer to the capital cit}' Accra, was designated in anthropology these days (for example, sec Abu-Lughud 199 1 on an-
the national port. from then on Kera was neglected, and as sea erosion thropologies of the particular) bur also because of the very hearty sense
r
Anlo Forms of lking-in-thc-\X1orld
I
I Anlo Forms of Ucing-in-1he-World 11)
I J.t
J

of humor posscssl'd hy many Anlo and Ewe people that I knew. Moros1~ I Agokoli was a tyra111 who took delight in tormeming his people hy order
ing 1hcm to make rope ou1 of swish" (or dayl filled with 1horns. Well, as
was the initial term ht used, but whac resonated for me was a kind of
ior 1hat, no one can make a rope from a pile of mud, cspcciallr when your
mclanchol)-a sorrowful and mourniul affcct-rhat he attrihurcd to hands hleed. so our ancestors suffered under Agokoli's rule.
many of the Ewe individuals with whom he had worked over the years. They hegan ploning their escape. It w:is a walled ci1y, you know. And
I later heard non-Ewe Ghanaians characterize Ewe people (especially Agokoli h:1d plemy, plen1y soldiers keeping warch mer his workforce.
Anlo-Ewes) ;\S inward, philosophical, and inrrospective. ~l:my people say our aneescors in ~:ltsic were shwes. Uut it w;isn't 1hc
sanu. kind oi slaver) tha1 happened when the> were forced onto slups for
1\b/otsr-your place-so I'm going to call them his workforce.
THE FLIGHT FROM ~;)TSIE AND The day for escape began with vigorous drumming. The men drummed
THE TELLING OF A MIGRATION MYTH to entertain and distract the soldiers while the women packed minimal nee
essary items into their kr!llium [head-loadahle baskets). For days the women
Shortly after this encounter with the linguist, I began to notice thac a shift had heen throwing cheir w;1sh water against one small section of the wall.
had occurred in mr
response ro their migration srory. As I noted earlier, Some even sa)' they urinated on the wall to make it sofr. By midnight the
I had originally heard this srory some time in rhe late 1980s (in the United drumming was at its peak and the soldiers had wandered away to sleep off
their akpctcshic [an alcoholic drink). An old man named Tegli offered up a
Stares) from my friend Kwame.' And in the course of research on Ewe
prayer tha1 1he wall break open easily, and 1hen he stabbed a machete into
culture and history, I had also read brief accounts of the flight from i':J:n- the soitencd mud. The wall fell and all the women and children went
sie in numerous sources. 6 But once I arrived in Accra and beg;rn spend- through first with llw leaders. The elderly men followed, :ind finally the
ing time our in the rural areas around Keta and Anloga (at first in 1992, young men and the drummers escaped, and 1hey walked backwards-z.:>
and later for a longer stretch through r 994 and 1995 ), more than twent r megbcmegbe-to make footprints that would deceive the soldiers. The
additional people related their migration story to me. Perhaps it was sim- tracks would make it appear as though the walled city was under siege and
cause rhc soldiers to search inside for the intruders, giving our ancestors
ply that I was a newcomer w Anlo-lancl, Inn I was not prepared for how
often I would be told this storr. I even felt annoyance, sometimes, at ha v I
i
time to tra\'cl far from 1'J:>tsic long before Agokoli realized they had
esc:1ped.
ing to sit through it yet another time. I knew all the twists and rums of i
t
Some traveled direcily westwa~d from l':l":ilsic to the central pare of the
the narrative by heart-trying to make rope fro.!n clay that contained l Volta Rher. Their descendams arc the northern Ewe li\ing around Kpando
and in and ;iround I-lo. Mose of the Dogboawn went southwcsc from N.:it-
thorns, throwing water against the wall, walking backwards our of the
city, and so forth-and in retrospect I was clearly foiling to appreciate,
!
I sic. T:igbui Whenya and his nephew Sri were among 1hose who led their
I
relatives south. It w;1s a loni:, long journey; many hundreds of miles oo
during those initial months, the significance of this story co their sense of ! fom, carrying their babies on their backs, balancing loads on top of their
identity as well as to the questions at the heart of my own research.
I
i heads. T:igbui Whenya and his followers established WhetaAtiteti ;md
After the con\"crsation with the linguist, however, I realized that I had
begun responding to their story hy curving my own body inward (often
in sync with the rolling-up gesture of the storyteller) at the point in the
II then lllO\"ed on to settle Keta, Tegbi, and Woe. Finallr. when When)'a
arrived at 1he place we now call Anloga, he collapsed and said, "Nycamct1
111cr1b afiactckcyiyi mcgtilc 111111ye o "-which means "I am rolled or coiled
t up from exhaustion and I cannot tra\cl further." So When ya 's followers
narrative when the person described how their ancestor, T:>gbui Whenya,
folded in~> himself out of fatigue. Herc is one oral account of their mi-
gration story cold hr a middle-aged gentleman I will call Mr. Tamakloe,
l I
sto1lpcd right there, and somehow the place has been called Anloga-nig
Anlo-sincc that time.

who allowed me to tape-record as we spoke in English at his home in I As Mr. Tamakloe conveyed those final few sentences, he wrapped his

I
the town of Anloga. hands around the outside of his arms, folded his head o\'er roward his
knees, and curled up into a ball-simulating T:>gbui Whenya's weariness
We Anlo were 1101 ahva)'S here; we once lived in 1':/::itsie, or Hoghc, which is or fatigue upon reaching the piece of land that was subsequently referred
located in whal"s now Ghana's neighboring nation of Togo. But hack in the
co as Anloga.; As I had become conditioned to anticipate this climax, I
seventeenth century our ancestors lived in the walled cit)' of l'S::itsie. We
weren't called the Anlo then, but Dogboawo. Most of the kings of l':l":>tsie
were benc\'olent, hu1 then Agokoli took power some time around 1650.
I I
also rolled up. Bue after the conversation with the linguist, this seemingly
small e\'Cnt of folding into oneself became magnified in mr mind. As the

l
116 An lo forms of Bcmg-inthc World

place they call their homeland was beginning to make sense to me, l was
beginning ro wonder about how the sensations experienced in curling
I

f

~
:\nlo Forms ot Bcing-111-rhc-World 117

.1mincd now, and I will return later to Amoaku's ohsenation of 1':/:>rsic's


association with t/Je center.
up into what I knew as "the fecal position" could influence or shape one's In the Ewe language, the utterance of 111:> (also me11b or AtJb) results
consciousness of place (place being culturally as well as materially con- in a very interesting effect on the hody-an cfftct that is hest understood
stituted). In other words, in appl)ing Casey's ( 1996) notion of "em- in terms of srncsthesia, onomatopoeia, and iconicity. To speak of lllt'IJb
placement" to Anlo contexts, was there a relationship between the nearly or A11b requires a formation in the mouth and a sonic production that
barren landscape of the Anlo homeland and the inward-turning bodily trigger a rolled-up or curled-up sensation and resonance throughout the
motion of qb that we find encoded in their name? body.'1 The iconicity resides, in the first instance, in the curling of the
tongue to duplicate the rolling up of the body that is being signaled by
the term qi:>. But beyond this basic iconicity, there is an aural dimension
ON THE POETICS, AESTHETICS AND ICONICITY OF ryL:>
to qb (stemming largely from the nasal .1 rather than from the curling
"~:ltsie is to the Ewe what lfc is to the Yoruba," wrote Ewe scholar up of the tongue to produce the I) phoneme) that syncstheticallr prompts
William Komla Amoaku ( 1975)-with lfe representing a kind of Mecca feelings of a kind of texture and timbre of roundness. In his work on lift-
or Jerusal~m. "~:>!sic represents the 'symbolism of the center,' where upover sounding, Feld ( 1988:82) defined timbre as "the building blocks
their spiritual and political power originated. The history of their dis- of sound quality" and texture as the "composite, realized experiential
persion from this center is, therefore, often told under oath, for it is re- feel of the sound mass in motion," and I am suggesting here that there
garded as sacred history" (Amoaku 1975:88). No oaths were ever sworn is an "experiential feel" of a poetic round, rolling, or curling-up "sound
when the story was narrated to me, which may be accounted for by the mass in motion" when Ewe speakers sar AI]b or make the statement
differences in location and time. That is, Amoaku's work was conducted N)eamea mel}b .... " So while the action or gesture of folding into one-
in the early 1970s primarily in northern Ewe-land, around Ho, where self docs not in any literal sense produce an accompanying sound-such
he grew up, whereas I conducted research more than twenty rears later that the word l}b could be considered onomatapoeic in a technical
and worked primarily with southern Ewes and people who referred to sense-it synesthetically creates an "experiential feel" of roundness or
themselves as Anlo. The story seemed to be presented to me more as a an inward-spiraling kinesthetic return to the center.'
legend with a secular quality, so if any Anlo people regarded it as "sa- When Mr. Tamakloe curled up as he depicted and discussed T:>gbui
cred history," I had teetered on complete. impudence in the irreverent at- Whcnya's fatigue, it was quite dearly an "iconic gesture" in that his ac-
titude I had taken coward hearing about T:>gbui Whenya rolling up into tion bore a close formal relationship to the semantic content of the nar-
a ball. But herein lies part of the paradox that will be ela'borated later rative about their flight from ~:>tsic and their ancestor's exhaustion (see
when I flesh out the second piece of information Kwame had related to McNcill 1992: 12-15 on iconic and metaphoric gestures). So on one level,
me in the late 1980s. While doing fieldwork in Anlo-land, when I would we arc dealing with an instance of kincsic behavior: a movement of the
point out that they were named in honor of "rolling up" with fatigue, I body that served to illustrate what was being verbally conveyed (Knapp
was inevitably met with a response of hearty laughter. This occurred even 1978). In addition, we could also simply say that Mr. Tamakloc's rolling
in the cont<:xt of recounting the migration scoq. So while I cannot say up was a display of affect, for while it is usuallr in a facial configuration
that the migration story from ~:>!sic was a "sacred history" with the that one looks for an affective display, "the body can also be read for
people who hosted me, the sheer number of times I heard the story was global judgments of affect-for example, a drooping, sad body" (Knapp
testimony to its significance. 8 In addition, the story was prohably told 1978: c6). Clearly iconic and affective, here l want to explore how qb is
differently in the north, since the climax would not be T:>gbui Whenya far more than that, and it may be said that A11b itself is metaphoric for
arriving at the coast and rolling up. But T:>gbui Whcnya's "meqb" was a sensibilitr and a way of being-in-the-world.
certainly a focal point in the telling of the story in the south (as well as More than six years after I taped that interview with Mr. Tamakloe,
among Anlo speakers in Accra and in the United States), so the force and I phoned a friend in Houston who considers herself an Anlo-Ewe per-
the meaning of "Nyeamea meqb ... "and their name AI]b will be ex- son-even though she grew up largely in Accra and has lived in the
It 8 t\nlo Forms oi Bcinginthc-World

United States for more than twenty years. Her parents had been raised
I
I
:\nln Form-; of Being-in-the: World

about the consciousness of 1Jl."l in its "lived immediacy" among people


I I)

in Anlo-land, she grew up speaking the An lo dialect of the Ewe language, who grew up attending 10 and orienring thcmsel\'es coward 111."l.
and she periodically visited relatives in the rural Anlo homeland; hence,
she had alwavs and continued to identify as an Anlo-Ewe. I phoned her
and very dire~tly posed the following question: "You know how the term
i\n/o literally means to roll up or curl up in the feral position?" She
!
!
I
EMUODIED CONSCIOUSNESS

Toward that end, I walll to now shift our notion of 11b away from tha1
I
laughed ancl said, .. Yesss?" I then asked. ''What docs it mean to you ro I
of "the fowl pusi1ion" and ask what docs it mean to grow up with 111.i
i
be part of a people whose name means 'rolled up'?" In her lengthy re- as an underlying theme (albeit on an unconscious le\'cl) of one's cultural
sponse was rhe phrase "resentment and respect." She said that curling
up in the fetal position is something you do when you feel sad, when you I history, identity, and ethnicity? How docs a person make sense oi 11b as
a fundamental aspect of Al]bt:iwo (one's people), Al]bga (one's ances
arc crying, when you arc lonely or depressed. She said that being A!1lo
meant you felt that way a lot, but you always had to unroll, or come out ! tral homeland), and A11bgbc (the language one speaks)? l would suggest
that as a histor.ically constituted object, l)b paradoxically symbolizes
of it, eventually, and that gave you a feeling of strength. I told her that I
had used the phrase "persecution and power" in one discussion I had
I freedom from enslavement and exlw11stio11 from the night, ioy for die
arri\al at a new homeland and sorrow for those who died along the way.
delivered about the name Al]b (Geurts 1998: 129-1 36), and l asked if I It is emblematic of comedy in the sense that people often laugh when dis-
that fit with what she meant. She confirmed that it did. cussing the fact that their name means "rolled up," and tragedy in the
Rescnrmenr and respect. Probing such a sensibility, or an oricnration
in the world, led me to tracing the linkages between the two items II sense that /)/:>signifies aging, returning to the fetal position, folding into
oneself and then into the ground. Merleau-Ponry ( 1962: 148) surmised,
Kwame ha<l told me about: his account of their ancestors' escape from "Tu be a body, is to be tied to a certain world, ... our body is nor pri-
sla\'cry and the migration to the coast, and then their ascendance to a l marily itt space, it is of it." An lo-Ewe people arc of that time-space of
position of influence (and resentment) in contemporary Ghana. The con- I N;)tsic on to Keta-Anloga-Anyako (etc.), of the Anlo homeland to Ghana
'
I
nections seemed to coalesce poignantly around feelings associated with and West Africa in general to li\-ing in Europe and the United States, and
11/:>-and here I have glossed qfa as "the fetal position," but this trans-
lation docs not map perfectly from one language and cultural context to
I they arc still telling that story of the flight from ~;)lsic and T;)gbui
Whcnya rolling up. What interests me is how q/:J constitutes and is con-
the next. While l)/:J refers to a bodily position in which one folds or rolls l stinrted by the existential condition of being Anlo (of people who grow
up (curving inward as is customary for a hahy in the womb), qb docs
not directly correspond to the posture of a fetus, nor is it reificd or ob-
I up as or i<lencify as Agb).
The migration story was told to me on numerous occasions and by a
jectified in the same way that "the fetal position" is in the discourse com-
monlv associated with Euro-America. Herc we can harrow from the phc-
I \'arietr of individuals. 11 Furthermore, when it was recounted, certain in-
di,iduals imitated T:>gbui \Vhcnya's rolling into himself, thereby liter
nom~nological anthropology of Michael Jackson ( 1996: 1) in refusing to
"in\'oke cultural privilege as a foundation for evaluating worldvicws or
examining the complex and enigmatic character of the human condi-
I
I
I
ally rehearsing this somatic mode of attention reflected in their name.
What happens to a person's bei11g-i11-tbe-world when she "rehearses"
(re-lives, re-enacts) T:igbui When ya 's qb? The experience could be re-
)
tion." While I suspect that "the fetal position" is recognized by most if t duced to a cognitive process of intellectual reflection in which T:igbui
not all human groups, what it means, in what circumsrances it is invoked, !! Whenra and his behaviors are objectified, or treated as an historical and
how it is encoded in local languages, and the ways it is elaborated or re- cultural object distinct from the srorytcller. But the question that arose
pressed arc just some of the issues we can wonder about as we resist the in my mind was why in more than a dozen instances people did not sim-
assumption of equivalence from one cultural world to the next. With ply explain to me in words how T:igbui Whenya coiled up; instead they
T:>gbui Whcnya's "Nyeamea me111:.> .. as a critical moment in their mi- spontaneously reenacted (and relived) this almost primordial somatic
gration story and with A11b as both a toponym and a label they readily mode referred to in their language as qi:>. I also became intrigued by how,
assign to their own "ethnoscape" (Appadurai 1991 ), I am led to ask as the months proceeded and l became sensitized to Anlo sensibilities,
l2.0
Anlo Forms of Bcingin-thc-World

my own bodilr response to the climax of the story was to join in with
the rolling up when T;,gbui Whcnya expressed his exhaustion. The point
here is that among many individuals who participate in an Ania
I Anlo Forms of Being-in-the-World

and laments). but I do think chat "being Anlo" (or Anlo-11ess) involves
I;!. I

a certain sense of persecution and a feeling of being misunderstood, ma-


ligned, and feared and that this dimension of their identity {or of an Anlo
' sensibility) is embodied in the melancholy and inward-turning somatic
ethnoscape, there exists an attention to qb-a probably unconscious and i expression qh This raises the question of why some Anlo speakers feel
clearly somatic mode of attention-that defies delineation in our tradi-
tional analytic categories.
I persecuted and misunderstood and how this relates back to the two
I turn to the argument that one way to treat this culturally constituted lf pieces of information I first heard from my friend Kwame.
The migration story recounted earlier indicates that Anlo-speaking
phenomenon is to return to the phenomenon itself and to fully embrace !
the indeterminacy of qb. Csordas explains (r993:149) that the "'turn- I people have lived in their present homeland for about three hundred
I years and came there due to persecution by King Agokoli, who ruled
ing toward' that constitutes the object of attention cannot be determi- It
11ate in terms of either subject or object, but only real in terms of inter- ~:.>tsie. Histories of Ewe-speaking peoples prior to their life in ~:itsic
subjeccivity." Consequently, qb becomes "real" in a rime and s_pace I al~o. focus on movement westward out of Oyo and then Ketu presum-
between body, mind, self, other, subject, and object (rather than exclu- I ably as a result of persecution. Hence, the celling of histories among
sively in one of those domains). Such indeterminacy as is illustrated h~re ! Anlo-speaking people rehearses (almost mythologically) stories and col-
is an essential aspect of one's existence in the "lived world of perceptual Ii lective self-images revolving around experiencing persecution and fleeing
from oppressive situations, triumphing in escape and freedom, and fac-
phenomena" that constitutes Anlo ethnoscapes and Anlo selves. A
methodological approach of "embodiment" (Csordas 1990) suggests we I ing persecution in yet another place.
ask, when "turning toward" or anending to qb, not only what is gleaned
cognitively (whic~ may turn out to be the least fruitful analytic categorr
l One can judge the pervasiveness of this view from a small pamphlet
(Barawusu n.d.) I purchased at a bookstore in Anloga. The pamphlet
in relation to qfa) but what is experienced in terms of intuition, emotion, was written and produced by a secondary school student named
imagination, perception, and sensation (cf. Csordas 1993:146-149). The Solomon M. K. Barawusu and is entitled 111e Hogbetsotso Festival: A
next section will begin to address this concern and will lay some of the Comparison betwee11 the Liberation of the Ewes from Sla11ery in Not-
groundwork for my contention that a "turning toward" qfa is a funda- sie-Togo-tt11der the \Vicked Ki11g Agorkorli and the Liberatio11 of the
mental though mostly unconscious dimension of self processes in Anlo Israelites from Slavery ;,, Egypt u11der the \Vicked Ki11g Pharaoh. The
contexts and in che development of Anlo sensibilities, for to many Ania opeiiing lines of Barawusu's poem in free verse arc as follows:
people;-qb holds something chthonic or "primordial" (if you will) about If there have ever existed
human existence. Any twin nations of the world
.~
With astounding records of similarity
In their struggle from slavery to freedom
RESENTMENT AND RESPECT Such twin undisputablc nations
Arc the Israelites and the Ewes
I have described several dualistic phenomena that inhabit or constitute The Bible and Ewe history
the idea and experience of qfa: freedom and ex/Jaustio11, joy and sorrorv, Prove them sisters in terms of slavery
humor and grief. While this portrayal connotes a holistic and balanced Brothers in terms of leadership
essence for qi:>, l believe that in general qb tends more coward the ex- Comrades in terms of liberation
haustion, sorrow, and grief side of the equation. Earlier I suggested that And friends in terms of escape
Both had common obstacles
this is in part due to the iconicity of qb and the way that the utterance That stood in their way to freedom
itself can synesthetically create an "experiential feel" of roundness or an The Israelites had a wicked Pharaoh
inward-spiraling kinesthetic motion toward the center. This is not to sug- After serving under kind ones
gest that most Ania-speaking people are completely inward or morose The Ewes also had a wicked King-Agorkorli
{as was the feeling of the linguist immersed in translating funeral dirges After serving under kind ones ...
ril Anlo Forms oi Bcinl\in-thc-World Anlo Forms oi l\cing in rlw- World _,
I quote this pamphlet simply to make the point th;H the self-image of
r I '.

persecu1'ion. Relevant to our discussion here, 1herefore, is how various


persecution was sufficiently pre\'alcnt among Anlo-speaking peoph: 1ha1 Anlos1waking individuals explained Greene's conclusions and what
in the 1990s a secondary school student could write and sell locally these explan:uions then reveal about the w;iys in which ''culture and psy-
(through distribution in hookswres) a document such as this. The his che make c.Kh other up" (Shweder 199 1 :7 3 ).
torical accuracy or the validity of the comparison between Ewes and Is Anloga is the ri111al capital of Anlo-land, and the place or the site
racli1es is nor what matters here, but rather what is of interest is 1he eth- where three hundred years ;Jgo their ancestor T:igbui Whenya is said to
nic imaginings that correspond easilr to qb as a rolling, coiling-up kind ha\ccx1wricnccd the emotional and sensory feelings of qb when he bent
of somatic mode that attends to and expresses the melancholy and sor- o\'er and curved his bodr inward with arms and legs drawn toward his
row that pervades Anlo-Ewe stories and myths about the past. chest, resting and determining that his people would rest there too. In
Historians attest to the reality of this experience of persecution, which 111:> itself we find an indexical sign of a central feature of what we might
is the heart of the second item that was first told to me by my friend call an Anlo sensibility: the perduring mood of sorrow and woe that is
Kwamc and \vhich had been reinforced by additional Anlo people that
I had since met: Numerous Anlo people have commenced co me on how
the Anlo-Ewe homeland is devoid of any rich natural resources (partic-
ularly in comparison with the gold, cocoa, and timber prcvalem in the
I! counterbalanced hr the sense of strength and vigor when springing back
out of this position. As one m:ifiala explained, "There is an Anlo proverb
wliich states that t\mea c[eke mets:ia cmyid!efe tv:Ja mbfe o-Nohodr
makes the place he fell his sleeping bed. T:igbui Whenya may roll or curl
areas occupied by Asante peoples who live in the forest zone of Ghana). I up hut he will surely spring back with strength, power, and energy to re-
Sandra Greene (1985:8 3) points out that "after the advem of colonial sist e\cry form of enemy persecmion and domination. N)em1tet1 meqb

I
rule the Anlo sought to overcome the limited opportunities av:lilable to has defined our worldview as far as fear of subordination by other eth-
them in their own area by emigrating to non-Anlo/non-Ewe districts in nic groups is concerned" (Adikah 2000).
Ghan:1." She then explains that "while few swdics exist on Anlo rela- Many Anlo-speaking people with whom I worked began their expla-
tions with other ethnic groups, it appears that ic was not uncommon for
the Anlo and other Ewes in diaspora to be the subject of rumor and sus-
picion" (Greene 1985:83).
Then Greene discusses several specific historical incidents that could
I nations of persecution with reference to the dearth of natural resources
in their own homeland. They explained that since the land provided lim-
itcd opportunities for livelihood or for inheritance of wealth, the place
of Anlo-land irsclf was a source of depression. While it remained a place
certainly be interpreted as "persecution" of Anlo-Ewe speaking people that they held close to their heart because it was the ground of their her-
(such as the burning of villages), and she explains how othtr l'thnic itage and childhood (in the case of many individuals), Anlo-land did nor
groups in Ghana consistently perceive Anlo-Ewe speakers to be "thie\'cs, provide a ready source of sustenance, with its sandy soil and lack of in-
-----kidnappers, sorcerers, and ritual murderers" or as people who dabble in dustry, in the late twentieth century. Due to these conditions, many Anlo
"sorcerr and evil medicine" (Greene 1985:83-84). Her review of several speakers have stressed education for their children and the de,clopment
studies led ro the conclusion that "{i]n system;ltic surveys among and in- of skills chat would allow them co work in other areas and to mingle
terviews with Ghanaian university and secondary school students, as well with other ethnic groups. For insrance, many Anlo speakers pointed out
as 'the general adult population' abour the images of members of other how they typically learned various other languages spoken in Ghana
ethnic groups, all respondents consistently described the Ewe in some of (such as Twi, Ga, Akan, or Fame) hut they very seldom encountered an
the most negative stereotypical terms" (Greene 1985:84). The historical (ethnically) non-Ewe Ghanaian who could speak Ewe. One m:ifiala told
and cultural factors underpinning this situation of animosity cerra.inlr me that :tn Ewe professor once said to him, "Kofi, ttgbalea sr::m1 btUi?
deserve careful and lengthy consideration, but a full exploration of re You know that we have nothing. It [studying! is the emir mineral re-
lations among various ethnic groups in Ghana is dearly beyond the scope source we have." This emphasis on education has led to perceptions of
of this study. 12 The point I believe this material makes is that while neg- Ewe-speaking people in general and Anlo speakers in particular playing
ative stereotypes of Ewe speakers seem to be generally cultivated by other the role of what some call the "intelligentsia" in comemporarr Ghana. u
ethnic groups, they also serve to feed Anlo speakers' self-perceptions of What they meant was that although Ewe-speaking people (and especiallr
:\nlo Form~ oi Bcin!:in-thl' World :\nlo Forrns ot llc111g111-the-\X'orlJ I!)
I.!.-t

Anlo-Ewes) were a minority in Ghana, they were also conspicuously ac- cal oltices .1, well. lnstt:.1d they focus on those ieaturcs in the pohucal srs-
tive and present in the professional and edm:ated seccor of the nation. A tem that thcv thl'nmhes note arl' quitl' diffl'rent in kind, but m:\'l'rthcless
share some common ch.1racrensrics with the perceived predon11n.1tdy Sl'Cu-
number of people explained that while other l'thnic groups claimed this
lar Akan political cuhurl' which has come increasingly to domin.itl' thl'
was Jue co nepotism or "tribalism," among Anlo speakers it was per- popular im.1gl' of somhern Ghanai.111 cuhurc in general. This, I hcliew, 1s
ceived as resulting from the higher pcrcencage of Ewe speakers (com- not an uncomcious act of omission, bur reflects thl' concerns of thlse schol-
pared with other ethnic groups) who achie\'ed advanced levels of edu- ;trs not to focus on information that can be misinterpreted and misused to
cation and who were therefore qualified for civil sector and professional hl'smirch rhc image oi du: Anlo. (Greene 1985:!!.tl
occupations. Anlo speakers often expressed that they pursued work in
the civil sector due to limited economic opportunities in their homeland, Since Anlo-Ewc religious practices were feared and viewed in a negative
and the self-perception of being Ghana's intelligencsia was considered as light by many Ghanaians, West Africans, and "outsiders" in general, as-
burdensome as it was beneficial-hence the connection back to a mythos sociations between such actions and the Paramount Chief (as well as
summed up in the trope of 111.J (coiling up or rolling into oneself) as a so- other politically oriented items) were gradually downplayed.
matic and kinesthetic mqde that attends to and expresses a sensibility In other cin:umsrances, however, fear of the ritual powers of many Anlo
featuring melancholy and sorrow. As my friend in Houston explained, speakers was exploited, since stories abounded among Ghanaians about
"Being Anlo, for me, is about respect and resentment: on one hand they the potency of Ewe ;u;u. A vignette from my fieldwork in 1994 may illus-
respect us for being so industrious and hard working, but then ther cum trate this point more clearly. Marion, a young American researcher I knew
around and resent us when we succeed. It just makes me sad." in Accra, purchased a twelve-foot piece of adinkra (cloth) in the market-
Another explanation about why Ewe-speaking people in general were place of the Center for National Culcurc, but when she delivered the cloth
feared, disliked, or negatively stereotyped revolved around their classic to her seamstress (who was an Anlo-speaking woman with whom I was
ritual practices and moral code rooted in a complex religious system also acquainted), Marion learned that the cloth was verr old and would
commonly referred to by outsiders as 11oodoo or vod1m (for background soon begin shredding or tearing apart. Indeed, the seamstress showed me
sec Blier 1995; Gilbert 1982; .Meyer 1999; Rosenthal 1998). All over the the verr cloth, and as she pulled gently on the threads, she demonstrated
world the English term-1modoo elicits pejorative images and thoughts how the weave of the adinkra was very loose. Marion's Ewe-speaking
that illustrate why practitioners were frequently labeled as "thieves, kid- friend, neighbor, and occasional research assistant, Rejoice, suggested that
nappers, sorcerers, and ritual murderers" (Greene 198 5:84). Vodu is an Marion had been cheated and that they should return to the market and
ancient metaphysical philosophy and set oi sacred practices involving confront the merchant from whom she had purchased the cloth.
the use of herbs, incantations, sculpture, and so forth to reinforce Anlo- Several weeks later they recounted to me how they went to the market
Ewe moral codes (sec Blier 199;; Geurts 1997; Rosenthal r998), and it together and Rejoice appealed to the mercham while speaking a combina-
will be discussed in more detail in chapter 8. The fact that Anlo speak- tion of English and Twi (the national lingua franca), but the mnchant and
ers themselves realized others in Ghana perceived aspects of their clas- her parmers refused to exchange the adinkra for a newer, more durable
sic religion in a very negative light is evidenced by the deeper issue being fabric. The dialogue escalated into a heated argument, but the merchant
addressed by Greene in the work reft:rrcd to previously about ethnic re- refused to budge. Rejoice then began escorting Marion toward the exit,
lations in Ghana. 14 Greene suggests an explanation for why the office of stopped, turned around to face the merchant, and declared loudly and in
the Paramount Chief (known as Awoamefia) was once clearly associated Ewe: "Miekp:>gc loo!" This translates simply as "You will sec!" but is closer
with religious and ritual practices, but more recently these associations in meaning co the English phrase "Just you wait!" and connotes a curse or
have been omitted or dropped in most oral accounts of traditions and impending recourse to sorcery. They then turned and exited the market.
history surrounding the Paramount Chief. Approximatelr five minutes later a young man from the stall (probably the
son of the market woman) came running up to them with a splendid piece
Most place emphasis in their discussions of the nature of the Anlo polirical
system on the non-religious aspects of the all'oamefia office; they also omit of adinkra, beseeching them to exchange it for the old and tattered cloth.
or downplay any reference to the role of religion in any of the other puliti- The transa(..-rion was completed and they left.
Anlo Forms of Being-in-the-World Anlo Forms of Being-in-the-World
127

The point of this story is chat once reason failed to produce a positive itagc and sensibility of being Anlo, or those who participate in and arc
result, Rejoice made it known to the merchant (and others in the market) oriented to an Anlo ethnoscapc.
that she was an Ewe (-speaking) person, which in and of itself signified But we cannot seek chc mythopocic subjectivity of qb merely in the
access to the powers of a potent curse based in 11odu. This display. thereby conscious mind. \Xie have co break awar from our own ethnocentric at-
exploited, to a certain extent, general perceptions of Ewe-speaking ~c~ tachment co a dualistic split between conscious and unconscious and be
plc: that they could and would resort to using a curse (or dzosasa, as 1t 1s willing to play with the indeterminate space between those cacegories
called in the Ewe language) to get their way. These ritual practices thus tliac are often not meaningful in other cultural contexts. So wid1out back-
have a quality of indeterminacy; they were simultaneously a source of ing down from the interpretation of qb that I am putting forth here, I
persecution and power. Herc resentmellt and respect hold an indcxical can acknowledge that qb is forced into what Bourdieu calls "rational
relationship to qb as a rolling, coiling-up kind of som~tic mode that at- systematization and logical criticism" by virtue of the very methodolog)'
ten~s. to and expresses a melancholic Anlo sensibility. 13 he critiques. That is to say, Bourdieu argues ( 1977:123) that when a per-
son lacks the symbolic mastery of schemes and their products, the only
GRASPING THROUGH TO THE MYTHOl'OEIC
way such a person (anpbscrver) can participate is by creating a model.
As an anthropologist and a person who inhabits at mosc only the fringes
To further probe this association I want to return to the issue of what of an Anlo ethnoscape, I construct a model of qi:> because it is "the sub-
Bourdieu calls the "socially informed body" and to begin to raise some stitute required when one does not have ... immediate master)' of the ap-
questions about cultural memory. The body tltar we encounter in Bour- paratus" ( 1977: I 23). My model of qi:>, then, is aimed at approximating
dicu is not divorced, of course, from either the mind or the social envi- a phenomenon at work in Anlo worlds, which I am suggesting cannot
ronment, but rather he insists that "every successfully socialized agent be reduced to a word (qb), an event in a story (T::igbui Whenya's decla-
... possesses, in their incorporated state, the instruments of an ordering ration and performance of" Nyeamca meqb ... "),a body posture (curl-
of the world, a system of classifying schemes which organize ... prac- ing or folding into oneself), an emotional-sensory state (exhaustion, sor-
tices .... " (1977:123-124, emphasis added). The incorporated state at row, depression), or a cognitive concept (gb as a mere metaphor of
question here is one of Anlo ontology. That very Anlo onrology begins~ persecution). !Yfo is part of the "system of classifying schemes," part of
in a word, with the migration story or mythic account of how T::igbui the "instruments of the ordering of the world," in an Anlo habims-an
Whenya led his people out of slavery and then folded into himself (and Anlo habitus that has been recapitulating a history ofT:igbui Whenya's
declared "Nyeamea meqb ... ")-a story that may have been circulating qfa such that we are forced to confront what this means about how his-
for three hundred years. 16 Bourdicu has suggested (1977:124) that "to tory is tumcd into nature.
grasp through the constituted reality of myth the constituting moment Merleau-Ponty suggested that in the philosophy and phenomenology
of the mythopoeic act is not, as idealism supposes, to seek in the con- of consciousness, the concept of "institution" could serve as n kind of
scious mind the universal structures of a 'mythopoeic subjectivity' and hinge. By institution he meant "those events in experience which endow
the unity of a spiritual principle governing all empirically realized ._ ! ... it with durable dimensions, in relation to which a wlu>lc series of other
configurations regardless of social conditions." Bourdicu 's argum~nt is CXperience~,}Vill acquire meaning, Will form an inteYligihle series or his-
that grasping through to the constituting moment of the mythopoetc act tory-or again those events which sedimendn me a meaning, not just
involves instead a reconstruction of the principle of the socially ill{ormed of survivals or residues, but as the invitation to a sequel, the necessity of
body, which is a principle that unifies and generates practices and which a future" (1963: 108-109). 1)'1:> might be that kind of hinge, that kind of
is inextricably cognitive and evaluative. His notion of evaluative, of institution. As an eminently polysemous S}'tnbol, it "sediments a mean-
course, opens the floodgates of the sensory, for evaluation involves taste ing" not just of an event three hundred years ago when T:>gbui Whenya
and distaste, compulsion and repulsion, and the attentiveness and tun- rolled up, but rather it sediments a meaning that is an "invitation to a
ing out that is done through all sensory fields. Here I am suggesting that sequel." It invites the recapitulation of the sensations T:>gbui Whenya
qb is a part of the socially informed body of those who share in the her- felt when he landed at the ground that has been perceived as Al)b-land
12.8
Anlo Forms of Beini:-in-thc-World Anlo Forms of Bemg-in-thc-World l.?.9

ever since_ And as an institution, in tvlerleau-Ponty's sense, qb allows for and I mention this because it is possible I was struck by l}b in large part
a whole series of other experiences to acquire meaning_ As one m:ifiala because of this dimension of my own biography. It is commonlr under-
explained in a letter to me: stood in yoga that "forward bends" (such as what one does when fold-
ing into oneselt or gesturing l)b) arc known to produce sorrow, nostal-
The ~:>tsie story and Nyeamea me11b invokes a participatory emotion in us. gia, and grief. During one particular class I began to spontaneously weep,
Mel}b conveys an image of a curling-up hedgehog. It comeys a nostalgic
for reasons totally unknown to me, in the middle of a session on for-
feeling of tiredness, fatigue, weakness and sadness borne out of never-endin~
journeys across mountains, rivers, and more significantly of breaking-free ward bends. My teacher quickly removed me from the group engaged in
from subjugation. "At last l can relax my tired bones!" T:igbui Whenya de- forward bends and instructed me to initiate back-bending postures.
cided to IJb not only because he was tired but also he might have gained a Along the lines of a principle of the obverse, forward bends in yoga must
nostalgic moment and 1he satisfaction that his people, hedged in by the sea be countered or complemented with backward motion. 18 This anecdote
and the lagoon, were well protected from enemies. ~:>tsie represents the is offered as a way of making two points. First, it is to acknowledge my
genesis of our subjugation, our heritage, our ancestry and Nyeamea melJb
represents the dimax, the conclusion after long years of suffering. ~:i1sie is own predisposition to having attended to or focused on this specific as-
the beginning; Anloga the finishing point. When my grandmother danced pect of Anlo worlds, whereas other researchers may have glossed over
backwards and later curled up with excitement ~ritten all over her face, it it. Second, the yogic philosophy of forward bending asserts that rolling
was a dramatization of ... being An lo." (Adikah 2.000) up or gesturing in the manner of "the fetal position," or I]/:J, will neces-
sarilr generate sorrow, introspection, even grief, providing a precedent
for an association of l}b with sadness, sorrow, and their stories about
l':J::>TSIE AND THE CENTER: EMPLACEMENT the past.
AND AN AESTHETICS-POETICS OF ryL:J
So, from l)b as an iconic gesture and the onomatapoeic and srnes-
Amoaku (an Ewe scholar) suggested that for many Ewe people ~:>tsic is thetic qualities I suggested accompany the utterance "Nyeamea melJb
metaphorically the sacred mountain, the axis mimdi, or the pl:1ce where ... "to the yogic implications of this forward bend, I want to extend this
heaven and earth meet. He tells a story of visiting the site where ~:>tsic exegesis out one final ring. I want to suggest that when certain Anlo peo-
used ro exist 17-<>f standing amidst the debris of the wall-and he ex- ple present their migration myth and we reach the moment of T:>gbui
plains that before he left the site he engaged in washing his face with Whenra declaring "Nycamca melJb ... ," we are dealing with a "direct
water and herbs as a ''symbol of communion with our ancestral gods" presentation of the fcelingful dimension of experience" (Armstrong
and as a means of atoning for "deserting them" or abandoning and sep- quoted in Fd<l 1';188:103) that characterizes what Robert Plant Arm-
arating from his ancestors. strong means by his term "affecting presence." To explore this idea, let
When certain Anlo people present the story of their own flight from me direct our attention to Feld's ( 1988: 103-104) synthetic distillation
~:>tsie (Amoaku is from Ho, not Anlo-land), the event is accompanied of Armstrong's three works on aesthetics, consciousness, and myth. Feld
by what for me is one of the most profound physical gestures the human explains that Armstrong "wishes to examine works of affecting presence
body can perform: the folding inward or coiling up of l}b. When I first as direct forces and sensibilities, through which one might grasp' ... the
tried to write about witnessing Anlo-Ewe people coil forward as they very consciousness of a people, the particular conditions under which
told me about T:>gbui Whenya, I was reminded of Jackson's (1989) essar their human existence is possible'" (Armstrong 1975:82, quoted in Feld
"Knowledge of the Body." He opens with an account (1989:II9) of be- 1988: 103 ). Anlo and Ewe people lived in oral societies for centuries be-
ginning to practice yoga in his mid-thirties. Initial work with asanas (pos- fore the Ewe language was transliterated, and storrtelling as well as other
tures) was like "unpicking the locks of a cage" because prior to this his verbal arts have a robust historr and continue as vital forms of cultural
body "passed into and out of mr awareness like a stranger; whole areas production across West Africa. 19 The mrth or legend of ~:ltsie, or the
of my physical being and potentiality were dead to me, like locked prose narrative concerning their migration out, first struck me as just
rooms" (cf. Stoller 1997 on the "scholar's body"). I had been practicing some story that certain people wanted me to know, but after years of
yoga for more than fifteen years before I first sojourned to Anlo-land, reflecting on how and how often it was presented to me, I have come to
Anlo Forms of Bcing-inthc-World Anlo Forms of Being-in-the-World t31
130

regard the tale itself as a "work of affecting presence" (in Armstrong's Moral knowing among Anlo-speaking people is a complex topic. Here
terms) and the moment of gesturing T:>gbui Whenya's curling up as an I introduce three of the more extreme deterrents that people readily men-
"enacted metaphor." Feld highlights (1988:ro3) Armstrong's argument tioned as reminders of the consequences of unethical actions: a tradition
about how "affecting presences, as works or events witnessed, are 'con- in Anlo-l:rnd of burying criminals alive (T:>b At:>lia), prohibitions on
stituted, in a primordial and intransigent fashion, of basic cultural psy- wealth acquired through immoral or illegal means (ga foc[i mawo), and
chic conditions-not symbols of those conditions but specific enact- a form of restitution in which the lineage must provide (in perpetuity) a
ments-presentations-of those very conditions-the affecting presence young girl to serve in a shrine (tr:J.'l'::wiwo). They arc dimensions of an
is not a 'semblance' but an actuality ... in culcural terms it presents rather Anlo moral code that individuals internalize through discourse about
than represents.'" When Mr. Tamakloe folded into himself, it was an en- these themes and through actions, deeds, and daily conduct (practices).
actment, a presentation of the condition of "being Ania" for more than Growing up in Anlo contexts means attending to these themes of T:>b
three hundred years. /'ifa emerges, then, as a trope, an enacted metaphor At:>lia, ga foqi matvo, and tr:>x:JViwo. The attending and orienting in
for a melancholy sensibility", an embodied consciousness with its obverse: turn contribute to the development of an Anlo sensibility, or what we
qb as persecution and power; l)b as resentmenc and respect. might think of as a perduring mood, a disposition, or an orientation that
One final insight from Armstrong and Feld sheds light on these incer- is "patterned within the workings of a body" (Desjarlais 199:z.: 150). And
pretations of qb especially in relation to seselelame. Feld suggests th~t as one m:>{iala stated, this sensibility determines or guides "how you
through his interpretive matrix, Armstrong is able to transcend a false di- walk through life, how you carry and conduct yourself.,. Here again we
chotomization of cognition and emotion or body and mind: "For him, it sec the association of movement, one's comportment and walk, with
is never that the viewer's affect is caused by the artist's sensibilities packed one's moral character.
into work; it is that the viewer's feelings are drenched in comprehension These deterrents are understood co work in the end because of the im-
of enacted sensibilities that live in the work" (Feld 1988:ro4). In the portance of balancing, or agbagbac[oc[o, which we saw figure into child-
course of a myriad of presentations about the flight from ~:>tsie by Anlo socialization routines. Many Anlo speakers told me chat they refrained
interlocutors, when I began to roll or curl up myself, I believe chat my from indulging in destructive deeds (alluded to previously) even though
feelings had finally become "drenched in comprehension of enacted sen- they had access to malevolent powers because of their concern with
sibilities" rooted in seselelame. Herc I have tried to describe how begin- maintaining balance.
ning with "emplaced experiences" in a land washing out to sea, there
arose an attentiveness to ~:>tsie as the center and to T:>gbui Whenya's T:>k:> At:>lia (fhe Fifth Landing Stage)
never-ending and somatically expressed "Nyeamea meqb ... ," which po-
etically and aesthetically captures a vital dimension of the condition of "The fear ofT:>b At:>lia is very real," explained one m:>fiala. "To know
being-Ania-in-the-world. that stealing or sleeping with another man's wife could land you in the
ground, buried alive, made me listen well to my parents. It wasn't just
that I thought stealing was wrong, I felt scared of the crows picking out
STRAIGHTNESS AND TRUTH: ASPECTS OF MORAL KNOWING
my eyes-like Agbebada, you know-and of the thirst. My mouth goes
Decades ago Victor Turner employed (1967:43) the phrase "biopsychical dry thinking of being buried alive; of feeling each momenc of my death ..,
individuals" to suggest the inextricabilicy of physical sensations (the phe- In my conversation with chis young man he made direct reference to a
nomenal dimension of experience and knowing) and psychological orien- character, Agbebada, in a five-act play called T:>b At:>lia (or The Fifth
tations (the noumenal dimension of experience and knowing). The goals Landing Stage), written by F.K. Fiawoo (1981, 1983).
here are not unlike Turner's penetrating insight into the multiplex (and The title of the play refers to a piece of land in the settlement of An-
largely unconscious) ways in which symbolic phenomena are experienced loga where the forefathers -of those in Anlo-land buried criminals alive
by individuals. While Turner's specific focus at that point was on ritual according to the nyiko custom (Fiawoo 1959a:104-1 n). Previously
contexts, this study includes quotidian life as well as ceremonial settings. forested, by the 1990s the area was a grassy field located behind the An-
IJ2. Anlo Forms of Bcin~in-chc-World Anlo Forms oi l\cingin-the- World

loga police station and used as the central site of the annual Hoghetsotso dcring of the hodr and the memories of fear from childhood) oi the con-
festival (a festival that will be discussed in chapter 7). In the play's in- sequences of committing a crime.
troduction we learn:

Our forefathers detested crime and showed relentless severity in exacting Ga foqi Mawo: Prohibitions 011 "Dirty Mo11ey
the penalty from the guilty. In those days there were no police in our land
nor public prisons. F-1ch member uf the community was concerned to The phrase ga fo<[i mawo literally meant "dirty monies" and was com-
guard against social disorder, aiding the unwritten laws of the country to monly used to express an ethics about the pursuit of wealth. Earlier dis-
operate severely on those who habitually infringed them. Some of these of- cussions covered the issue of the dearth of resources and opportunities
fenders were made by the State to pay fines, others were banished, some for lucrative work in the Anlo traditional homeland. Because of this sit-
were reduced to serfdom, while others were buried alive according to the uation, people commonly ventured out of the area to Accra, other parts
gravity of the offence .... Concerning stealing, adultery, and the evil
of Ghan~, throughout West Africa, and beyond, planning and hoping to
practices of sorcery, they said that these acts were responsible for the
destruction of nations. The) based their view upon their experiences from create an ent~rprising and successful business. Such initiative was en-
the days of their migration from Hogbe to Anlo land. (Fiawoo 1983:7) couraged among many Anlo-speaking families, and several people
summed up the prevailing attitude in the following piece of advice they
Numerous elderly people I interviewed expressed the belief that T:ib delivered to young people: Go forth, work hard, be industrious, and
At:>lia was "something of the past" and had no effect of deterrence on don't come home empty-handed (i.e., bring back wealth!), but make sure
the "immoral behaviors of today's young people." However, young peo- you are not carrying "dirty money." The belief was that "dirty money"
ple themselves did not necessarilr hold that perspective, as indicated by was acquired through nefarious means, and people in the family would
the words of the young man quoted previously. Perhaps due to the begin to die if a member brought such money home.
influence or currency of Fiawoo's play, young people themselves often This concept was not so differen_t from dtigbec[i, or retention of "birth
referred to The Fifth Landing Stage as they discussed what it meant to din," and here I would suggest that a similar qua Ii tr marks the phe-
grow up in Ghana as "an Anlo person." That is, they perceived this site nomenon of "dirty money." There was a kind of dirt or soiled state that
and tales of criminals buried alive in that soil as symbols of the strict could not be washed out of either human beings or money, and the pres-
code of ethics adhered to br their people. So the young man quoted pre- ence of this filth ultimately represented a morally compromised condi-
viously explained that as he grew up he eventually came to understand tion. l>.igbec[i (birth dirt) was often identified by an odor emanating from
that the custom was no longer in practice, and he was therefore not re- an individual, and the conclusion drawn often revolved around the idea
ally in jeopardy of being buried alive. But he noted that as a child he re- that the person had not received a proper first bath (as an infant) or a
membered feeling terrified not simply of the idea but of the actual sen- proper upbringing in general, and this resulted in a compromised con-
sation of being buried alive. dition not simply in relation to physical hygiene but to the moral and so-
People literally shuddered, therefore, as they talked with me about cial status of the individual as well. "Birth dirt" left on an infant could
T:>b At:>lia, and they usually spoke in hushed tones. People seemed never be washed out. Ga foc[i mawo (dirty monies) also could not be
pressed to make me understand that T:>b At:>lia did not represent cru- "cleaned" no matter how much "laundering" the monies were subject
elty or perversity on the part of their forefathers, but rather it was the to. While "dirty monies" were not identified thr~mgh olfactory percep-
last resort in their criminal justice system and was a protective and pre- tion like d.!igbe<[i, they were perceived in divination and by the "recur-
ventive clement in maintaining community stability and health. While ring decimal" of death in a given family. That is, if one engaged in bribery
this practice of burying criminals alive was no longer in effect in the and corruption or in accumulation of wealth by immoral means (in-
1990s, I would suggest that stories and memories of T:ib At:>lia con- cluding employment of dzoka or "juju "),20 people began to die through-
tinued to have a biopsychica/ hold on many Anlo-speaking people with out the family. There were very few ways a family or lineage could put
whom I worked. This hold was not merely on the elderly, and numerous a stop to this "recurring decimal," but one form of propitiation was
young people held an almost somatic understanding (hence, the shud- tr:>x:wiwo.
134 Anlo Forms of Being-in-the-World Anlo Forms of Being-in-the-World 135

che shrine. Under those conditions, a departure ceremony would be


Tr::>x::>Viwo: .. The Tr:> (Spirit or Deity) that Takes Your Cl1ild"
staged for the young woman, who would then leave che shrine as a wife
A tr::> was conceptualized as a tutelary god, spirit, or deity, and through- of the man who dispensed the bride-payment.
out the Ewe-speaking area shrines and devotional communities existed Marriage to a man outside of the shrine was the only sanctioned
to serve a variecy of tr::>wo. ll Tr:>.'l:::>Vitvo was one such category of tem- mechanism by which the girl could retire or withdraw from the shrine.
ple or sanctuary, and its name derived from how the spirit demanded a In the event that no man ever asked to marry her, or if a man did but he
(usually female) child from che lineage as a wa}' of atoning for a sin or failed to provide the bride-payment, the young woman would spend the
as cosmic restitution for a specific criminal act. 22 Unlike T::>b Ac::>lia (the remainder of her life in the shrine. Under those circumstances, once she
burying of criminals alive at the "fifth landing stage"), which was no came of age, or began to menstruate, she would bear the children of the
longer practiced in the latter half of the twentieth century, tr::>x::>vitvo priest at the shrine. Regardless of whether she remained in the shrine or
temples were still in existence at the time I lived in Anlo-land. In the l~ft, the family was obligated to bring another virgin girl at the time of
1990s, although th~ practice was rare, young children (usually virgin her death. The debno the tr::> never ceased; the sacrifice had to be made
- girls) were still turned over to. become devotees of a tr:> and to live at the co"ntinuously. The procedure often broke <Jown if a young woman left
shrine.23 It w~s an extremely controversial subject throughout Ghana, the shrine to marry an outsider since it was not at that point that the
as evidenced by the appearance of frequent articles in the national news- family was supposed to "replace her," but rather they were to bring an-
papers (where it was referred to as the Trokosi Cult), and the debate usu- other young woman to the shrine years later when the original "servant"
ally focused on whether the practice should be banned. What follows, died. That is, by the time she reached old age and died, families often
however, is an exploration of the functions of tr::>x:wiwo (specifically in had forgotten her role in the shrine years earlier and thereby failed to
Anlo-Ewe contexts) and how this phenomenon related to moral know- send her "replacement." With the breach would come a rash of deaths
ing, somatic and sensory modes of attention, and ideas of personhood in the family, and a diviner (bok::> or amegasbi) was usually consulted.
and well-being. In cases of a "recurring decimal of death," divination would usually re-
One m::Jfiala explained tr::>x::>vi1vo as "a deterrent sort of thing. It de- veal that the family had failed to sustain the sacrifice for a major crimi-
terred people. They didn't wane you co go there, so people lived a straight nal offense. This could be a recent breach, or it could reach several gen-
life. If you went there, it meant other people would be following you. erations back. The family would therefore be instructed to resume
Even when you were dead, they had to replace you." This m::>(iala was sending a virgin girl to serve in the shrine. As previously explained, the
referring to the following system described in ics "ideal" (but not neces- policy was that there was no way to expunge chc culpability for a capi-
sarily actualized) format, which was believed co enforce moral codes. tal crime like murder or theft, and the family would "pay" for the vio-
When a person committed a crime such as murder or theft of a significant lation for eternity. If they stopped "making payments," family members
amount of money (ga fo<[i mawo: dirty monies), che victims of the crime would begin to die. It is for this reason that the tr:ix:wiwo system was
would travel to a specific sanctuary or holy place and appeal to the ap- perceived as a very strong deterrent to criminal behavior and why one
propriate tr::J for recompense. The perpetrator would be identified m::>fiala explained, "They didn't want you to go there, so people lived a
(through divination) and then summoned to the shrine. It was commonly straight life. If you went there, it meant other people would be follow-
understood that the penalty for crimes of that severity involved a female ing you. Even when you were dead, they had to replace you." The sen-
member of the perpetrator's family (or lineage) "serving the tr::J," which sory content here is more attenuated, but it is none the less important.
meant working and living at the shrine. The girl (who had to be a vir- As indicated, "people lived a straight life" for fear of getting (them-
gin) would "ricually marry" che priest of the shrine, so the family was selves and their family) caught up in tr::>x::>vituo. The use of the word
required to provide a sizeable dowry and the funds for an elaborate cer- straight by this nt::J{iala was not insignificant, for it alluded to che bod-
emony. However, if during the subsequent years a man saw the young ily dimension of moral knowing that was integrally tied to the highly
woman at the shrine and wanted to marry her, he could "buy her out of valued sensory experiences of balance and movement and to the copic
the shrine" (in a sense) by supplying a bride-payment to the priest and of comportment and morality. It will be recalled that agbagba<[o<[o (bal-
136 Anlo Forms of Being-in-the-World Anlo Forms of Being-in-the-World 137

ancing) and az:>liz:n:> (walking, movement) invohed posture and ges- the event occurred?" While,,_, did not exactly mean .. sit down," it cer-
ture, which in turn were read and experienced along a continuum rang- tainly referred to a somatic presence, and such bodily attendance was
ing from "crooked" (immoral) to .. straight" (ethically sound). The cul- perceived and experienced as an integral part of one's ability to "wit-
tural logic underpinning tr:>x:>vitvo, I would suggest, contributed to ness," or to know something and recount it.
somatic modes of attention centering on straightness, morality, and truth. However, in the phrase 11:> 11ya tefea and in the cultural logic sur-
In terms of symbolic value, the institution of tr:lx:lviwo had a deep grip rounding truth and moral knowing there was not exhibited much con-
on its .. adherents" as well as a strong hold on people who grew up know- cern with eye-witnessing. Dzobo used the term "eye-witness," of
ing that tr:>x:>viwo was right down the road (so to speak) if they diverged course, to translate an Ewe concept into a Western idiom, for visually
from the straight (moral) path. based knowing might represent what manr Westerners would under-
Ewe scholar N. K. Dzobo's work on the phenomenology of knowl- stand best. And certainly Anlo speakers might also ask, "Did you see
edge and truth among Akan and Ewe peoples of Ghana directly addresses it?" which would be expressed as Ekp:i etefea and would mean "Did
the issue of straightness and truth. He explains that the most commonly you sec the place (where the event happened)?" Such phrasing was not
used word for truth in the Ewe language is nyatefe. as common, however, as putting it in terms of w~rds, speech, or in re-
lation to one's knowledge of a talking-oriented matter (hence, nya and
Etymologically the word is made up of nya and tefe. Tefe which means nyatefe). In the Ewe language, the whole phrase rested in an idiom of
"place" or "spot" is a common suffix in the Ewe language .... And so bodily presence and sound (hearing of words), which was a kind of
nyatefe litcrall)' means the statement/word that is at its place, i.e. a correct
somatic and aural "witnessing" (or knowing) rather than an eye-
statement. A statement is said to be correct when it describes accurately the
srate of affairs as it is. Another way of saying that a statement is true in witncssing. The more somatic and aural rendition, of course, exhibited
Ewe is to say Nya la le etefe: "The statement/word is at its place, - and this a direct correspondence to a scnsorium in which auditory and kines-
is usually said about the report of an eyewitness .... the report of an eye- thetic perception was culturally elaborated. To elicit the truth, then,
witness can be trusted to be true because such repons normally give accu- the ciders might ask, E11:i nya te/ea or En:> nya la tefea: Were you pres-
mte accounts of the state of things. For this reason when the elders at a ent (somatically) when tbe word (which was an aurally based signifier
court want to question the validit>' of a report of a person they ask him ...
"Et10 nya la tefea?" Literally it means: "Did you sit down (witness) at the
for event) was at its place?
place where the event occurred?" (Dzobo 1980:95) Another common way of expressing truth was nyackJdz:>e, which de-
rived from nya (word, matter, speech) plus d!:ldl:>e (straight, upright, fair).
While Dzobo's linguistic and ethnographic data was generally derived from
the northern Ewe-speaking area of Ghana (in and around the town of Ho), Truth as 11yadz:ldz:>e therefore means literally "straight statement/word,"
and so falsehood is referred ro as nyagoglo or nyamadz:Jmadz:J, meaning
this particular item also pertained to customs and dialect of many south-
"crooked statement/word." ... The knowledge of normative truth-
ern (Anlo) Ewe-speaking peoples. In fact, in the same way that English- statements is acquired tlnuagh long years of experience and is also passed
speaking people might utter (in response to another's commentary), down from generation to generation. In non-literate societies the memory is
"That's the truth," Anlo-Ewe speakers might respond with the word the repository of truth as nyadz:Jdz.ie. (Dzobo 1980:97-98)
"Nyatefe," which literally meant "The word is at its place." Truth, in
metaphorical terms, had a kind of kinesthetic-proprioceptive quality in Truth as straightness reverberates back to the explanation given by one
chat it concerned placement and position. The inquiry "Nyate fea?" meant m:>fiala char "people live a straight life" in part because of their fear of
"Is that the truth?" but in essence the question asked whether the word tr.,x:lviwo. Righteousness, fairness, and moral knowing were culturally
was at its place (meaning proprioceptivcly positioned). construed as straight words, straight statements, straight behavior, and
Furthermore, Dzobo pointed out that the phrase En:i tefea, or E11:i even (referring to the discussion of az:ilime in chapter 4) a "straight
nya tefea, was the common and colloquial expression among Ewe (and walk. " 24 Tr:lx:wiwo, therefore, symbolized the ultimate penalty for che
I would include Anlo) speakers when eliciting an eyewitness account. He morally compromised condition of "lack of straightness," or divergence
translated this phrase as "Did you sit down (witness) at the place where from a moral and truthful life.
Anlo Forms of Being-in-the-World :\nlo Forms of Bcingin-the-World 139

Additionally, tr:>x:wiwo represented an intricate convergence of self, Moral knowing in Anlo contexts, therefore, was situated in the truth-
society, and cosmos, which will be caken up in greater decail later and fulness of these principles, and this k11oiui11g was not simply a cognitive
which was alluded to over thirty years ago. experience but was carried around at the level of sensation and emotion.
As we saw in the young man's reflections about T::>b At::>lia, people did
Closely related to the ordeal but probably more exacting is the custom of not experience the fear and effects of something like tr;,x;,viwo only at
{iasic[i:ccxe, a sort of penal servitude by which a criminal is bonded to serve
an intellectual level, but somatically and affectively retained this under-
for life in a cult house in atonement for his crime. In lieu of deciding guilt
or innocence by simple ordeal, where the gravity of the offense warrants it, standing and knowledge. This example of somatic modes of attending
one of the "convent cults" {tr:>x:wi1vo, lit. cults which take in children) to straightness and truth (as an aspect of moral knowing among Anlo-
may be sworn. Where perjury is established by the god concerned, the per- speaking people) begins to demonstrate how bodies, selves, and others
son involved engages in what is known as fiasiqixcxc or ritual expiation. arc ontologically and epistemologically interwoven.
He enters the cult house and dedicates himself to the service of the cult as a
cult servant. If he dies in senice, it is the responsibility of his familr to
make replacement. If the original crime is murder, his life may be claimed TR:JNA ZUN:A: SHAPE-SHIFTING AND
immediately by the cult, but the family responsibility to the cult remains MYTHIC LEGENDS OF T;)GBUI TSALI
unchanged. The understanding is that the family has entered into a perpet-
ual covenant with the cult to the effect that a member of the lineage shall Fiagbedzi the teacher referred to T::>gbui Tsali as "Jesus Christ of the Anlo
always be in attendance. Negligence in this ritual obligation is visited con- people." Startled by this characterization, I asked Fiagbedzi to clarify
tinuously with death in the family until the contract is honored again.
what he meant. He explained that Tsali was a powerful person capable
flasic[i thus poses a grave threat to the survival of members of a family; it
may even cause the extinction of a whole family. The severity of this form of miraculous and magical deeds and then recounted a famous stor)' I
of atonement is enough to restrict, if not deter recourse to fiasic[i. It is an ef- had heard from other m:J(ialawo. When Tsali was young and still under
fective means of the ritual proscription of crime. (Fiawoo 1959:116-117) the tutelage of his father, Akplomada, a day came when Tsali's sense of
his own power got the better of him. Akplomada regularly removed his
While D. K. Fiawoo's details varied slightly from how the practice was ex- intestines to cleanse and dry his internal organs as a method of keeping
plained to me, relations among the individual, the family, and the spirits them healthy. During one of these routines, Akplomada handed the in-
(tr:>) were basically the same. That is, "personal, social, and cosmic fields testines to Tsali and asked his son to help dry them out. Thinking he
of Being" were considered to be inextricably woven together (Jackson and could outwit his own father, Tsali changed himself into a hawk and flew
Karp 1990:23), so that the actions of one individual "may even cause the up into the sky with the entrails.
extinction of a whole family" (Fiawoo r959a:rr7). The cultural logic and Dismayed by the incorrigibility of his own son, Akplomada decided
embodied experiences surrounding tr:>x:JViwo, then, contained deep prin- to teach the young boy a lesson. He knew the bird would have to land
ciples about being a person in Anlo ways, beginning with the fact that the on a tree before eating the entrails, and he calculated thar Tsali would
iuell-beittg of "selves" (or biopsychic individuals) was integrally tied to the choose the tallest perch around. Akplomada promptly shifted his own
health and balanced nature of social and cosmic bodies. shape ro that of a mti (silk-cotton tree), and Tsali (in the form of a hawk)
While the example of tr:>x:>viiuo might be an extreme manifestation descended onto the highest branch of rhe disguised figure of Akplomada.
of this principle, it demonstrates how a person existed only in the sense Tsali placed the intestines across the bough, not knowing it was actually
of how they were related to other persons. If a person committed mur- his father's arm. Akplomada immediately transformed back into his own
der or theft (on the scale of ga foqi mawo), penance did not end with shape, they both landed in a heap together on the ground, and Akplo-
any imagined boundaries around the individual, but plagued the lineage mada declared, "Davie 11enye, nyemefia 11muo kata wo v:> o: nyeme(ia
for eternity. In this way personhood was defined in part by intersubjcc- vuwzu woo" (If you're a child, I have not yet finished teaching you all
tivity, by the connections among the body-self and sociofamilial condi- things; I have not taught you how to change [or shape-shift] into a si{k-
tions and spiritual concerns. cotton tree) (Mamattah 1976:3:z.8). Tsali's father wanted him to under-
Anlo Forms of Being-in-the-World Anlo Forms of Being-in-chc-World 1.p

stand that while Tsali had already acquired great prowess with the am- book for something about toads and found the saying, "If you visit the
lima (magical powers) he had gained, Akplomada would alwa}'S be su- village of the toads and you find chem squatting, you must squat too."
perior to his son. Confirming with Adzoa Kokui that this was indeed the advice she had
Tsali grew up to be what some call the greatest mystic in Anlo his- delivered to my husband, I then found myself reflecting on the fact that
tory. His use of herbs, magic, and spiritual healing were the basis of while his complaint had to do with food (hence, the sensation of taste),
dozens of stories concerning his exploits. It is his shape-shifting abilities the saying drew on the image of altering one's bodr posture as a srmbol
that interest me for what this indicatcs about somatic changeability and of adaptability.
an associated philosophy or cultural logic concerning the tension be- If we take proverbs to be illustrative of certain facets of cultural logic
tween adaptability and essential form. Another famous story about Tsali and habitus, this one certainly not only indicates that you should be able
focused on his role in the flight out of r-:/:>tsie-the Anlo migration story and willing to squat or alter your form when required but also displays
recounted earlier. After all the people had fled the walled city and foot- a strong value concerning flexibility. Adaptability when dealing with
prints had been planted in the soil facing the gates (to suggest.the city other cultural or ethnic groups was a character trait I heard many Anlo-
was under siege), Tsali supposedly turned himself into a small striped speaking people discuss as something they prided themselves on ex-
mouse so that he could crawl in and out of the footprints, leaving tiny hibiting. Since this was not a comparative study, I do not have any in-
traces of mouse tracks. This second level of deception created ets:> a{:> formation to suggest whether Anlo speakers as a group were actually
wo (yesterday's old looking footprints) and was aimed at causing chaos more or less flexible than other Ghanaians, but they definitely percei\'ed
for the r-:f:>tsic soldiers and guards. themselves to be an adaptable people (both as indhiduals and as a
Such legends abound of T:>gbui Tsali's continual use of shape-shifting group). In another non-Anlo, but Ewe-speaking context, Ewe person-
to accomplish magical feats. Referred to as etsi amlima (magic) or, more hood has heen described as involving "practices of camouflage" that take
specifically, as tr:> zu (to turn, to change into, to become), he had the ca- part in "a larger aesthetic of masking and changing identities, and in Ewe
pability of altering his body or transforming his somatic construct as a selfhood it is 'masks all the way down.' Such masks, costumes,
means of accomplishing an end. In the process, however, he never lost camouflage, and- make-up are not indications of artificiality but rather
his essence and always returned to the original form or shape of T:>gbui of diverse dimensions of agency" (Rosenthal 1998:8 1 ). Changeability,
Tsali. Shape-shifting, of course, can be found in the myths of many peo- or a "chameleon capacity," was a characteristic perhaps more wide-
ples. Nonetheless, l would like to suggest that tension between flexibil- spread than just among Anlo people, possibly marking Ewe personhood
ity-even at the corporeal level-and maintaining some kind of onto- more generally.
logical essence symbolizes an important dimension of Anlo sensibilities, But specifically in terms of what I am referring to as Anlo forms of
especially in relation to personhood and identity. Two contrasting and being-in-the-world, adaptability was a theme l encountered in many con-
complementary proverbs may further support rhis paint. texts, and it relates back to the description in chapter 5 of the practice
One day early in our fieldwork when my husband was complaining of flexing a babr's joints so as to make her into a flexible, supple person.
about the taste and texture of the Anlo staple food called akple (a dough However, while the proverb emphasized adjusting to the ways of others,
made from ground cassava and corn), Adzoa Kokui (who delighted in doing things as others did them even at the level of attending to alter-
abusing and joking with my husband) instructed him with a proverb: Ne nate somatic modes (squatting with those whose habit was to squat), the
neyi akpokpfawo fe d11me eye wotsy::J ak:> Ia, wo ha natsyo ak::J. My hus- proverb did not suggest that one's essence, then, somehow became that
band (whose facility with the Ewe language was negligible) asked me to of a toad.
translate what it was that she was haranguing him about that day. Even In perusing Dzobo's extensive record of Ewe proverbs, I noted a sec-
when Adzoa repeated the phrase l wasn't able to fully comprehend what ond saying that seemed to indicate a notion of limitations on completely
she said, but I recognized the word for "toads" and heard something shifting one's shape: Siande titi 1J"i <[e ko IJl' mewa zi o (If a black an-
about "if you go to their town," but the rest of her sentence was lost on telope rubs herself against an anthill, she does not become a deer as a re-
me. Sounding suspiciously like a proverb, I looked in Dzobo's ( 1975:z.1) sult) (Dzobo 1975: 149). After discussing this with se\eral Anlo speak-
---------------
Anlo Forms of Bcing-in-1hc-World Anlo Forms of Being-in-the-World

ers, I learned that ir was not a phrase commonly used in the southern at Anlo forms of being-in-the-world, it begins co illustrate linkages be-
area since antelope and deer were creatures of the woods and not typi- tween cultural models and the social experience of the individual, for
cally found living in the terrain of the Anlo homeland. Several m:Jfialawo many Anlo speakers believe that maintenance of these forms (these mem-
suggested that it was probably recorded among Ewe speakers near Ho ories, morals, logics, and ways of being-in-the-world) arc essential to
but that the logic was still definitely applicable in Anlo contexts. The their personal and collective identity and well-being.
proverb demonstrated that if you were a black antelope, no matcer how The next chapter will turn to an examination of Anlo rituals that re-
much brown color you rubbed upon yourself (from the anthill), you inforce the somatic mode and philosophical notion of balance. But it will
would nor become a deer as a result. You could change your color co be begin with an exploration of the meaning and significance of the phrase
like the deer, or alter your shape when among toads, but that did not Mec[u dze o (You've not eaten salt), which bemoans the tragic state of
erase the essence of who you really were. As often as T:>gbui Tsali trans- an Anlo person who docs not know or cannot make use of such t/Jema-
formed himself into anorher shape, he always returned to his original tized aspects of the world as qb, T:>b At:>lia, ga focf.i mawo, T:>gbui
form of Tsali. The two proverbs illusrrated a cultural logic that embraced Tsali, and so forth. Mecf.u dze o (You don't eat sale) represents another
tension~ between essentials and dtangeability, between self-acceptance emic theme that many older 1u:>fialawo insisted I record as an Ania way
and willingness to adjust to others. And both proverbs drew on imagery of referring to those who do not know their own language, history, and
of somatic or sensate aspects of being to symbolize the lessons on iden- culture.
tity they aimed to teach.

"Not stable, being is highly changeable, always in transformation."


These are words written to describe an Ewe philosophy of personhood
(Rosenthal 1998:174) but could equally be applied to T:>gbui Tsali and
all that he represents specifically in Anlo-land. This theme of essence and
changeability, then, is present in other Ewe contexts as well. In a wider
sense there seems to be a tension between an "essence of Ewencss" and
the "constant absorption of things-supposedly-not-Ewe br Ewe people,
their implicit refusal of essence and of identity" (Rosenthal 1998:2.9).
Regarding Ewe person hood in general others have commented on a "rad-
ical indeterminacy of the person" (Rosenthal 1998:174), which further
underscores the account I have given of specifically Ania people in a large
Ewe cultural complex.
Many Ania-speaking people believe deeply that there is something es-
sential about being a person in Ania ways. Many Ania speakers migrate
to other regions of Ghana, West Africa, and throughout the world, and
they pride themselves on adaptability such that if they visit the village of
the toads, they attend to squatting. But even when living in another cul-
tural setting, Anlo persons usually carry (in their being) the essence of
Anlo: they carry the complex sensations of seselelame, they carry the em-
bodied paradoxes of qfa, they carry the memory of criminals buried alive
at T:>k:> At:>lia, they carry embodiment of the story of escape from ~:>t
sic, and they carry the knowledge of the shape-shifting abilities of their
mythical ancestor T:>gbui Tsali. While this is but a brief and cursory look
Pcrsonhood and Ritual Rcinion:cmcnt of Balance

CHAPTER 7
In the last chapter we learned that the term A11/o itself has been shown
co have a complex set of references, including "folded into oneself," with
Personhood and Ritual associated feelings of resentment and respect or persecution and
influence. Straightness and truth, prohibitions on "dirty money," and the
Reinforcement of Balance knowledge of their (criminal) ancestors buried alive at T::>b At::>lia arc
some themes stemming from an Anlo code of morality. And this is where
Mec[11 duo comes into play: not eating salt is a phrase signifying a fail-
ure to consume or take in the meaning of these various themes.
Self processes among Anlo speakers involve orientations coward a set
of topics or themes. Even if a person represses, rejects, or denies any of
these aspects of the world, ther remain cultural motifs that require an
individual's attention at some level. This is one of the reasons many
m.1fialawo insisted that I learn about and record these various themes:
they believed that without that set of core cul1ural motifs 1 could not
begin to comprehend what was involved in being a person in Anlo ways.
Regardless of how an Anlo speaker engages with these various themes,
it requires some amount of effort and reflexivity. And in this process we
can observe a kind of objectified thing (though not reallr a substance or
REFLECTIONS ON I'ERSONHOOO IN ANLO-LAND
entity, but a kind of capacity) we might refer to as Anlo personhood. So
To understand Anlo notions of personhood, 1 find it useful to meditate within Anlo worlds, manr m;,fialawo articulated a notion of personhood
on water and salt. Water surrounds their homeland. And as the twenti- that (to a great extent) parallels that of Csordas: the thematized aspects
eth century came to a close, the Atlamic ocean was engulfing Anlo-land. of the world that they insisted 1 learn help to constitute the objectified
If the ground itself disappears, what becomes of Anlo-land? Or if a per- dimensions of the self that make up Anlo persons who have "a cultural
son does not actually reside on Anlo soil, what is Anlo-land to him or identity or set of identities" (Csordas 1994c:340). But Mec[11 dze o (you
her? ls it a place or a state of mind? ls it a psychological orientation or don't eat salt) warns of the failure to attend (through effort and reflex-
a state of being? Pace Bourdieu, is Anlo-land so much a pan of being, iviry) to thematized aspects of Anlo worlds; when yo11 don't eat salt (syrn-
so "durably installed," that it actually has body? bolicallr speaking), you fail to develop a sense of identity or a sensibil-
Salt, too, has been central to experience in Anlo worlds. With a la- ity grounded in these themes.
goon at the center of the Anlo homeland, harvested salt has played a In addition, rhe last chapter explored how the actions of an individ-
significant role in their economic history for several hundred years (cf. ual have powerful consequences for those around him to the extent that
Greene 1988 and Amenumey 1986). When the lagoon periodically dried unethical behaviors can result in a spirit taking one's child (tr;,x:J11iwo).
up, people spent months gathering and hagging salt. And older Anlo This "sociocentrism" will be explored later through a discussion of how
speakers used a phrase concerning salt to capture something about tra- everydar life for most Anlo speakers involves dealing with definite "tics
dition, well-being, and the self. They would say Mec[tt dze o! which trans- that bind" (sasa) or the inextricable relationships individuals hold with
lates as "You don't eat salt!" Not being "salted" meant that a person ancestors and kin. Almost in contrast to such binding relationships, how-
did not know his own language, culture, and history, and older people ever, a flexibility or adaptability (toward other ways of life) is also cul-
frequently expressed concern over this problem among the young. 1 Salt tivated. Chapter 5 described the practice of flexing the bab}"s joints as
and water index certain things about Anlo soil and about an Anlo an- one of the endeavors involved in creating an adaptable person, and the
cestral homeland, and they play a role in the constitution of Anlo sensi- last chapter elaborated on this cultural theme by examining proverbs
bilities and development of self. and philosophical notions of essence and changeability. So while Anlo

144
. ~

- - - ---------
Pcrsonhood and Ritual Reinforcement of Balance Personhood and Ritual Reinforcement of Balance

children arc raised to be able to adapt to other cultural worlds and to city of Notsic (performed at midnight), workdays aimed at cleansing and
affiliate with members of different ethnic groups, a balance is desired be- purifring villages and towns, and a tour of historical places in and near
tween such affiliations and a grounding in a kind of Anlo sensibility or Anloga. The festival culminated in a grand durbar attended by Anlo-
knowledge of one's own history, language, and culture. This theme of speaking citizens from near and far, other Ghanaians, and an assortment
balance as a central dimension of sensibility will therefore be taken up of foreigners. In i994, Ghana's presidentj.j. Rawlings and his entourage
more directly in this chapter, and the reinforcement of balance through of government officials also attended the durbar. Truly the most
ritual practices will be explored. magnificent ritual (if only in terms of size, scale, and the magnitude of
Balancing in general is a theme with many associations for Anlo preparations) that occurred in Anlo-land during my sojourn there, Hog-
speakers, including the notion that to be human means developing the betsotso deserves a book unto itself. 4 However, since my concern here is
ability to balance. In fact, one religious sect (Ycvc) supposedly requires mainly with sensory embodiment and its relation to socialization, per-
initiates to eqgage in a ritual of balancing (agbagbacf.ocf.o) a tray_ con- sonhood, and health, I will focus on one particularly relevant phase of
taining th.irty-six articles of life {agbegba<[o<[o) as a way of reinforcing - Hogbetsotso, which is Nugbidodo, or the Peace-Making and Reconcil-
the symbolic importance of equilibrium. 2 In this context the.ability to -iation Ceremony.
balance the tray represents a culmination of skills acquired through ini- Nugbidodo was performed on the Thursday prior to Hogbctsotso's
tiation. In addition, Avorgbedor has suggested (z.ooo) that Anlo-Ewe grand durbar, and it took place in the ceremonial center of Anloga. Its
people practice a selective integration of a wide range of sounds as they stated purpose was "to bring peace and harmony among all the people
work to sustain (or restore) the balance of personal and social health. of Anlo before the festival" (Kodzo-Vordoagu i994:15). The Paramount
Herc I will address some implications of these kinds of performativc and Chief (Awoamefia) of Anlo-Ewc people dressed as the Nyigbla Priest of
cultural elaborations of balance. By highlighting this dimension of Anlo State (Nyigbla will be described in greater detail in chapter 8), entered
worlds, I do not mean to imply that balancing is absent in the daily or the ground in a ritualized procession and rested out of the sun beneath
ritual practices of other cultural groups. As a fundamental bodily mode the thatched roof of a round gazebo. Libations were poured and the an-
and bodily experience, balance undoubtedly serves as a basic-level cat- cestors and gods were beseeched to bestow blessings, health, and peace
egory in many (if not all) societies and provides a platform on which is on all the people of Anlo both at home and abroad. A ritualized airing
built a great deal of metaphorical reasoning (cf. Lakoff and Johnson of grievances was then performed and complaints were "packed into"
1999, especially 2.90-306). But what I am interested in here is the way or "placed under" herbs. The herbs were subsequently mixed and
that balance is ideologically reinforced through embodied practices and cleansed with water and then distributed into fifteen ceramic pots, which
sensory engagement in this panicular (Anlo) cultural context. \Vic begin were taken back to each of the fifteen clan houses to be sprinkled and
with an account of two community rituals aimed at reconciliation and splashed as a part of the operation of settling grievances and restoring
health. national well-being and peace. Finally, three rams were sacrificed and
slaughtered (one for each division, or wing, of the Anlo state) and pre-
pared along with other foods as a reconciling communal feast.
HOGBETSOTSO FESTIVAL'S NUGBIDODO
As in any ritual, the sensorial aspects of Nugl)idodo were abundant.
Some time within the past forty years Anlu-speaking people began stag- For instance, the healing and reconciling of grievances involved speak-
ing an annual national ritual named Hogbctsotso. 3 The purpose of the ing (mtfofo) aloud and listening (m1sese) to various complaints along
rite was largely io~lebrate and rehearse their migration from Notsie- with the sounds of ritualized "crying out" performed by a special group
a place also refei-red to as Hogbe, hence the festival's name, which meant of women. Gustation (nu<[:>c[:J) could be explored in relation tu the com-
"coming from Hogbe." Staged annually during the first part of Novem- munal feast. And we could also inquire about the sensations of splashed
ber, HogbetsOtsO consisted of more than a week of festivities, perform- water used to "wash away the sin that is now a part of his [a person's!
ances, and ~{!J119ni~, which included plays, dancing and drumming body" (Fiawoo 19 59a:22.3 ). However, one aspect of Nugbidodo that ex-
performed by'$<:h.Q()f.chjldren, a reenactment of the flight from the walled hibited an array of sensorial issues with implications for personhood as
Pcrsonhood and Rirual Rcinforcemcnr of Balance Personhood and Rirual Rcinforcemcnr of l\alance

well as for states of well-being and health was actually the form of dress demonstrate ( r997:i.18-i.7 3) the significance of clothing for che colo-
required for participation in this event. To gain entry to the ceremonial nial project in southern Africa by arguing chat the process of re-dress-
grounds, everyone was required to remove his or her shoes; the regulated ing Africans in European fashions was tantamount to "insinuating in
women's attire consisted of one cloth around the waist and a second them a newly embodied sense of self-worth, taste, and personhood."
cloth wrapped across the breasts and through the armpits, exposing bare In those same terms of self-worth and self processes as well as in rela-
shoulders; men were required to wear cloth in a togalike wrap, with a tion to tastes and desires, I am suggesting that quite distinct sensorial
section of the twelve-foot piece draped across the left shoulder. Western and embodied experiences come from wearing Anlo traditional cloth
styles of dress in the form of trousers, shirts, shoes, and so forth, were compared to Western-style dress, especially if we think of the body as
not allowed:~ Treating clothing as attached to or something of an ex- "the existential ground of culture and the self" (Csordas r994a). This
tension of the bod)', here I will briefly explore what was symbolized by is particularly true in the practice of resistance as integrally bound up
and experienced in the rituals around dress in relation to Nugbidodo. with the psychosocial well-being of both individuals and the body
Western-style clothing was symbolic of a complicated sec of histori- politic. That is, when one style of dress reaffirms a sense of tradition,
cal influences and changes that Anlo-speaking people continually nego- history, and identity, it can empower people in a ver}' embodied way,
tiated from precolonial to present-day times (cf. Perani and Wolff l995). while another form can serve to oppress and defeat. More specifically,
As a brief example of this, other than the Paramount Chief, "no one else chinking in this way allows us to explore the effects of the tactile, kines-
(before the turn of the century) was privileged at Anloga ... to wear Eu- thetic, vestibular, proprioceptive, and visual experiences of clothing or
ropean clothes" (Fiawoo 1959a:i.i.3). The simple explanation for this dress in terms of identity and of health. 6
regulation was that the Paramount Chief (in his capacity as Nyigbla's When discussing differences between Anlo styles of dress and those
priest) regularly donned a "long loose gown" resembling European at- imported from the West, in the haptic realm (and especially for men)
tire. Citizens dressing like Europeans were then considered "impostors people focused less on texture than on "draping" as distinct from
impersonating Nyigbla or his chief priest" (Fiawoo 19 59a:u3 ). But the "fining." The fitted and snug nature of sleeves, cuffs, collars, trousers,
implications of this regulation arc hinted at in a footnote where Fiawoo and waistbands (referred to by Jean Comaroff as "the straightjacket of
explains, "This taboo which practically sealed off Anloga and villages Protestant personhood" [ 1996:z.6)) were contrasted with the flowing
to che west from the German missionaries might have been responsible sense of a togalike garment characterizing the traditional or precolonial
for che late evangelization of Anlog;t and neighboring villages. When mode of dress. Continually hoisting up the cloth and tossing the end over
Keta celebrated a Church centenary in 1953, Anloga had not yet attained one's left shoulder was reported to fed almost "majestic," and the prac-
her Golden Jubilee anniversary" (Fi a woo 19 59a:i.z. 3 ). This is to say that tice was even likened to a male lion shaking his mane. Posture, com-
Anloga and Anlo-speaking communities to the west (which included portment, and gait were also reportedly different depending on one's
Sr:>gboe) resisted a variety of European influences, including body or style of dress, which hart(ens bact( to the discussion in chapter 4 that
namentation and style of dress. While Nyigbla's role and the "religious" highlighted the profound significance (or "performative elaboration")
reasons for chis custom were undoubtedly important, political consid of movement and walk. I observed that one particular neighbor seemed
erations also should not be overlooked since a ban on European cloth- taller and even proud when he donned African cloth. My husband and
ing was integrally related to other forms of resistance utilized at chat time I would often joke with him about this perception, but during a more
against the missionizing and colonizing efforts of Europeans. By the late serious moment our neighbor confessed that he felt dignified, more bal-
twentieth century, the ban had long since been lifted, and Western-style anced, and upright when dressed in cloth that represented his own cul-
clothing as well as "hybrid styles" were common throughout Anlo vil- tural heritage. He referred to Z.J kadzakadza (which meant "walking or
lages as well as towns. In Hogbetsotso's Reconciliation Ceremony, how- moving like a lion") to describe the sort of sese/elame, or feeling in the
ever, the prohibition was revived. body, that came with dressing in African cloth.
But what did this symbolize about sensory and somatic modes, This specific example requires teasing out the difference between
about self processes and Anlo personhood? Jean and John Comaroff influences of the context verses the cloth since this particular man usu-
------------- -----------
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150 Personhood and Ritual Reinforcement of Balance l'ersonhood and Ritual Reinforcement of Balance 151

ally wore pants, shirt, and shoes when he fished and farmed, but he wore onciliation beyond the cognitive domain to a redress that could activate
an African robe or wrap when anending a ceremonial event. Perhaps la- one's senses and thereby create an embodied experience. What was at
boring in the heat and sun was as much the cause of an "oppressive" or stake, it might be argued, was the potential for improved states of psy-
"defeated" feeling as were sleeves and collar, while celehration and cer- chological well-being (through a stronger sense of identity and history)
emonr contributed to the sense of "uplift" he described. This very point, in part via the sensorial experience of the verr clothing that people wore.
however, underscores the symbolic nature of this phenomenon. I am not The following is from a conversation I held with an English-speaking
suggesting literal links between a shirt or blouse and a gross state of op- weaver whom I call Mr. Dunyo, this section focusing on a particular pat-
pression (although an argument could be made about the "straightjacket tern of strip-woven cloth called Takpekpe Anloga. We do not specifically
of Protestant personhood"), but rather I am pointing toward a subtle relate our discussion to Nugbidodo, but in this excerpt he comments on
and complex web of symbolism and sensation that illustrates my focus what it feels like to wear African cloth.
on embodiment and somatic modes of attention. In Terence Turner's dis-
cussion of "the social skin" (1980), he suggests that clothing imprints KLG: So the name of this pattern means "Meecing of the Anlos"?
cultural categories and.a.-"social project" onto the body while sio:mlr;i- Mr. D1myo: Yes, Takpekpe Anloga: Meeting at Anloga or Meeting of the
n~ously serving as an expression of what is inside, or a statement from Anlo people. It is an old pattern and I try to get the good
within. It is that two-pronged force that makes clothing such an effec- threads, silk and cotton, when I make this one.
tive medi~m for remaking the self. In the context of colonial evangelism KLG: Does the thread make a difference?
in southern Africa, the Comaroffs have argued ( 1997:z.:z.o) that cloching Afr. D1myo: l11e cloth must flow well to wear it, it cannot be stiff. This de-
"made the 'native' body a terrain on which the battle for selfhood was pends on the thread, and people will say it depends on my
skill. They will complain to me and abuse me if the cloth is
to be fought, on which personal identity was to be re-formed, re-placed,
hard or stiff, hut many don't want to spend the money for the
re-inhabited." The verity of this statement would nor be lost on the peo- good thread.
ple of Anlo-land, who are known for their history of resistance to the KLG: What happens if the cloth is sriff?
political authority of the Danes and British at a time when colonization Mr. Dmzyo: Oh, no one wants it to rub and scratch their skin. They want
was in full force in other areas of the Gold Coast (cf. Amenumey 1968 ). it to feel smooth and soft. That's fine. Besides, good cloth
So while it would be very interesting to examine the role of clothing in moves with the person, it carches the sunlight, and these
Anlo relations with missionaries and the changes in fashion that can be golden threads will shine [he points to specific areas of the pat
linked to colonial evangelism, in order to return to the subject of Nug- tern!.
bidodo as a ceremony of reconciliation and restoration of peace, I will KLG: I noticed that with this particular cloth-Takpekpe Anloga.1
could see how at first you sec the blue, and then when the per-
leave this historical issue aside here. son turns you can sec 111 hat's almost an undercurrent-the
As I said earlier, during the rite of Nugbidodo, all participants expe- black or darker color. Then the yellow almost sparkles. All
rienced this event while wrapped in cloth in the traditional or local style. these currents. I wondered if that's where the name came
(Some of the fabric itself was undoubtedly manufactured in Europe or from-you know, the "behind the scenes" stuff that goes on at
abroad, but the dress code at least was reminiscent of a precoloniai her- meetings.
itage.) I have raised the question of what was at stake in terms of the Mr. D1myo: [Laughs while saying) I don't know. You may be right. It's just
named that. I thought it was because this is the one the big
sensorium, embodiment, and personhood, and I have suggested a conti-
men like to wear to the mcering. But maybe you're right.
nuity with certain clements of resistance to Westernization, colonization,
KLG: Do the)" only wear it to-what? Council meetings? Or to other
and missionization that existed in parts of Anlo-land during the nine- events as well?
teenth century. Nugbidodo as an act of reconciliation was ultimately Mr. D1111yo: Oh, mostly for funerals, the durbar, Hoghetsotso. It's for
about healing the body politic; insisting upon a return to wearing Anlo atsy:Jcf.oc[o-for bedecking oneself, dressing beautifully. They
garb contributed to a reconciliation at the level of the body, a balancing put it on and feel proud, they feel Anlo.
out of the effect of outside influences in everyday life. This took the rec- KLG: The)' feel Anlo?
Pcrsonhood and RituJI Reinforcement oi Balance Pcrsonhood and Ritual Rciniorcemcm of Balance

.Mr. Dzmyo: Yes, they wear the traditional cloth Jnd it makes people feel ally deployed in Nugbidodo to engender a particular setting and an em-
proud of our past. They remember their forefathers, their an- bodied commemorative mode. While everyday life involves the incor-
cestors, where they came from. It's not really easy to wear this poration of modes of dress from outside, the ceremony aimed an recon-
cloth. [He stands up and begins wmpping the cloth we are
ciliation and restoration of peace, harmony, and health, anempts (in part)
looking at-Takpekpe Anloga-around himscli.[ You sec, here
... (he is throwing or maneuvering it over his shoulder[ ... you to rebalance this account. In an interesting parallel to Ania attentiveness
have to stand upright, you ha\e to assume a dignity to keep it to balance, Turner suggests that for the Kayapo, balance is "the most
from falling off (he chuckles[. lt kind of brings everything fundamental structural principle of Kayapo society" and that "balance
home, maybe because we wear it to funerals so much, and to between opposing yet complementary forces . _. is systematically articu-
solemn occasions, but this cloth makes you feel that you
lated and, as it were, played out on the bodies of every member of
belong to Anlu. It's very different than wearing a suit and tic.

--
Kayapo society through the medium of bodily adornment" (Turner
KtG: ln what way is it different?
1980: I 39 ). While the performative elaboration of balance in the context
.Mr. [) 1myo: It's softer and stronger at the same time. A suit is tight and
makes you feel stiff. But this doth, well, it flows around me, it of>Nugbidodo is admittedly subtle, in the next section we will examine
moves along with me as l walk. But then at the same time I a much more explicit demonstration of balance. The description of rit-
have to keep checking on it, pay anention to it, adjust it on ual that follows will also provide an additional platform from which to
my shoulder, and that keeps reminding me of, well, it makes explore issues of sensory engagement and commemoration.
me know I'm not a Frenchman, at all, or a Englishman. It's
African. This doth is definitely African. When I wear
Takpekpe Anloga I feel that. T:>GBUI APIM CEREMONY IN SR:>GBOE

While Hogbetsotso's Nugbidodo was a sociorcligious event performed


Herc Mr. Dunyo makes clear associations between what one wears and for the entire An lo "nation," the following description of a more local-
a certain sense of identity. While not clearly spelling out what it feels like ized or community-based ritual took place in the village where I lived. _... -

to "be African" or to "be Anlo," and while not making any direct ref- The event was referred to as Sr::>gboe's T::>gbui Apim festival, in honor of
erence to princi.ples of balance, still it is clear that he has a sensibility "Grandfather Api~," who safeguarded the ancestors of Sr::>gboe citizens
about his identity being connected to the way the cloth-or this partic- in a battle or war hundreds of years in the past. The ritual involved pro-
ular kind of clothing-feels on his body. pitiating the "local D11-Legba whose chief sphere of activity [was[ to pro-
In his argument about clothing and bodily adornment as a symbolic tect the village or town from misfortune, evil, sickness, and such-like and
medium ("the social skin"), Turner argues that in the case of the Ama- to act as a messenger between man and some of the gods" (Cudjoe
zonian Kayapo, the bodies of individuals serve as a microcosm of the 1971:188). Not unlike Hogbetsotso's Nugbidodo rite, but on a much
body politic (1980:121). I am suggesting something similar for this sit- smaller scale, the ultimate purpose of the T:>gbui Apim festival was to
uation among Anlo speakers, that one of the effects of Nugbidodo in- ensure the health and well-being of the body politic. In this analysis we
volves a balancing out of the inward- and outward-looking paradox that will examine how commemoration evoked in the T::>gbui Apim rite is
is constitutive of what I have called an Anlo sensibility. That is, I have connected to personhood and self processes in Anlo contexts.
suggested that one of the things chat characterizes an Anlo sensibility is During a formal interview with one of the chiefs of Sr:igboe, he ex-
an attention to being flexible enough to live with other people, to adopt plained chat it was not really known whether T::>gbui Apim was an ac-
their ways, while at the same time maintaining an orientation to one's tual person or a spirit, but they currently referred to him as a tr:J (the
core being or those "thcmatized aspects of the world" that constitute word lr:J means deity or god and will be covered in chapter 8). The name
Anlo identity. Turner suggests (1980:139) that the surface of the body of the \'illage, Sr:igboe, meant "place of the sr:> trees," and T ::>gbui Apim 's
serves as a very complex boundary "which simultaneously separates do- shrine was located near the lagoon side of Sr::>gboe's borders, underneath
mains lying on either side of it and conflates different levels of social, in- the only sr:J tree still in existence in chat area. Closely related ro Srog-
dividual and intra-psychic meaning." Clothing is then quite intention- boe's tr:J (named T::>gbui Apim) was the Du-Legba, or "empowerment
154 Pcrsonhood and Ritual Reinforcement of Balance Personhood and Ritual Reinforcement of Balance

object-cum-threshold guard," who prorected the entire village. Legbawo One of the striking things about this ritual was "the sequencing of the
in general will be discussed at length in chapter 8, but this ritual sensations" (Howes and Classen 1991:279), or the progression of sen-
specifically concerned the du (cown) legba at the threshold of Sr:>gboe. sory emphases (and repressions) in the various stages of the Togbui Apim
In her work on Du-Legba cults, Cudjoe ( 1971: 199) explains, "A Du- event. While a variety of senses were implicated and experienced in every
Legba has neither a special festival nor dances. A legl1a which is associ- situation, each of the four events contained a kind of dominant modal-
ated with a god rakes part in the festival or dance held for that particu- ity. The first ceremony focused on senses of the mouth (taste and speech)
lar god." In this week-long festival staged to honor and appease T:>gbui in that goat meat and da?kple (a corn meal mixed with palm oil) were
Apim, Srogboe citizens also paid homage to the Drt-Legba situated at given to the Du-tegba and fed to a few dozen participants while incan-
the entrance to their town. The clay Du-Legba figure for the Sr:>gboe tatory prayers were pronounced and libations were poured (see Cudjoe
community sat protected within three stone walls and under a corru- 197r:198 concerning the appetites of a Du-Legba). Acoustical stimula-
gated iron roof along a pathway leading between Sr:>gboe and the neigh- tion was absent in this first event, and since drumming was prevalent at
boring village called Whuti. Cudjoe continues ( 1971:188, 191): "a Du- ritual gatherings in Anlo-land, the lack of music was conspicuous in this
Legba must be at the entrance of the town to prevent sickness from section of the ceremonr.
entering," and it is believed that the Du-Legba is "able co repel illness." The second aay began with hundreds of people gathered in the morn-
Unlike other Anlo assemblies (such as the Paramount Chieftaincy and ing on the beach. We surrounded a temporary circular dwelling con-
divisional.wings of government or even the Yeve religious sect), the Du- structed from green palm fronds and covered in white plasticized rice
Legba association was not highly organized (Cudjoe 1971:196-197). sacks sewn together. Amid drumming, singing, and dancing, from the
However, the purpose was clear in that it was "a cult devoted to the wel- dwelling emerged a man clothed in a towel from the waist down bal-
fare of the whole community. By the very fact that one is a member of ancing a large wooden bowl on top of his head. The bowl contained' var-
the village one has a vested interest in the local Du-Legba whose chief ious calabashes and ceramic pots covered in white muslin cloth, and the
sphere of activity is to protect the village or town from misfortune, evil, :. entire "package" was fastened together with meshed fabric resembling
sickness, and such-like and to act as a messenger between man and some a net. The carrier's face was covered with a white or ash-colored pow-
of the gods. It serves as the 'root' of the town" (Cudjoe 1971:188). The der. Muskets were fired sporadically and filled the air with explosions of
T::>gbui Apim festival contained these various characteristics of what smoke and sulphurlike odors; people drummed, chanted, and danced as
Cudjoe called Dtt-Legba cults, so while it was not officially labeled a Du- the carrier staggered in the sand across the beach. For the next five or
Legba festival or rite, it seems fair to assume that it could be classified six hours crowds followed the carrier (who was guarded by approxi-
as such. mately ten people holding sticks), as he wove in and around the alley-
Public activities of the 1994 T::>gbui Apim festival lasted approxi- ways and roads of Sr:>gboe and neighboring villages. All this time he bal-
mately one week and featured four major ceremonies. The first event on anced the wooden bowl filled with containers on top of his head. The
Monday focused on feeding or offering sacrifices co Sr::>gboe's Du-Legba. carrier appeared to be possessed by a spirit and reportedly T::>gbui Apim
The second event lasted from morning to evening on Friday and involved directed his movements.;
a procession from the beach to T::>gbui Apim's shrine. The subsequent The procession eventually led to the T:>gbui Apim shrine, which was
day was dominated by very heated dancing and drumming characterized surrounded by benches on which sat several drummers and other musi-
by frequent spirit possessions of many of the human participants. And cians performing with sekere rattles and bells, and they were accompa-
.. the finale on Sunday was distinguished by subdued, cool dancing per- nied by a small number of people engaged in singing and dancing. The
formed mainly by members of voluntary associations. Fund raising for majority of the crowd, however, were merely spectators. The carrier en-
community development projects occurred at a table placed as a kind of tered from an alleyway into the shrine's clearing, and continued holding
backdrop to the drumming and dancing, which was manned by several the bowl on his head, staggering and swaying about while still sur-
elders and village chiefs. rounded by a group holding sticks. After circulating about the clearing
q6 J>ersonhood .md Rm1al Reinforcement of Balance Personhood and Ritual Rcinforcemcm of Balance 157

and passing br the lagoon, the carrier e\entually returned and entered coholic beverages from their pockets and poured liquid down the 1hroats
the shrine. I was not witness to the proceedings within the shrine, and of other dancers; cigarettes were lit and puffed sometimes four at a time
the chief who I later interviewed suggested I not ask about it since he or placed in peoples' cars, and some dancers blew smoke along other
was not at libercr to divulge precisely what occurred (see note 7 for this dancers' skin; canisters of powder were also used to produce clouds of
chapter). Respecting the limits of my access to various aspects of this rit- smoke, and performers applied variously colored powders to their own
ual, what was readily apparent about this phase of the ceremony was and others' bodies, faces, and hair; finally, performers' bodies were fre-
the intense focus on the vestibular and kinesthetic senses while other quently taken over in states of possession trance. (For another ethno-
senses were somewhat downplayed. That is, while a certain amount of graphic account of hot vodus who dance with knives, sec Rosenthal
visual stimulation (from costumes, colors, and general processionecring) 1998:65).
along with sounds (from music, muskets, and occasional shouting) were This third day of dancing was rigorous, or "heated," when compared
certainly present, a great amount of attention was focused on the bal- to the performance of the fourth day, which was nearly opposite and
ancing of offerings for T:>gbui Apim. In contrast, balancing was not the characterized by a subdued, or low-key style. That is, the final day of the
focus of the final two days. However, before engaging in a deeper analy- festival (Sunday) involved cool and calm dancing in which members of
sis of the "sequencing of sensations" and the ordering of senses as an ex- the circle tossed a towel at a spectator on the outside, who was then
pression of cultural values (Classen 1993b:5), I will briefly describe the obliged to join the group and perform a duet with the indi\idual who
events of the final cwo days. threw the towel. The "guest" returned to the outside of the circle after
During the following day-dominated by a kind of heated and vig- the duet was complete, and the larger group (which constituted a vol-
orous dancing-people gathered in the village center or marketplace, untary associacion) 8 proceeded with a methodically slow and organized
where around two trees were positioned two circles of benches within rotational dance around the tree. During both days a panel of chiefs, cid-
which drummers, other musicians, and acrobatic dancers began to per- ers, and district assemblymen oversaw the collection of donations for de-
form. If the costumes from the previous day were visuallr stimulating,
those worn by the dancers inside the circle were even more impressive.
velopment progqms to improve the health and welfare of the Sr:>gboe
community.
..
The performers donned a variety of flowing skirts made from purple and When contemplating the four outstanding parts of this T:igbui Apim
green straw, from multicolored scarves, or from bright doth often in red, rite, the sequence in which the senses were engaged began with taste and
blu~. and white stripes. Most faces were covered in a mask of blue or speech, then emphasized balance, and finally highlighted dancing, move-
white powder or clay. Even more spectacular than the costumes, how- ment, or kinesthesia along with aurality as the dominant senses (though
ever, were the actions: dancers wielded machetes and knives, alternately with different degrees of intensity) in the final cwo parts. Sight and the
slicing at leaves or the bark on the tree, and then turned the blade to their gaze were clearly implicated in each phase too, especially in relation to
own skin. That is, performers demonstrated the razor-sharp status of this cextualized version (based largely on my own observations) of the
blades by searing through leaves or wood, but when applied to their own event. But I would like to try here to move beyond an analysis of only
bodies, the knife failed to cut their skin. The absence of any punctures the visible and attend to the other senses as well. Toward that end, what
in the skin (and the absence of blood) signified that the individual had did this sequencing indicate? Was the heightening of some senses as im-
adhered to the taboos of his religious sect (members who were report- portant as the suppression of others? How does th~ sequencing of sen-
edly mainly from K:>kuvu, but some individuals evidently belonged to sations evoked by the ritual help us to understand how commemoration
other groups such as Blekete and Yevc). Those who bled, therefore, were comes into play in Anlo worlds? The ritual specialist at the center of the
exposed as unfaithful. entire event (the carrier of the offering for T:igbui Apim, or the one who
In addition to these knife and machete displays, other "heated" ac- embodied T:>gbui Apim) was distinguished by his reliance on bala11cittg
tivities included periods of exceedingly rapid rhythms produced by the as one of the most dominant modes of his engagement and display. It
drummers, resulting in very hectic, almost frenetic styles of dancing; in- was apparent that balancing was a much stronger, deeper, more perva-
dividuals produced bottles of ak11eteshi (locally brewed gin) or other al- sive theme than is superficially apparent, for three reasons: ( 1) the
.-:i:'
''
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-----~-~-------------------

Pcrsonhood and Rimal Reinforcement of Balance Personhood and Ritual Reinforccmcnr of Balance r59

"heated" and the "cool" dancing of the last two days constitutes a bal- of persons" within Ania-speaking communities (which is not unlike the
a11ci11g of temperature and intensity, ( 2.) an incident occurred during the hot and cool personalities of the spirits of a pantheon discussed by
ritual that illustrates issues of "homogeneity" and "diversity" and a "bal- Rosenthal r998:i 15). Prior to this event I was under the impression that
a11ce of persons" in the local community, and (3) the dominant senses at Sr:igboe was rather homogeneous. While certain customs practiced
the beginning of the ricual oppose and balance out the dominant senses within Sr:>gboe often varied slightly from those of neighboring villages
displayed at the end of the event.
9 (like At:>b) or towns (such as Kera), Sr:>gboc was a village of merely one
Balancing was clearly an essential component in the central activity thousand to fifteen hundred people and seemed (to me) co be comprised
of the ritual since an offering to T:>gbui Apim was balanced on top of of a fairly unified group. During the festival, however, a greater assort-
the carrier's head for the greater part of a day, and crowds of people fo- ment of persons within the Sr:>gboe community participated than I had
cused their attention precisely on this balancing act. However, the final previously realized were there. On Saturday afternoon I was observing
two days of the ritual also exhibited a kind of balance. The dominant the very "heated" dancing of the various religious sects. An elderly
senses displayed during. those two days were drumming and dancing. woman who had gone out of her way on several occasions (over the
However, with the first day's "heated" dancing and the second dar of course of the previous months) to do favors for mr. husband and me took
"cooling off," there was a balanced experience and disp~ay of kinesthetic me by the arm and pulled me into the circle where the K:>kuuu dancers
sensations (in the dancing) and aural perceptions (from the music and were stabbing their bodies with knives. Fearful of the slashing action of
sound), so that between the cwo days both poles of intensity were rcp- the blades, I nevertheless felt indebted to this woman and therefore fol-
rcsentcd.10 This is in keeping with Robert Faris Thompson's claim lowed her lead in dancing with several older women and putting on a
(1966:97) chat balance is "one of the most important can~ns of West short display for the leaders of this group. My participation continued
African dance," and he links this to a concept that he refers to as "the for about twenty minutes, until a woman from my compound (who had
aesthetic of che cool." While we see this expressed in dancing, music, been enlisted to look after my husband and me-by the family that had
and other art forms of West Africa, this is a principle applicable not sim- adopted us, so to speak) came and yanked me out of the circle and es-
ply to processes of art. By this phrase Thompson means "a philosophy corted me away. She scolded incessantly and declared how bad it was
of the cool, an ancient, indigenous ideal: patience and collectedness of for me to be dancing with these people who cut themselves with knives.
mind" (1966:86). He argues for the interrelatedness of epistemology and The following day she dressed in a fairly formal outfit (consisting of a
dance in West African contexts and suggests that distilled in their chore- blouse sewn from a bright green wax-print fabric with a marching wrap
ographies are complex ways of thinking "comparable to Cartesian phi- of cloth around her waist) and actively performed in the "cooler and
losophy in point of influence and importance" (Thompson 1966:86). calmer" dancing of the voluntary associations. On several occasions she
So the stoic faces of performers in a heated dance and the equilibrium tossed a towel at me (or my husband), which signaled us to join the group
maintained by a twirling dancer reinforce this emphasis on a cool, even- and engage in one short round of the dance.
tempered stance. Thompson cites (1966:86) Yoruba myths that draw on These two contrasting styles of dance, and what they reveal about sen-
the "mediating principle in cool water" and the "mediating principle in sory symbolism and the "cultural elaboration of sensory engagement"
a cool, healing leaf" to suggest that they all "posit water, certain leaves, (Csordas 1993:139), can be approached phenomen'ologically, and I will
and other items as symbols of the coolness that transcends disorder and begin this analysis by reviewing some of the issues raised by Csordas in
without which community is impossible." In this orientation we find the developing his analytic framework of embodiment. While the following
symbology of water and coolness as a route to personal and social equi- comments might prove difficult to follow outside their original context,
librium, which is important not only to Yoruba peoples but is also a cen- it is important to note Csordas's distinction between a focus on the body
tral aspect of the definition of health and well-being in many parts of as an object and an examination of the appropriation of bodiliness as
Anlo-land. significant in the process of becoming a person and internalizing aspects
The two different types of dancing that occurred in the T:igbui Apim of the social group to which one belongs. He suggests that the "argu-
ritual reflect the heterogeneous nature of Sr:>gboe or a kind of "balance ment that the appropriation of bodiliness is the fundamental matrix or
160 Personhood and Ritual Reinforcement of Balance l'ersonhood and Ritual Reinforcement of Halance I (ll

material infrastructure of the production of personhood and social iden- stage the T.:>gbui Apim festival." The chief reported to me that the spirit
tit)' elaborates the notion of the body as existential ground of culture from the calabash (which was one of the central objects utilized during
and self" (Csordas 1994a: 13, emphasis added). He goes on to make a the ritual) had entered that person and sent him to the hospital to advise
"distinction between the body as a set of individual psychological or sen- the chief. When this chief did indeed recover from an illness he thought
suous responses and as a material process of social interaction" (Csor- might kill him, he hastily began mobilizing the community to propitiate
das 1994a: 13, emphasis added). lt is the latter approach-treating the T:igbui Apim. In many ways this illustrates Csordas's (1993:146) sug-
body as a material process of social interaction-that characterizes an gestion that bodies are often "not a function of the individual 'self' as in
analysis that makes use of the methodological tool of embodiment. In Euro-America, but of the community," for it was the breakdown of one
the social interactions described previously, there is an "appropriation indi\idual's bodr that served as a catalyst for the renewal of communitr
of bodilincss" by various factions within the small community of peo- sensibilities around practices they had to perform to ensure the well-
ple living in Sr:igboc, and these practices serve (in part) as the "material being and health of the local body politic.
infrastructure of the productio~ .of personhood and social identity." Bod- Phenomenological philosopher Edward Caser (1987:223) lays out
ily practices such as applying a knife to the skin or dancing in a "heated" four formal features that he attributes to the ways in which ritual in-
fashion resulting in possession or m~>Vemcnt into a trance state arc.a ma- forms commemoration: reflection, allusion to an event or person, bod-
terial infrastructure of some kinds of Anlo persons. On the other hand, ily action, and collective participation. The T:>gbui Apim rite is an in-
"cool" dancing, which makes use of "passing a towel" and a European- teresting case study in that it provides an occasion for that act of
influenced style of dress, is a "bodiliness" that is the fundamental ma- reflection, the contemplation or meditation being about a commemo-
trix of yet another kind of Anlo identity. rated person (their ancestor named Apim) and event (his mythic protec-
While it was made clear to me which kind of person I was expected tion and defense of their land and community). Bodily action and sub-
"to become" (in the process of my enculturation into a way of life), that jectivity are central to this process: the bodr dues not simplr represent
aspect of the account is not of central concern for this discussion. It cer- the commemoration, but it may "become a commemorabilium" and it
tainly illustrates the importance of alliance with a particular set of bod- always serves as "an expressive sign of that which is commemorated"
ily practices in the "production of personhood and social identity," but (Casey 1987:245). This is not simply in the case of the ritual specialist
what is of importance in this event is the larger purpose of the ritual: to balancing the calabash but also for all participants in the rite, for this
ensure the health, welfare, and protection of the Sr:>gboe community. In occurs through identification. In chapter 6 we saw how some Anlo peo-
the bodily practices displayed in the various dances of the T:>gbui Apim ple roll up or fold into themselves when commemorating T:>gbui
festival there was an emphasis on balancing various opposing forces. Whenya's exhaustion from escaping slavery; in this chapter we discussed
Rather than relying solely on discourse about this festival, approaching how Anlo people of Sr:>gboe assembled at the Sr:> Tree in honor of Tog-
it through the standpoint of embodiment allows us to see how agbag- hui Apim. Focusing momentarily on T:>gbui Whenya and T:>gbui Apim,
bacf.oc[o (balancing) played a central role in this event. The ritual seems we can consider that "to identify with someone ... is to merge not only
to suggest that the health and well-being of the community involves an with that person's mental or psychic being. It is also to assimilate his or
integration and equilibrium among various kinds of Anlo person~ and her corporeality in its full emotional resonance" (Casey 1987:246). This
identities. mythic encounter with their ancestor-this occasion for an act of reflec-
While it is supposed to be performed biennially, the 1994 T:>gbui tion on the role of T:>gbui Apim in their lives-docs more than simply
Apim rite was reportedly the first time in approximately six years that it conjure an image: it allows for an incorporation of the past into the iden-
had occurred. The expense involved in staging it was cited as a major tity and sensibilities of contemporary Srogboe people. In the context of
reason for delays, and more than five or six years had passed since the a commemorative event such as the T:>gbui Apim ritual, there is an "in-
last festival. One of the chiefs explained that he was hospitalized with a corporative action of identification" and through this process, Casey sug-
serious illness when someone came to visit him. The person told the chief, gests ( 1987:240), "I interiorize the other, set him or her up within me as
"You will get well, but you must go back and organize the people to an abiding presence." Cautioning against reducing this to a case of nar-
-~ l

- - - - - - - - - - - - 1 6 ! - ---- --------l'ersonhood and Ritual Reinforcement of Balance Personhood and Ritual Reinforcemem of Balance

cissistic assimilacion of self and other, he indicaces that "[a)s I take the ricular sense modality is "surely the most thoroughly participator}' form
other in, I am essentially altered, aggrandized. I gain increased psychic of body memory and contrasting, in this very respect, with visual mem-
structure by means of greater internal differentiation" (Casey 1987:240). ory" (Casey 1987::?.52).
So the commemorative taking in of T:>gbui When ya or T:>gbui Apim in- Both Anlo rituals made use of sesetommre (feeling in the mouth) in
volves an identification that is critical in the self processes associated with feeding the Du-Legba at the beginning of the T:>gbui Apim rite, in gen-
Anlo personhood. One of the striking things about ritual commemora- erating animus-packed saliva to deposit under the herbs, and in the com-
tion of both When ya and Apim is an attentiveness to balance in the com- munal feast that brought Nugbidodo to a close. This kind of "eating to-
memorative actions. When Whenya is invoked an<l some people roll up gether" can be said to represent
into the feral position, q/:J is counterbalanced by unrolling or coming out
just what happens in the ingestion of eucharistic sacraments. In such shared
of the inwardness (an interoceptively focused bodily position) and asso- activity of incorporation, the injunction to "live well with (others)" is most
ciative meanings are spun about the power or invigoration created concrerely realized. Moreover, the common partaking of food and drink
through the back and forth of this bodily move. Commemorative atten- acts to suspend rigid distinctions of rank and status that obtain in society at
tion to Apim explicitly forces the issue of balance in that his appe~rance large. In a comm1111itas, where unity is less important than fellowship, all
and his embodiment come in an iconic form: the calabash carried, bal- who come are welcome whatever differences of class or education obtain
otherwise. As much as the Ndembu ceremonr so tellinglr described b}
anced, and spotlighced so that Sr:>gboe people could "inceriorize" him
Turner, the rite of the Eucharist offers a blend of "lowliness and sacredness,
in this form, "set him up withi11 as an abiding presence." of homogeneity and comradeship." (Casey 1987:2.38)

In summarizing, let me return to the communal dimension of che T:>g- While the partaking of food is highlighted here, I would hasten to add
bui Apim event as well as Nugbidodo so as not to falsely reify a kind of that in some of the other forms of sensory engagement-such as the
individualist psychology that I would argue has little explanatory power dancing and kinesthetic exchanges that occurred during the T:>gbui Apim
in Anlo worlds. In Casey's discussion of the ways that ritual contributes event and the exchange of saliva and negative words of Nugbidodo-
to commemoration, he also describes (1987:237) the putting aside of pri- wc also encounter a "suspension of rigid distinctions" of rank, status,
vate wishes and private desires, the "joining together" that ritual en- lineage, and religious affiliation. The ritual commemorating T:>gbui Apim
genders and the creation of "communitas." Casey cites Victor Turner's worked at blending and balancing people within the community who
account of the Ndembu chief-to-be who was told, "We have gramcd you belonged co secret societies or religious sects (such as Yeve, Blekere,
chieftainship. You must eat wirh your fellow men, you must live well K:>kuuu) in addition to people who belonged to secular voluntary asso-
with them .... Do not be selfish, do not keep the chieftainship co your- ciations; Nugbidodo brought together people from all corners of Anlo-
self: You must laugh with the people .... You must not be ungenerous to land as well as from abroad. This chapter has attempted to examine how
people!" (Turner quoted in Casey 1987::i.38). This mandate is close co the sensorium is reinforced, in part, through these processes. The blend-
that received by the Sr:>gboe chief who was ill and instructed by T:>gbui ing occurs both communally and psychically; it is simultaneously a so-
Apim to bring the community together in 1994; it is also similar to the ciological and a psychological process, which illustrates cultural psy-
cultural edict fulfilled by the Paramount Chief of An lo-land when he en- chology's claim that "culture and psyche make each other up." In an
tered the gazebo-like structure for Nugbidodo. People of various parts effort to sum up both this and the last chapter, let me make some ob-
of Anlo-land were allowed to hurl abuses at him for a brief period of servations about cultural memory, identity, and the body.
time, to air grievances and engage with him before the rancor was con- An Anlo man who has lived in North America for more than twenty
tained in ceramic pots and covered with herbs. In regard to the Ndembu years reflected with me on the erosion of the coastal section of Anlo-land.
example, Casey notes (1987:238) that "it is striking that the most con- He considered the impact of global warming and the impending rise in
crete activity here recommended is to 'cat with your fellow men.'" In sea level across the world, then noted that sooner rather than later Anlo-
terms of our analysis of the sensory dimension of these rituals, "the open- land as an actual place will cease to exist. "All Anlo will live in diaspora,"
ing onco this past is provided by a sensation of taste" because this par- he noted. "We will still be Anlo, but we will no longer have a place." So
Personhood and Ritual Reinforcement of Balance Pcrsonhood and Ritual Rcinforcemcm of B.1lance

what is it that he continues to "ha\e" or to remember that makes him an Sensory engagements at play in Anlu contexts, or a slnsorium that
Anlo person when he has been away so long? And if Anlo-land itself makes up pan of the "instruments of an ordering of the world" or the
ceases to exist as an actual piece of ground, why does he believe chat "system of classifying schemes which organize practices .. ( BourJicu
"being Anlo" would still be meaningful? In ceremony and in commem- 1977: 123-1 z.4) in an Anlo habitus, are striking for several reasons. There
oration we often find an element of celebration that "connotes not onl}' is an interesting attention to inner sensations such as those generated in
an affirmation of there being, or one's having, such a past as is being com- balancing and kinesthesia, which seems to parallel the internal, inward-
memorated, but above all an honoring of this past, a paying homage to looking aspects of their cultural heritage (their emphasis on retaining a
it" (Casey 1987:226). An Anlo past, this m:>fia/a believes, will continue core identity). This is not to the exclusion, of course, of recognition of
to be commemorated and honored. Without doing that, without sus- the external perceptory fields, which links to their principle of counter-
taining some kind of cultural memory, a sense of identity and a grounded balance exemplified by focusing outward, on living in diaspora. f'Yb
sensibility become impossible. "At every level, the human psyche is con- signifies well this dimension of Anlo being-in-the-world. !'Yb commem-
stituted by identifications ... the mind is radically non-solipsistic: it is orates an elaboration of interoceptivc states while forcing the counter-
something shared and non-solitary from the Stan" (Casey 1987:z.44). The balance of attention outward, hence reinforcing the balance we saw elab-
shared dimension of constituting psyche through identifications occurs in orated in the two rituals described here, which is central to what many
practices, and these practices involve sensory engagement. Anlo people believe makes a decent person. Personhood is tied in local
The regular practice of these various somatic modes of attention- and specific ways to sensoriums, to the immediate ways one learns to
bathing the baby, flexing the joints, folding into oneself like T:igbui hold and orient one's body, to the tastes and distastes one acquires in the
Whenya, head-loading and balancing, dancing, and so forth-results in formative years, and to the way these embodied practices link up to the
an internalization of generative principles such that these are clearly fea- development of self-awareness and a sense of identity. Part 4 will explore
tures of the habitus of certain Anlo worlds. In these various ethnographic how the sensory order not onlr shapes the meaning of personhood but
examples we can see that the way people learn to attend (somacically) also how the nature of reality and the experience of well-being and health
co their surroundings, both in everyday life and in the context of ritual are linked to a cultural phenomenology of the senses.
events, forms the material infrastructure of the person. Cultural mem-
ory, identity, and thebody coincide in interactions with others (sensory
engagement with relatives, neighbors, ancestors, and gods, as we have
seen in parts z. and 3 ), which in turn create identificatiofls that are es-
sential to being human. That is what I believe many m:>fialawo were try-
ing to convey to me by insisting that I learn certain "core" dimensions
of their cultural heritage. If "mind is fashioned from without" and the
"interpsychic" is essential to the constitution of any kind of "intrapsy-
chic" (Casey 1987:244-245), then the meaning of Anlo in historical and
sociological terms becomes vital to the ways in which identifications arc
played out (constructed) in contemporary settings. Sese/e/ame as a form
of "feeling in the body" that links sensations to emotion and disposition
is crucial tu this process. Identifications arc mediated through the senses,
through sensory engagements, which (in the words of one Ewe scholar)
arc aimed at "the making of a child to become ... a person or human
being (ame)" (Egblewogbe 1975:z.1 ). Much of this "becoming," I would
argue, involves the appropriatiofl of bodiliness, and such bodiliness has
a distinct cultural grounding.
-
<
c11ArTER 8

Anlo Cosmology, the


Senses, and Practices
of Protection

Herc I argue that the local sensorium affects the experience of health and
illness and that when we approach their traditional religion as a system
of the body, as a set of techniques for sensory manipulation, we better
undcc~tand the ways in which they know things in and about the cos-
mos. I hope to demonstrate that definitions of personhood and engage-
ment with other intentional persons arc central to health and well-being
and so directly tied to or based in a cultural group's sensorium. In addi-
tion, certain illness states may involve grounding in a sensory order that
is different than the orthodox sensory order of any given cultural group.
To understand the implications of this in Anlo contexts, we must exam-
ine the way the nature of reality has been represented in Anlo cultural
traditions. We turn now toward a more intense examination of how
Ania-speaking individuals situate themselves in relation to their family,
community, society, the gods, and the cosmos.
Among Anlo-Ewe people, well-being is not ac;hieved within the
confines of the individual, but is dependent upon the flow of energy, mat-
ter, substances, and information throughout many aspects of the indi-
vidual's world. And it is precisely in these interchanges that "the senses"
come into play, for such transactions are experienced and occur largely
through sensory channels and sensory engagements.
Like other peoples throughout the world, Anlo speakers hold very
complex cultural models that guide their experiences of self and other
(animal and human as well as divine) beings. These models present well-
170 Anlo Cosmologr, the Senses, and Practices of Protection Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and Practices of Protection 17t

being (in the form of coolness, stability, and balance) as transactions that tension (antistructure) and resolution (comm1mitas) in African religious
occur between self and other. Selves, in fact, in \Vest African contexts arc practices. Recent studies have also emphasized the role of power and dis-
very "porous"-to borrow an idea expressed br Achille Mbembe. 1 He course in the genealogy of African "gnosis" and the ways in which knowl-
suggests that a West African porosity of the self can be understood in edge is (culturally) ordered, while arguing that identity issues cannot be
terms of an openness to influences; a person exists only in the sense that understood without archaeologies of specific (African) modes of philos-
she is related to other (animal, human, and divine) beings. More ophy and thought (e.g., Gyekye 1987; Mudimbe t988).
specifically, in Ewe pcrsonhood, according to ethnographer Judy Rosen- Building on bur diverging slightly from these earlier approaches to the
thal, we find a nonboundedness and a lack of the kind of unitar)' whole- study of African philosophy and African thought, here I want to treat
ness of being that is characteristic of certain Western psychologies of the Anlo-Ewe traditional religion as a system of the body involving sensory
self (Rosenthal 1998:174). She explains (r998:r57-188) how this plu- engagements (cf. Stoller 1989a, Stoller and Olkes 1987, and E. Turner et
ral personhood or indeterminate.selfhood exists in Ewe in part because al. 1992). When we reexamine Anlo religious systems through the lens of
numei.:ous psychic compone~ts (such as life sign and ancest:ral soul) as an in.digenous senso~ium, or critically analyze this specific mode of know
well as social relationships are understood to be central to the arrange- itig, we find that it is a kind of outward extension of the interoceptive,
ment of self; Her characterization of personhood also rings true for the proprioceptive modes that arc highly valued in this cultural setting. Vodu
Ania contexts in which I worked, and here I go on to argue that to be a and other ancient Anlo-Ewe concepts and practices (such as dzosasa)
health}' person involves sharing common interpretations and under- reflect a philosophy about how the external world can be manipulated in
standings of what is real, perceivable, imagined, fantasized, and so forth. order to affect the internal environmem-and vice versa. Vodtt, through
Not unlike the Gorovodu adepts in Rosenthal's account of another set this lens, appears ro be a kind of sensorium beyond the body yet contin-
of Ewe people, the "intentional worlds" (Shweder r991:73) of many uous with it; it is an extension of the inner sensorium and one that is ma-
Ania m:ifialawo with whom I worked included complex notions of that nipulable; and the senses play a vital role in sustaining tics between the
which was beyond the visible realm, about influences and forces sensed human world and that of the ancestors, gods, and supreme being.3
and "known" to those who had grown up in the area but that were be-
yond the reach of-and even "non-sensible" to-outsiders. This dimen-
SUPREME BEING, LINEAL ANCESTORS,
sion of Anlo life constitutes a complex theological system that deserves
AND SPIRITS OF NATURE
far more attention than what I can accomplish here, as my focus is
specifically on sensory experience and well-being. 2 This discussion is lim- For many Anlo-speaking people the cosmos was perceived as inhabited
ited, therefore, to three basic elements of their cosmology: an explana- by nature spirits or a pantheon of deities (referred to in the Ewe language
tion of the structure or hierarchy of the cosmos, the role Nyigbla plays as tr:Jwo); ancestors or spirits of humans who had led exemplary, god-
in the system, and a brief account of the phenomena of legba, vodu, and like lives (generally called t:igbuiwo and mamawo); and a supreme being
dzoka. or an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent force that was variously
Beginning with Evans-Pritchard's (1976( 193 7)1 highlr sympathetic ac- termed Mawu, Mawu-Lisa, Segbo-Lisa, or Mawu-Segbo-Lisa. Mawu (or
count of Azande witchcraft and magic, traditional religion has been ap- "God") was considered remote and inaccessible to liuman beings, while
proached in a number of African settings as an intellectual system that the tr:iwo (nature spirits) hovered dose to earth and interacted with Im-
makes sense on its own.terms (e.g., Griaule 1965). In addition, cognitive mans on a consistent basis. The ancestors were somewhere between: they
approaches have drawn analogies between African theories of knowledge were closer to Mawu and more remote than the tr:iwo, but they were
and Western scientific thinking (Horton r967) as well as demonstrating not as distant or as unapproachable as the supreme god.
the culturally relative semantic fields of notions such as k11owledge and This three-tiered hierarchy represents the basic idea that most Anlo-
belief(Kopytoff 1981). Victor Turner's work (e.g., 1967, 1968, 1974) em- speaking people seemed to hold, although devout Christians generally
phasizing the social drama at play in Ndembu ritual took account of the proclaimed the nonexistence of either tr:iwo or the ancestors and re-
psychological state of patients and healers in addition ro highlighting the placed these ideas with notions of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the devil,
17! Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and Practices of Protection Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and Practices of Protection 173

angels, and so on. Fiawoo (1959a) deals with some of the issues chat tic, join, unite, hind, entangled, impenetrable, and inextricable (cf. West-
arise for Anlo speakers in the collision of these different perspectives, but ermann 1973(19i.8l:i.06). Segbo can therefore be conceptualized as a
it is a topic that needs further research and exploration. Fiawoo's work vigorously powerful force, the masculine dimensions uf the universal en-
sets the stage for our interest in the experiences of those who continue ergy, heat and sun, and supreme strength and vigor, while Lisa refers to
to acknowledge the existence of tr:Jwo and ancestors-whether in com- inextricable ties that bind, labyrinthine and intertwined aspects of exis-
bination wich Christian beliefs or withouc adherence to Christianity. tence, and the feminine associated phenomena of coolness, nighttime,
As stated previously, the god concept held by many Anlo-speaking and the moon. As for the etymology of Mawu itself, ma alone denotes
people was variously referred to as Mawu, Mawu-Lisa, Segbo-Lisa, and "that or that one" (Westermann 1973( 192.8):160), while wu means "to
Mawu-Segbo-Lisa. The various components of the name itself and the surpass, excel, exceed, outdo, overcome," the superlative, or "to be more
nuances of meaning each obtains provide initial insight as to the nature than" (Westermann 1973(1928):2.85-i.86). Consequently, in an ab-
and complexity of this force. While Christians tended to refer to God as solute, literal sense, the etymology of Mawu-SeglJO-Lisa is: that one (ma)
simply Mawu,4 this translation deprives the term or utterance of its rich + surpasses, exceeds (w11) + destiny, trajectory (se) + power, force, vigor
(gbo) + existence, consciousness, being (Ii) + intertwined, inextricably
and mukifaceted original meaning.
The Ewe ... have a dual name for the High God ... either as Maw11-Lisa,
. entangled (sa). Therefore, God's name (Mawu-Segbo-Lisa) is the procla-
mation: That one that exceeds or surpasses destiny and total power and
Segbo-Lisa or Se-Lisa ... cwo names in the androgynous ... are ne.,.er to be
chat exists inextricably entangled and intemvined. From this it becomes
separated. Mawu is the female principle and Lisa is the male principle ...
and the cwo form a unity in duality. In translating the Bible into Ewe, how- clear that conceptions of god held by many Anlo speakers indicate that
ever, Mau111 was severed from Lisa and used to translate the various even the comprehensive grasp of these contradictory phenomena is sur-
Hebrew and Greek names for God, which in many cases arc male passed in the notion of supreme being. In turn, this supreme-state-of-
principles and thus stand for half-truths, i.e. from the African ontological being-which-is-god is the ultimate exemplar of wholeness, well-being,
point of view. (Dzobo 1980:8 5) and health. Supreme (well-) being achieves the melding of night and day,
The first problem in reducing the god concept to merely Mawu is the di- the blending of coolness and heat, and the marriage of a still pool of
vestiture of its original balance of masculine and feminine qualities. water and the fire of a shooting star. Whereas se (of the masculine Segbo)
While Dzobo states that .. Mawu is the female principle and Lisa is the is trajectory, path, course, destiny, experienced like a straight line, sa (of
male principle," my own research and the accounts of various m:J(ialawo the feminine Lisa) feels like binding, tying, intricate connections, and
suggest rather different and much more elaborate associations. 5 One knots. 6 There is a balancing principle implicit in this concept of ultimate
m:Jfiala explained that "Mawu is a combination of Mawu-Segbo, mas- well-being.
culine, and Mawu-Lisa, feminine. Segbo: that is heat, the sun, strength, The concept and experience of sa, in fact, was of central concern in
vigor, and all these things. Lisa: that is the coolness of night, gentility, the role the ancestors played in rhe colimic system. Westermann's trans-
and things of that nature .... So when they say Maum-Segbo-Lisa, then lation of-sa, it will be recalled, was in part "to be tied, joined, entangled,
they are calling Mawu the sexless god or Mawu the combination of mas- impenetrable, confused, inextricable" (1973( 1928):206). In Anlo-
culine and feminine." Underscoring this account, Mawu and Lisa are.a speaking contexts, people were tied to ancestors in a variety of ways: in-
couple in certain vodu orders (Rosenthal 1998:61). dividuals held an inextricable bond with the ancestor they had reincar-
The etymology of segbo and lisa enriches matters even further and nated, the ancestors joined the human to the cosmic realm since Mawu-
embellishes the characteristics associated with each gender. Westermann Scgbo-Lisa (or "Supreme Being") was coo remote, and the ancestors were
translates seas essentially "a deity" ( 1973119281:209) but it can also be the ultimate source of entangled familial lines. The ancestors were gen-
glossed as "destiny" or even "trajectory," while g/Jo denotes "strong, erally referred to as t:Jglmiwo and mamawo (also the kin terms for
vigorous, powerful, violent ... stubborn" (Westermann 1973(1928):91). "grandfather" and "grandmother"). Other terms were also used, how-
The meaning of Ii is "to exist" (and relates to existence and existential- ever, such as t:>gberpliwo, which more accurately translated as "souls
ism in general) (Westermann 1973( 1928):153), and sa can be glossed as of the ancestors" or simply "ancestral spirits" (Fiawoo 1959a:61-67).
:~

174 Anlo Cosmology, 1he Senses, and Practices of Protection Anlo Cosmolog)', the Senses, and Practices of Protection 175
".,

Nonetheless, the sa-oriented experience of inextricability was one many acter traits and emotional dispositions chat one inherits through this
Anlo speakers held with ancestral beings. That is, while the ancestors process (Blier 1995:181 ). In addition, it is important to clarify that a per-
were thought of as residing close to god, they did not remain aloof and son who may have his "grandparent's dzoto [ancestor soul) most prob-
detached but were instead enrangled, confused, intertwined (sasa) into ably does not have the same kpoli [life sign) as the grandparent. Thus
earthly experiences and into persons themselves (which could be likened certain aspects of the person muse be radically different from those of
to Western science's conception of genes). the forebear" (Rosenthal 1998:178). I often asked Anlo-speaking peo-
In her work on African \'odim, art historian Suzanne Preston Blier ple what they perceived to be "inside a person" or what "made up a per-
uses the ideas of "enactment, reenactment, and substitution" co describe son" beyond flesh and blood. This discussion was different from what I
the tics that bind parent and child among the Fon, Ewe, and related presented earlier. What Anlo speakers wanted me to understand were
groups (1995:178). Like actors, people arc conceived of as capable of viral aspects of what goes into the "maki11g of a child to become what
embodying another person while at the same time maintaining their the society accepts as a person or human being (ame)" (Egblewogbe
selves. She exel~ins ( r995:178) that "each baby is at once a unique in- 1975:21). That process focused on development of character traits and
dividual and a representative or substitute (replacement, mask) foi: an sensibilities chat honored or incorporated Anlo themes and notions of
engendering parent(s)." This idea goes hand in hand with Ewe and Fon morality. Here we enter into discussions chat open the window more di-
notions of reincarnation, in which babies arc believed to be assisted or rectly onto a local psychology. All of the items listed, with their tenta-
guided by an ancestor as they return to earth. That "ancestral sponsor," tive translations into English, were given at one time or another by Anlo
as Blier designates it, plays a vical role in the child's identity and per- speakers as what they considered to be "inside a person."
sonality formation. The Anlo-Ewe term for this ancestral sponsor is
anu:dt:Jt:J, which means "agent of the person's birth" (t:J: agent; clz:J: ameme: an inner person; a person inside of a person; the deeper,
birth; ame: person). Blier describes (1995:178) how a child's birth en- inner part of a human being; this was distinguished from
genders an appeal to Fa to find out whom the baby resembles since the ameq11me, which is the outer person (perhaps the persona) as
belief holds that "all new children resemble a person who is deceased." well as those very close to you, relatives, or people who orbit
The resemblance factor is, to a certain extent, the reason I liken chis very close to your being
phenomenon to a model of genetics. The idea that traits are reproduced dt:Jdt:Jme: the character of a person, natural qualities, or those traits
and reappear in individuals throughout the lineage, somehow linking that come along with the person "in birth"
past to present and connecting invisible realms to physical and visible qutila alo gb:Jgb:J fe 11:J11:Jme: one's constitution, or literally the
matter, is prevalent in both models. Furthermore, in the same way that "body and breath's form" of a person
the notion of genes is a cultural model "linked to the social experience
Im.JO: shadow or soul, wltiea is tlteught of as not confined to one
of the individual" (Jackson and Karp 1990:12) in Euro-American con-
part of the body or being but pervading the whole entity
texts, the concept of ancestral spirits fashioning and influencing the
makeup of individuals is operationalized in a daily and personal way. In aklama: a personal guardian spirit, conceived of by some as "inside
a sense many Euro-Americans pay homage to genetic factors in a si1ni- a person" and by others as "outside the self"
lar way to how many Anlo speakers pay homage to ancestral spirits. The amedt:Jt:J: reincarnated ancestor inhabiting or possessing one's
amount of discussion and attention paid to inherited genetic predispo- being
sitions (to a variety of diseases a~d conditions) in contemporary Euro- dzitsinya: conscience, or literally "heart (dti) + tell (tsi) + word
American contexts is somewhat akin to the concern and regard paid to (nya)" or matters spoken/voiced in one's heart
the force that ancestral spirits bring to bear on life's regular events among
Anlo-speaking people. A few m:J{ialawo stated that inside a person were also things like tame-
Howevei; in regard to reincarnation and the role of amedt:Jt:J or the b11bu, tames11s11, mmya, /amenusese, seselelame, g:miesese, sidzerm, lame-
agent of the person's birth, it is not only physical attributes but also char- sese, and so forth (the relevant translations will be provided momentar-
Anlo Cosmology, 1he Senses, .rnd Prac1iccs oi Pro1ec1ion Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, .111d Practices of Protection 177

ily). One person explained that while every person has all of these, some that the ancestor who had been reincarnated was wearing shoes. Mr. Ad-
traits are more developed or prominent chan others in a single individ- zomada 's father was startled and said to the bok:>, "What you have seen
ual. The most salient inner states among the people I consulted were tame- simply cannot be. There is no educated person in our family." The bok:>
bubu, which I have glossed as "thinking," lamenusese (feeling), sesele- insisted, however, that the ancestral spirit he perceived was wearing
lame (sensing), and g::m1esese (intuiting). In addition, Rosenthal's shoes, and the presence of shoes signified a person of learning. His par-
ethnography of Ewe vodu presents ( 1998: 175-187) an interesting paral- ents subsequently investigated their family history and finally discovered
lel discussion of all the components of the person, but there is a striking that on his father's side, several generations back, had lived an educated
contrast between her account and my own that could benefit from fur- man. Mr. Adzomada's parents were instructed to give him special treat
ther investigation. The Ewe people with whom Rosenthal worked were ment since this educated ancestor had evidently returned as the baby's
by and large adepts of a vodu order (Gorovodu) and her "different ex- amcdt:it::>. When indeed Mr. Adzomada grew up and eventually told his
perts' inventories "(p. 17 5) reflect a decidedly spiritual base to the com- father that he wanted to go to school, this was confirmation that the
ponents inside a person. In turn, even though these qualities may be the bob had been right. In fact, if he had not been treated as a thinking-
dominion of an ancestral sponsor in the reports of my own m;,fia~awo, oriented person-a person in whom tameb11b11 was the dominant func-
in abstract terms the items offered to me have a more secular tone. Are tion-he would eventually have fallen ill. If the ancestor's will were not
there differing psychological theories at play among vodu adepts in com- honored, if a person's destiny (se) were ignored or opposed, then dis-
parison with other Ewe people? One way or another, the two differing ruptions, imbalances, and sickness would commandeer or confiscate
accounts make abundantly clear that all these components or all these (possess) the person's being. 7
"things" that Ewe people report exist inside of a person indicate a com- In discussing Mr. Adzomada's story with other Anlo speakers, the links
plex concept of personality, self, and psychological structure. among sensation, emotion, disposition, and vocation became more clear.
In the midst of a discussion about the ancestors, why address the psy- People explained that if Mr. Adzomada had not been allowed to go to
chological complexity of persons? Blier explains (1995:181-182.) how school as a child (which was the direction or course in life signified by his
the ancestral sponsor fashions not only the physical aspects of the per- amcdt:it:i's shoes), his feeling in the body (seselelame) would not have been
son but also the psychological dimensions and even the moral character. right. He would have had .. pains and bad thoughts," which (a number of
The word in Fon for character or behavior (jij::>) has as its root the word m::>fialawo suggested) was what caused people to use "bad j11j11." Painful
for birth {i::>), which then underscores "the role that ancestral sponsors sensations and illness, along with negative emotions, were associated with
(i::>t::>, master of birth') play in the formation and conceptualization of failure (on the family's part) to attend to the directions of an ancestral
the child's personalit}'." In everyday life, the attention paid to the an- sponsor and mismanagement of the personal destiny (vocation) of the
cestral sponsor and to the relationship between the child and his spon- child. When such a disruption to sesele/ame was set in motion, and one's
sor, helps to shape and influence the child's demeanor. (Also sec Rosen- se (destiny, vocation) was derailed, a rotten disposition was considered in-
thal 1998: 1 57-194 for details on this influence.) People consistently talk evitable. Seselelame was the idiom of illness for many Anlo people.
to the child about his sponsor so that "a sort of diffuse education ensues The last level in the cosmic realm was occupied by the tr:iwo, or spir-
that gives to the latter the moral, psychological, spiritual, and sometimes its of nature. Imagining the cosmos as a prramid, Mawu-Segbo-Lisa
even physical attributes of the ancestor.... Through this means one traces would be situated at the pinnacle, the ancestors directly beneath god,
a program of life for the child" (Blier 1995:181-182.). My point, there- and tr::>wo or .. nature spirits" at the bottom in the space immediately
fore, is that all the components of persons, or the "parts inside of per- above the human and earthly realm. In a sense tr:Jwo constituted a pan-
sons," are to a certain extent the province of ancestral spirits. theon of deities or tutelary gods, and some Anlo speakers referred to
During one of my visits with Mr. Adzomada, he told the following them as Mawzwiwo, or "the small gods."
story about his amcdt::>t::> (the "agent of his birth," or reincarnated an-
The word tr:J suggesis a 1roublcr or a confuser; ii implies a god or spirit
cestor). At the time of Mr. Adzomada's birth, his father consulted with
being who confounds i1s client or worshipper with an ever-growing number
a bok::> (diviner) about the baby's se (destiny), and the diviner explained of demands, some of which may be conflicting ... tr:iwo arc the intermedi-
Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and Prac1iccs of Protection Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and Practices of Protection 179

arics between Marv11 and men. They arc the children of Maw11 and arc age to the ancestors by pouring libations and expressing praise, but in-
sometimes referred to as Mawzwiwo. Unlike Mau111 to whom nothing but herent in this performance was also an appeal to one or more tr::Jwo. As
goodness is ascribed, the tr:>wo arc capable of good and e\il. They minister, Fiawoo explained (1959a:9?.-93), "A lineage tr:J, like the lineal ances-
but they also kill. They arc imagined to have animal or human forms. The}'
have hands and feet and arc c11dorvcd wit/J t/Jc five sc11scs. Each spirit is
tor, provides for the well-being of the group, individuallr and collectivelr.
symbolised bra collection of odds and ends-beads, stones, bones, parts of The tr::J cult group thus coincides with the ancestral cult group and helps
dead animals, etc.-each of which has its own special value, and reinforce lineage solidarity by common worship or regardful attitude to
collectively they express the essence of the particular tr:J. (Fiawoo a common deity." The weekly performance of ancestral rites invariably
c959a:51, emphasis added) involved verbal expression of praise accompanied by ceremonial drink-
ing and offering of liquid (through the pouring of libations from a cal-
While Mawu-Segbo-Lisa governed supreme (well-) being of the universe abash). That is, the ancestors and tr.,wo wanted to hear (on a regular
and everything it contained, and the ancestors were intimately involved basis) the vocalization of human praise and gratitude. More than any-
in a person's destiny and constitutional (physiogcnetic) makeup, tr::nvo thing else, the verbal expression of honor and appreciation was per-
played a significant role in day-to-day troubles and fortunes, illnesses formed by the lineage elders that corresponds to the idea that 1msese
and rehabilitations. Tr:Jwo intervened and participated in minor events (hearing) was one of the more highly valued components of the senso-
of mundane existence and influenced the well-being and health of per- rium. Occasionally food was prepared and dancing performed (impli-
sons and whole communities. Fiawoo described (r959a:55-56) public cating gustatory and kinesthetic sensations), but in this specific context
tr:Jwo as guarding the welfare of both kin and political-territorial groups, the sensory field consistently used for interaction between the human
while personal health and wealth were matters for the tr:Jwo of families and cosmic realm involved sound.
and individuals. They conferred benefits such as "rain, human and soil
fertility, warding off dangers, sickness and epidemics" (Fiawoo 1959a:
NYIGBLA: HEAD TR:J
5 5-5 6). Interactions with tr:Jwo, therefore, focused largely on health
maintenance, protection, and general matters concerning well-being. Nyigbla was considered the "head of all the Anlo Ewe nature gods (tr::J)"
Conceptualized often as "spirits," tr::Jwo manifested physically in a va- (Gilbert r982:64). 8 He held connections to both thunder and war and
riety of ways, including the possession of a person, with its consequent was imported into Anlo-land in the mid-eighteenth-century as the Dzevi
displacement of personality, as well as "the material god-objects that are clan gained acceptance as members of the Anlo policy (Greene r996:59). 9
constructed with sacred recipes, secret and protected from 'the hands of For many Ania-speaking people (those who lived in rural areas as well
the uninstructed. Sometimes these god-objects arc called the vodus or as those who resided in Accra), Nyigbla was one of the main arbiters of
tros; sometimes they are said to be the skin, the body, or the house of life and death. While Mawu (God) held the ultimate power to kill or cre-
the vodus" (Rosenthal 1998:47). ate, Nyigbla was the tr:> (or spirit) whose dominion was the protection
Perceptions of what both tr:Jwo and the ancestors needed and desired or execution of human beings. Nyigbla was probably summoned into
reveal certain things about sensory valuation. Tr:Jwo were "imagined to Anlo-land to help in wars with neighboring groups and as a common
have animal or human forms. They have hands and feet and are endowed deity around which Anlo speakers could rally (Fiawoo 19 59a:22. I-2.2.2).
with the five senses" (Fiawoo 19 59a:5 r). Whether possessing five senses During the second half of the nineteenth century this tr:J (symbolized as
or more, tr::Jwo were considered sensate beings, and this perception or a piece of iron in the shape of an anvil) was flourishing at Gbugbla (near
belief conditioned how people appealed to and engaged with them. Accra). The Anlo council of chiefs sent messengers there to persuade
Each Thursday morning during the time we stayed in Sr::igboe, line- Nyigbla "to leave Gbugbla altogether and come to settle permanently in
age elders gathered in the center of the compound in which we lived. Our Anlo," and they then "introduced Nyigbla as a national cult" (Fi a woo
residence was in the afedome (ancestral home) of a particularly promi- 19 59a:22I-22.2.). Nyigbla could be symbolized by a piece of carved
nent family, and approximately ten or twelve elders assembled each week wood (as at Afife), and was perceived by many Anlo speakers as the "lord
and performed a set of lineal rites. In the first instance they paid horn- of water," who sent rain, and as the "lord of life," who provided chi I-
180 Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and Practices of Prmeclion Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and Practices of Protection 181

drcn to Anlo-spcaking people. Nyigbla 's special province, however, was ually took the shape of a horse mounted by a human being. I asked him
warfare, where he was seen mounted on a horse, leading the warriors, co explain the difference between thunder and lightning in relation to
and brandishing a bow and arrow (Fiawoo 1959a:221-i.u). this manifestation of Nyigbla. His response focused on the feeling he had
One m:ifiala stated that Nyigbla was the lightning and his wife Sofia (scsclel"me) and how his family knew it was Nyigbla because of the scmi-
was the rumbling thunder that followed, beseeching Nyigbla to be mer- paralysis that sec into his body immediately after this experience. The
ciful. Nyigbla would ruthlessly strike people with a bolt of lightning, but paralysis and stupefaction disappeared only after \'arious purification
Sofia would try to temper his approach. Discussing Nyigbla one evening rites were performed. This situation did not simply present an impend-
in our compound in Accra, IO this m:Jfiala (a professional who held a mas- ing storm with dramatic thunder and lightning. Nyigbla's presence was
ter's degree in business) explained, "The four of us could be sitting here known through the feeling in the young man's body or his compromised
at the table, and if Nyigbla was after one of us, the lightning would strike state of health.
him dead and leave not even a trace of harm on the rest of us." He also An Anlo-speaking person's perception of the distinction between
suggested that this was one of the major differences between the Chris- Nyigbla and common lightning could be compared to the difference in
tian system and that of the classic Anlo religious scheme: in Christian- our culture between turning on the television to a fictionalized movie as
ity there was on-going mercy and forgiveness (even for a person who had opposed to"turning on the television to a newscast announcing a tornado
committed murder), whereas in the ancient Anlo system one was not couching down a half mile from our house. How do we know the dif-
given a second chance in relation to a capital offense, for Nyigbla would ference? ls it only through what we can sec? What is the nature of the
simply strike the person dead. 11 A religion such as Christianity allowed aesthetic difference in our perception and ability to distinguish? These
people excuses, this m:ifiala suggested, whereas the moral system of an- arc questions that can be more fully addressed through attention to the
cient Anlo was (and continued to be) more effective in motivating ethi- scnsorium. Metaphysical forces within Anlo worlds were perceived and
cal behavior in human beings. known largely through the sensory fields, with particular attention to a
The fear of being struck by lightning and the symbolic magnitude of synesthecic ability they valuea-in seselelame.
such an event was great. As another m:ifiala explained: "People arc afraid Nyigbla therefore represented a very complex phenomenon (from a
that when they go to steal, thunder will come into the family and peo- historical, psychological, and sociological point of view), and the image
ple will be disgraced." An individual's death br lightning (referred to br and definition of Nyigbla varied to a certain extent in the imagination
some as tohon:ifui) was a reflection on all his kin since it signified a trans- and perceptions of individual Ania-speaking people. In fact, it would be
gression of such import that Nyigbla involved himself. This phenome- difficult to simplistically categorize Nyigbla as "the god of thunder" or
non illustrates the intricate connections among self, society, and cosmos; "the god of war," because his image, duties, and powers were trans-
when a person heard the crash of thunder or witnessed the night sky light formed accordingly. While I stated above that one m:ifiala perceived
up like day, the shudder that reverberated through his body was not sim- Nyigbla as thunder (his wife being Sofia, and lightning) and I referred to
ply a "personal" experience of fear, but rather that shudder embodied Fiawoo's comment that Nyigbla was represented with a piece of iron, an
the sticky web of relations linking individual, social, and cosmic fields older m:ifiala disagreed and stated that Nyigbla was a national tr:i (deity
of being (cf. Jackson and Karp 1990). Lack of attention paid to agbag- or spirit) for all Ania-speaking people and chat he gO\'.erned the domain
bac[oc[o (balancing) created disruptions in these links (largely through vi- of war. He believed that Nyigbla had nothing to do with thunder per sc,
olations of moral laws) and resulted in serious illnesses and general xe- and his "wife" was not Sofia since that term (sofia) simplr referred to
xeme gbegble (ruin or destruction of the world). 12 the feminine aspect of god (and was complemented by the masculine
In addition, one m:ifiala explained to me that as he sat in his family side, called sodza). He explained that sofia also referred to scone hand
house at Anloga, he experienced Nrigbla flying above the lagoon from axes found in the ground and was associated with Yevc dcvocees.1.1 Fur-
Anyako to Alakple. This young man described the experience as begin- thermore, Nyigbla was not represented by iron, according to this m:ifiala,
ning with a tremendous rumbling, like the galloping sound of horses run- for that would be Whanyevi, the "deity of iron," who oversaw black-
ning in the distance. Next appeared a white light in the sky, which grad- smiths and was attended to by one division of the Dzovia clan. 14
Anlo Cosmolog)', the Senses, and Practices of Protection Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and Practices of Protection t83

These discrepancies are not meant to cause confusion or to suggest concept of "protection" or "empowerment," which then relates to local
that Anlo speakers themselves arc confused, hut rather to highlight the notions of well-being and health.
very dynamic nature of these phenomena and the multiplicity of ways in Nyigbla was believed to wage war. When the Anlo state was at war
which troruo (a pantheon of deities) can be interpreted. Nyigbla 's mul- with neighboring and foreign powers, throughout the end of the nine-
tifaceted nature, therefore, is not unlike the "many faces of Ogun" teenth century and into the twentieth century, Nyigbla led or inspired
(Barnes 1989:1-16), although I am not suggesting that Nyigbla paral- military maneuvers of an offensive as well as a defensive nature. Then,
lels Ogun in either stature or renown. As I struggled to understand Nyig- in the 19 50s an Asian influenza epidemic assaulted or infiltrated "An lo
bla's exact domain, however, I came to realize he combined attributes of territory," and people claimed it was Nyigbla who procected them and
Ogun, Sango, and even Esu-Elegba. While "Ogun is popularly known "waged war" on this deadly disease (Fiawoo 19 59a:i.u-226). In the
as the god of hunting, iron, and warfare," fusions occur periodically, 1990s, some people said, there was general and severe xexeme gbegble
which then add additional layers of complexity and can result in an over- (worldly demise or something rotten and amiss in the universe). But xe-
lap of characteristics between two figures (Barnes 1989:2, 7-8). For ex- xeme gbegble was even associated with Nyigbla back in the 19 50s:
ample, in a poem that employs the image of electricity, Nigeria's Nobel
laureate Wole Soyinka combines Sango (deity of thunder and lightning) Among my informants, opinion varied as to the present status of Nyigbla.
There were those who accepted my present analysis in terms of declining
with Ogun (Barnes 1989:7-8). And while in general Sango and Ogun status and role, but pointed to corresponding maladjustments or what was
are quite distinct among the Yoruba, they have converged into one deity, styled xcxcmcgbegble: personal and family privations, economic
or Joa, in Haiti (Brown 1989:78). Similarly, Nyigbla was known in Anlo- difficulties, disease and the relatively short life-span, the jealousies and in-
land primarily as the god of warfare: he sometimes stood with that iden- trigues of the modern world; these have been the writings on the wall, an-
tity alone, but sometimes the attributes of other deities were fused onto nouncing the vengeance of Nyigbla for negligence in ritual observance. (Fi-
awoo 1959a:225)
Nyigbla. First, he was sometimes merged with the god of thunder and
lightning, or that god would sometimes be distinguished and called Sog- Forty years after Fiawoo's observations, I would suggest that reference
bla or Xebieso. Second, Nyigbla was occasionally fused with the god of to xexeme gbegble was perhaps more prevalent, as I frequently heard
ironsmithing, or that god was sometimes separated and referred to as this phrase utcered with worry about environmental degradation,
Whanyevi. And finally, Nyigbla was also sometimes associated with the poverty, infant mortality, AIDS, and so forth. Several older mofialawo
. trickster figure or the god of crossroads, but threshold spirits were some- expressed that the younger generations simply did 11ot liste11 to the wis-
times distinguished and referred to as Legba. Decidedly, for my dom of their elders (as well as the wisdom of trowo and ancestors), and
mofialawo, Nyigbla held many faces like Ogun, and he consistently they lacked structure, knowledge of self, discipline, strength, and
played a dynamic role in their lives. health. 15 Furthermore, they jeopardized the entire family as they involved
As complex as he is, Nyigbla deserves an entire volume devoted solely themselves in dubious activities (such as those discussed in chapter 6 in
to him, however, my final observation about this important figure con- relation toga foc[i mawo, or prohibitions on dirty money). In this con-
cerns his function as what Barnes ( 1989:2) refers to in Ogun as the de- text, Nyigbla would serve Anlo-land as a whole by sometimes (in a war-
stroyer or creator archetype. An lo-speaking ciders decided to appropri- like fashion) "surgically striking" one person, or removing an individ-
ate Nyigbla (in the latter half of the eighteenth century) to protect and .ual who was compromising the well-being (and balance) of the entire
empower the Anlo state and its people during war. In that context it is group. Listening or hearing (1111sese) and balancing (agbagbac[ocJ.o), two
difficult to imagine Nyigbla striking down an individual unless he was a highly significant sensory fields for many Anlo speakers, could be seen
traitor to the Anlo state. How then do we make sense of my mofiala's as the operative values in this discussion. That is, 1111sese concerned lis-
explanation that four people could be sitting at a table and Nyigbla could tening, hearing, understanding, and obeying, and people would talk
summarily execute a single person? That is, why wo.uld Nyigbla do such about xexeme gbegble (something rotten and amiss in the universe) as
a thing? To understand this, it is necessary to look more closely at the related to human failures in hearing and balance: individuals not listen-
184 Anlo Cosmology, rhe Senses, and Pracriccs of Prorection Anlo Cosmology, 1hc Senses, and Practices of Prorecrion

ing to their elders, people in general not listening to (and obeying) rhe since it was replete with contradictions. Gilbert states ( 1982:66) that a
tr:nvo, the ancestors, and god (Mawu-Segbo-Lisa). Nyigbla, therefore, "certain tr:J (nature dcit)") that was 'technically a vod11' according to Fi-
as the ultimate arbiter of life and death (the "'destroycrkrearur arche- awoo ( 19 59a:91) would probably have been called an alegba by my in-
type" mentioned previously) was perceived as upholding his duties of formants. Conversely, Cudjoe refers to a d11-legba called Sakpata who
protecting and empowering Anlo-speaking people by "warring on the punishes wrong-doers with smallpox (1971:195)." But Gilbert herself
disease within" or balancing out the forces of good and evil that per- found that Sakpata would be considered a vodu among her informants.
meated the Anlo body politic itself. 16 In the Gorovodu (medicinal vodtt order) of which Rosenthal writes
(1998:60-61), "Tro, vodu, and fetish refer to the spirit and host during
possession ceremonies as well as to god-objects."
LEGBA, VOVU, ANO U'.:OKA
For the Ewe language in general, Westermann (1973(1928):152.)
In terms of Ania theosophical beliefs, this chapter has thus far covered translates or defines legba as "idol, figure representing a deity, a demon."
Mawu,-Segbo-Lisa (a god concept), t;,gb11iwo and mamawo (ancestors), Cudjoe-Calvocoressi ( 197 4:62-6 3) suggests that for Anlo-speaking peo-
Nyigbla, and a pantheon of tr;,wo (deities, small gods, or spirits). Addi- ple a legba is like a vodtt and is a messenger to the gods, which distin-
tional dimensions of the cosmological system that are important in ob- guishes them both from tr:Jwo, which can never be messengers, for they
taining an understanding of how the cosmos relates to sensory aspects are small gods themselves and do not act as intermediaries between the
of well-being include the phenomena of legba, vod11, and dzoka, because human and cosmic domain. She believes that vodu are from the Fon-
they are utilized in everyday practices and routines. I suggest conceptu- speaking area of West Africa and in the context of Anlo culture they can
alizing these three phenomena in the following way: legba as a guardian be bought (Cudjoe-Calvocoressi 1974:62-63). As a means of distinction,
of entryways and thresholds, vod11 as an introspective philosophy and tr:J (plural tr.Jwo) either possess a person or are inherited, hut (unlike a
interoceptive system of the body based on power gleaned from "resting vodu) a tr:J cannot be purchased (Cudjoe-Calvocoressi 1974:62-63).
to draw the water" (cf. Blier 1995:40), and dzoka as transformative arts. In regard to tr:J and vod11 (but also including the term fetish), Rosen-
However, experiences of legba, vod11, and dzoka, along wirh experiences thal suggests ( 1998:60), "These three terms arc usually interchangeable,
of tr;,wo and Nyigbla himself, are rarely as neat and clear as the dis- although tro appears co be used more often among western Ewe (this
tinctions I have made. A little background is in order. would include Anlo), and vodu is heard more often among eastern Ewe,
Just as it would be difficult for many Euro-Americans to explain pre- Adja, Oatchi, and Guin." In support of such lexical interchangeability,
cise differences in experiences they have had with ghosts, spirits, angels, Westermann's translation or definition of vod11 is simply "tr:J," and for the
the Holy Ghost, souls, demons, apparitions, and so on for Anlo speak- term tr;, he then gives the words "deity, tutelary deity, or demon"
ers the lines blurred between perceptions of tr:nvo and vod11wo and (1971(1928):269, 245). I have only encountered the term "demon" in
among legbawo, voduwo, dzokawo, rpliwo, gb;,gb:Jwo, and so forth. Westermann's work. Finally, dm has been translated as "charm, magic"
Furthermore, different individuals held different relationships to these and the word dmka as "a charm-string" (Westermann 1973[ 1928):26-27).
various entities or phenomena. But a cultural pattern of introspective- Cudjoc-Calvocoressi further suggests ( 1974:62-63) chat dzo comes from
ness that we examined in chapter 6 has a continuity here with what. the Fon-speaking area and "functions automatically" in response co me-
struck me as widespread interest in and attention co invisible but inte- thodically ritualistic attention (or observation of sacrifices and taboos).
rocepcively sensible phenomena. These various efforts to clarify each term or, more important, each
In her article "Mystical Protection among the Anlo Ewe," Gilbert phenomenon still leave us a bit confused and lacking any real feeling for
( 1982:66) admits to her confusion about terms such as alegba, vod11, and what legba, vodtt, and dtoka really are or how they have been experi-
medicinal atike cult personages, explaining chat in her interactions with enced. I am interested in scnsorial and experiential aspects of these phe-
Anlo-Ewe speakers these terms were sometimes used interchangeably nomena and not just ideal types, but in the first instance it is important
and at other times very emphatic lines were drawn between the differ- to understand how difficult it is to distinguish among legbawo, tr:nvo,
ent entities. She indicates that scholarship on the matter did not help and vod11wo and how these distinctions are in part related to specific lo-
,pqy:r.

r86 Anlo Cosmolom, the Senses, and Practices of Protection Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and Practices of Protection 187

calcs in the Ewe cultural complex. In addition, while a discourse of vi- today) is the more potent force. As one of my own m:>{ialawo explained:
sualicy was rarely used br my own m;,fialawo (their idiom centered more "Lcgba is a tutelary god that offers protection. When they make it, thcr
on scselelame), it has frequently been employed by scholars. So while put a hole in it from the head down to the bottom and there arc herbs
lcgba, vod11, and dzoka all seem to be a kind of supernatural or cosmic and things buried underneath it. Legba is just a symbol; underneath it
force (power, deity, spirit), at some level each is a discrete entity co the are so many things." While these "many things" were invisible, man}'
people who experience and identify them. Herc I would suggest chat a m:ifialawo (even Christians) reported being able to feel (in terms of scsc-
cultural elaboration of introspectiveness and a pcrformativc valuation lelame) the charged and powerful energ}' held within lcgbawo.
of interoceptive modes allows us to map these phenomena in a slightly Cudjoe states up front that the story she cites represents a very local-
new way, with legba as a guardian of thresholds, vodu as power gleaned ized (and perhaps peculiar) version of the etymology of the word legba,
from "resting co draw the water" (in Blier 199 5:40), and dzoka as trans- and in fact the derivation that has more currency is "seize and collect ar
formativc arts. This slightly new spin I am raking stems from treating one place" (le: to seize, catch, hold, grasp; gba: to collect or keep at a
Anlo theosophical beliefs and practices as a system of the body-with place). 18 This refers to Lcgba 's capacit}' to patrol entry- and exit-ways,
that system directly reflecting their sensor}' order. and to monitor the forces passing in and out, again highlighting move-
ment and kinesthetic sensory modes. Cudjoe describes ( 1969: 5 1) some
of Legba 's versatilit}': "Legba has many spheres of activity. He aces, how-
LEGB1\ "EMPOWERMENT OBJECTS":
ever, mainly as the guardian of the town and the house. He can, for ex-
GUARDIAN OF THRESHOLDS
ample, either attract or repel all that is evil and unpleasant. He can pre-
Wherever thresholds existed in Anlo-land, one was likely to find leg- vent illness entering the village and protect it in times of war. Lcgba is
barvo. At the entrance of towns, villages, compounds, houses, and to a also fond of causing quarrels between good friends." So, as well as mon-
certain extent in relation to "thresholds of the human body," one found itoring the entry- and exit-ways through which "all that is evil and un-
what Blier (1995:4) deemed "empowerment objects." [n the Fon lan- pleasant" can be either "attracted or repelled," Legba also functions as
guage these "empowerment objects" were referred to as boci:J, which lit- a trickster in "causing quarrels between good friends." In this capacit}'
erally translated as "empowered (bo) cadaver (ci:J)" (Blier 1995:2). 17 In- he is clearly functioning in the role associated with the archetypal trick-
deed, beneath or behind the surface of lcgbazvo sculptures, figures, or ster figure known in Africa and its diaspora variously as Legba, Eshu,
shapes were buried "powerful medicinal and sacred herbs (ama), and in Esu-Elegba(ra), Ananse, Ogo-Yurugu, Papa La-Bas, and so forth (Pelton
some cases, humans" (Gilbert 1982:60). 1980; Gates 1988).
The following recounts one version of the etrmology of the word The deceptions of the trickster arc indeed consonant with Lcgba 's
lcgba, highlighting not only the visual rendering of a clar figure but also other characteristics, which I sum up here as "empowerment object,"
the possible kinesthetic and movement based roots of the tradition. guardian of thresholds, gatekeeper of welfare and health. Community
lcgbazvo (called du-legba) protect entire: villages, sctdemencs, or towns,
There was once in the village of Kedzi ... a very ferocious man b)' the name
of Abli of whom everyone was terrified. Finally the villagers in a joint cf
and can trick contagious diseases hovering at the threshold and "dis-
fort' were able to tie him up with an exceptionally strong rope and to bury suade them from executing their plans" (Cudjoe-Calvocoressi 1974:59).
him beneath the mud. Over the hole the villagers erected a day figure in the When an evil spirit wishes to enter the community, legbawo reportedly
form of a human being. People said in relief cle egbea (he has gone today) invite them to be guests and then subvert the spirit's plans by manipu-
referring to Ak:>li. From this time onwards day figures in human form be- lating their movements. In the 1970s Cudjoe-Calvocoressi (1974:59) re-
came known as Legba. People swore oaths on this clay figure and when it
marked, "It is still very firmlr believed that the Du-Legba is able to pre-
was realized that it had power, lcgbawo became more widespread. (Cudjoe
1971:191) vent sickness from entering the town. Diseases arc envisaged as entering
a settlement in the form of spirits."
The visible clay figure is only the surface; an invisible dimension, se- These remarks open the door to issues about perception, experience,
mantically captured by reference to his movement (ele egbea: he has gone and cultural logic. My own inquiries about perceptions and experiences
188 Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and Practices of Pro1ectio11 Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and Practices of Protection

wich legbawo yielded a complex range of responses and beliefs, the sub- of the compound, have you e\'er run over that stonclike objecr in front
jeccive nature of which was clearly be>ond che scope of whac Cudjoe ad- of Ku ya 's house?" Startled by the question, I answered in the affirmative
dressed in her brief articles. And yec, co a certain extent Cudjoc's state- and then asked why he wanred to know. But my 4uescion went unan-
ments scill seemed to endure. While a number of m;,fialawo emphatically swered and a rather heated discussion ensued between the journalist and
scaced chac /egbawo were "fetishes which Christianity has shown us muse che customs officer as to whether or not this "violation" was serious and
be abolished" (and chese individuals often claimed co feel no effects what- warranted further attention. They eventually determined that since I was
soever from the presence of legbawo everywhere they turned or walked), an outsider and had virtually no knowledge or understanding of this ob-
mosc people held nearly che opposite opinion and were rcluctanc co even ject, the normal rules did not really pertain. They instructed me to re-
discuss the role /egbawo played in cheir experiences and lives. Such "em- frain from running the car over the stone and then changed the subject
powerment objects" were a delicate subject, and many people were un- of our discussion (cf. Geurts in press for a lengthier account of this event).
derstandably reluctant co discuss ic wich foreigners, who had historically Soon after that I recounted this series of events to my friend Raphael.
misportrayed their beliefs and practices as "primitive." But from che def- He explained that in the first instance what I had experienced while driv-
erence people paid to the legl1awo thac populated Sr:>gboe and neigh- ing over the stone would fit in the realm of sese/elame: hearing, feeling
boring communities, it was clear co me that they still-sustained a lively some phenomenon through the body, flesh, or skin. Raphael explained
role in che (health-oriented) affairs of mosc Anlo-speaking people and that while l could not necessarily see the trappings of any kind of sacred
that cheir movements were aucnded co and palpably felt. The following or "empowerment object" around that specific stone (which I later
accoum may illustrate more clearly what I mean. learned is technically called an afeli [Adikah 2001) but which functions
Legbawo "empowerment objects" held various forms, ranging from like a legba), I had felt or heard its power in some other way. I related
visibly dramatic and well-defined statues (sec Cudjoe 1969 and Gilbert the story to Raphael during a discussion about invisible forces, thresh-
198 2.) co amorphous and almost indiscernible objects, items, or "blobs." olds, seselelame, legba, and dzoka. When one crossed a threshold and
Compounds were typically enclosed spaces, surrounded by either a palm- there was something amiss, he explained, one experienced seselelame:
frond fence or a cement-block wall, and outside the entrance co masc hearing or feeling through the body. One did not necessarily know what
would sit a legba. Indeed, underneath a corrugated iron roof immedi- it was and usually neglected to "think" about or recognize the experi-
ately outside the compound in Sr:>gboe where I resided sac a legba. lex- ence, but chen the person might become sick shortly after the event.
pected to see occasional alterations co chis legba's environmenc, such as Thresholds were places of vulnerability where invisible forces could lurk
che appearance of liquids, chicken feathers, or herbs in his enclosure. or hide and attack unsuspecting people as they arrived home. For this
While such objects were frcquencly there, I was never present when they reason the protection of Legba was important. "So, if you become sick,"
were placed on or near chc legba. Inside the compound, however, near I asked, "could you go to Korie-Bu (the largest public hospital in Ghana)
_ _ _ _ _....
m y neighbor's doorway, was a more puzzling object noc particularly and explain to the doctor that you had this seselelame one day as you
comprehensible to me since it did not look the way I thought a leg/Ja came in, and then a couple days later you began to fall ill?" Raphael
should appear. 19 It resembled a stone embedded in the earth, with a laughed at my question and replied, "No, you would not talk like thac
round (approximately eight-inch diameter) section protruding through to a doctor at Korie-Bu. You would simply report to him that you had .
the dirt. One day I drove into the compound, and as I approached my fever. and had been feeling certain aches and pains. " 20
house the cire of the car passed over this "rock." I was startled-feeling As our conversation progressed, however, Raphael began to appreci-
a strong jolt in my body-and then felt rather uneasy for the next few ate why I asked this question. "Yes, I may gee sick and go to Korie-Bu,"
days. My husband told me that he was quice certain that rock was a he commented, "but then remember the seselelame from a few days be-
legba, but as time passed I let the experience slip from my mind. fore as l came through che door. I would not discuss it with the doctor,
Months later we were in Accra visiting with two members of the fam- but just take what the doctor prescribed and then additionally go to con-
ily-a journalist and a customs officer employed by the government. sult with l)kuet;,t;,wo or etogat;,wo." !':fkuet:>t:nvo (1Jk11: eye; et;,: three;
Abruptly the journalist asked, ~All the time you drive the car in and out t:J: agent; ivo: plural) were people who could see beyond whar ordinary
190 Anlo Cosmology, 1hc Senses, and l'racciccs of Pro1ec1ion Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and Practices of Proccccion 191

,;

human beings could sec, or people with a third eye; and etogat:>wo ((e)to: must learn patience. If an adult is speaking, you must open your ears and
car; ga: large, great; t:>: agent; wo: plural) were people with magnified listen. If you are patient and hear what one says, the pool that is the
hearing or a large car, people who could hear things that ordinar)' peo- source of life, you will take from it. le is for this reason that one says
ple could nor hear. After consulting with l)kt1et:>t:>wo or etogat:>wo, the 11od1111, vodmz, rest to draw the water; rest to draw the water.'"
person might return to the threshold and detect (through observation, Little agreement existed among my Ania-speaking mofialawo about
touch, smell, or taste) traces of a black powder or some ocher substance the precise meaning or designation of the Ewe term vodu. As mentioned
that they had not seen or perceived when originally coming through the earlier, it was interchangeable in many people's minds with other words
door. such as tr:> or legba. One can appreciate this divergence by considering
Thresholds, then, were for many people an eminently dangerous site, how many Euro-Americans might argue over exactly what constimtes a
an area where highly charged and typically invisible forces could lurk spirit as compared to a saint, ghost, phantom, demon, apparition, god,
and attack. 21 This perception held true for the threshold of a commu- deity, angel, and so forth. Etymologically, however, we can better un-
nity, compound, household, or an individual person, so Legba was called derstand the term vodtt by analyzing its component parts. In Ewe, vo is
upon to monitor (and even to "seize and collect at one place") what said by some to mean "to be at leisure, be disengaged and free," or "to
passed over the thresholds of these various domains, manipulating senses rest and be at ease" (Westermann 1973[1928):268), while du is afren
of movement. Furthermore, that which passed over thresholds had the translated as "snatch away, tear, pull," and du tsi refers to "fetching or
potential to harm or seriously impair the household or community's pulling water" (as from a well) (Westermann 1973(1928]:17). (But for
health and well-being, and so "empowerment objects" were often em- an alternate etymology of vodu, sec Rosenthal 1998:174). Embedded in
ployed to protect people from such threats. Finally, sight was not the these morphemes are glimpses of what Blier's informant meant by his
sense to rely on as one crossed a threshold; other senses or other aspects statement "vodrm, vodrm: rest to draw the water," which harken back
of seselelame, such as hearing a faint sound or noting an unusual smell, to our analysis of yb as a sign of a cultural preponderance for inward
might indicate that something was amiss. Only a fool, many people ex- focus. Why then has vodu often been translated or conceptualized (par-
pressed, would pay attention to merely those things perceived by the ticularly among scholars) as a cult, a religion, a god, or even reduced to
eyes. How was one co cope with the demands of all these potencial in- a material object such as a charm or statuelike idol (a fetish)?
visible powers lurking around thresholds and hovering about in other My own research reveals that many Ania-speaking people perceived
spaces and corners? For many Anlo-speaking people, the answer lay in and talked about vodu more as a philosophy than as a religion or even
practices of vod11 and in related philosophical notions that emphasized a spirit. An epistemological comparison of vodu with two ocher cosmo-
interoceptive and internal modes of knowing beyond the five fields of logical phenomena-tr:> and legba-may begin to establish the distinc-
sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell. tiveness of what I call "vodu metaphysics." At first glance the following
discussion by Gilbert seems to suggest that vodu has a tangible and vis-
ible dimension (or that vodu can be conceptualized as representationally
VODU METAPHYSICS: PO\VE.R GLE.ANE.D embodied small gods), but a deeper reading actually supports an alter-
FROM "RE.STING TO DRAW THE. \VATE.R"
native view, that vodu is much more amorphous and indeterminate th~m
Ewe and Fon are closely related languages, and the term vodu, or vodrm, other cosmic phenomena such as legba or tr:>.
refers to ancient concepts and philosophical views that were pervasive
among Anlo speakers with whom I worked and that seem to be wide- Vod11 ... arc protcccive gods brought from Benin and Nigeria; chey can be
bought and owned by certain individuals. Vodu may be rcprcscnccd in the
spread among many Ewe and Fon speakers in coastal areas spanning form of a big calabash or merely by a bunch of herbs in a small concainer,
Ghana, Togo, and Benin. One of Blier's Fon-speaking informants ex- but they can also take the same form as alegba or d11-/egba ... Like alegba
plained co her (1995:40), "Life is a pool that humans come into this and d11-legba, vod11 images arc found along the roadside or outside the en-
world and find. We must be patient. When you arc born in a family you trance to houses. They arc somccimes grouped with alegba, but one visual
Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and l'r.Kllccs of Protection ,. Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and Practices of Protection 1.n

distinction is often made between them. While 11ocl11 arc somctuuc~ left un Mr. Tamakloe: Yes, deities.
covered, as arc alegba, usual!) they arc completely cndosrd inside a conical KLG: And chen the 11od11?
thatched hut. t\legba and du-legba arc never so cndosed. (Gilbert 198i.:6i.)
Mr. Tamakloc: Practices and riruals. \ladu is more or less the combination
of these culc practices.
My own experiences in Anlo-land require making this distinction more
KLG: Vodu would encompass the tr:i, the shrine that concerns a
emphatic: tiodu were rarely (if ever) left uncovered and probably always specific tr:>? [I tried to underscandl.
"completely enclosed inside a conical thatched hut." Therefore, while Mr. Tamakloe: Well, another aspect of che tr:>. Like vod11da (a snake(: 10
Gilbert provides a hint of the perceptory distinctions we find among d11da is part of Ycve. And some other ones, like K:>klnm.
vodu, tr:>, and legba, I would take it further and suggest that a tr:> was KLG: K:>kucu? The people who use knives?
generally perceived as having a kind of "personality" as well as hodily Mr. Tamakloe:Yes, K:ikuuu. That is a 11od11.
features and actual sensory abilities or sensibilities ( Fiawoo r 9 59a: 5 r ). KLG: That's a vod11? I'm not sure I underscand. You arc saying
Fiawoo even goes so far as to state (1959a:76) that "anthropomorphic that l!Od11 means certain rices, certain practices that people
character and personality are without question ascribed to the trowo" in the K:ikuuu sect engage in?
(tr:>wo is the plural form of tr:>). In contrast, vodu fell more in the realm Mr. Tamakloe: Yes, practices. K:Jku is the knife. They begin to cut, but it
of metaphysics, being more like a power, a philosophy, or even a state- doesn't bleed [if the devotees have been faithful).
of-being harnessed through "resting to draw the water" and interocep- KLG: So some of what they do is vodu? [I tried to clarif)).
tivelr known. In informal discussions some Ania-speaking people char- Mr. Tamakloe: Right.... In most cases vod11 is related to herbal
knowledge. Some herbs you can use for this thing, others
acterized vodu as "some kind of power," whereas others refused to make
for another thing. They can put it at the place where a
clear distinctions in their daily experiences. Thus I agree with Gilbert shrine is. When you get deep into l'Odu, it is herbal knowl-
( 198 :z.:6:z.), who writes that Du-/egba, alegba, and vodu relate to many
k edge.
facets of Ewe experience, details of which may not always be readily ver- KLG: So when you build a leg/Ja, you use vodu? You put
balized by the people themselves." something under it?
These issues of perception, distinction, or ability to verbalize their ex- Mr. Tamakloc: Yes, )'OU put something into it. But they won't tell rou how
periences of vodu are illustrated in an interview I recorded with a man they made it. It's secret knowledge.
I call Mr. Tamakloe, who lived in Anloga. Our discussion, edited exten-
sively for inclusion here, suggests that 11od11 represents something like In this exchange it became apparent that vodu was conceptualized as
"practices and rituals," which is consonant with Blier's (1995) portrayal practices, rituals, customs, and conventions of the various seers-or "or-
of vodun and with a deeper and more complex perspective on vodu as ders" in Rosenthal's ( 1998) parlance-and it was integrally tied to herbal
a metaphysical power and manipulation of the senses through practices or secret knowledge. Thus, in this way vod11 was drawn on in con-
rooted in "resting to draw the water." structing legba figures; vodu was drawn on in communicating or inter-
acting with a tr:>; and vodu was drawn on for empowerment within the
Mr. Tamakloe: With the Anlo, we have all these things: the tr:>, the vodu. context of various religious sects such as K:>kuuu, Blekete, or Yeve.22
All of them arc intcrt\vinccl. There is an element of vod11 in When examined chrough the lens of the sensorium, vodu strikes us as a
tr:>: things like that.
culturallr patterned way of manipulating sensory engagements-with
KLG: So how would you translate vod11 into English?
other persons, with animals and plants, with nature spirits, with lineal
Mr. Tamakloc: Vodu, hmmm. It's very difficult to translate. Practices. Ritu
ancestors, and so forth-in order to affect well-being and health. 23
als. And with the tr:mm, rituals arc there. It is very difficult
to draw a line between the 11od11 and the tr.,wo. Very While experiences with vodu seemed to range from very positive to
difficult. Because some things that arc used with the tr:> can extremely negative, the health of most Anlo-speaking people depended
be used over here too (he explained this while motioning (to a certain extent) on what I call a "metaphysics of vodu." Positively
from one hand to the other!. employed, vodu was like prayer and meditation, working as a leveling
KLG: So the tr:> arc mostly deities? effect on the body and the mind (or in terms of the nondualistic sesele
194 Anlo Cosmologr, the Senses, and Practices of Procection Anlo Cosmologr, the Senses, and Pracrices of Protection 195

lame), empowering one's sense of both balance and well-being. Nega- One day shortly thereafter Janice ran into an acquaintance who had
tively experienced, however, 11ocl11 was a source of disturbance, terror, studied the art of "spiritual healing." Without her reporting anything to
and fear. Either way, few Ania-speaking people could truly escape an him about her illness, che man suggested to Janice that something was
awareness and knowing of 110d1t, for as a metaphysical orientation it following her. He expressed intense concern, explaining chat it was in-
maintained a deep conceptual and embodied hold if largely in the un- visible so he did not expect she could see it but wondered whether she
conscious. The following vignette, related to me in 1992 by a midwife I had been experiencing some kind of "shadow effect." He asked if she
call Janice, makes this point. had m:tde a promise and failed to fulfill it. Despite her surprise at his
Janice grew up in the Volta Region of Ghana, in and around what acute perception of her sensations, Janice remembered no promise and
was deemed the Ania homeland, but as an adult she spent about twelve the sickness endured. Weeks later she suddenly recalled the demand for
years in Britain training as a nurse-midwife. She then returned to her a goat made by members of the vodu shrine, and she realized this "co-
hometown in the Volta Region and built a "maternity home," or what erced promise" fit her healer friend's notion of the etiology of her illness.
we might call a "women's health clinic." When I worked with her she She promptly delivered a goat to the vodtt priest, and after months of
was an active and high-level member of the professional organization having felt desperately ill, Janice reported that she recovered within two
known as the Ghana Registered Midwives Association, and she contin- or three days.
ued to tra vcl abroad to conferences and for pleasure. While Janice pro- This story illustrates a continuity between the experiential and the on-
fessed mostly scorn and disbelief in vodtt and related phenomena, she tological. For Janice, vodu had an unconscious though clear link to her
took me to meet a priest of a 11od11 center near her clinic and home. She sense of well-being, even though she had strived (in a more or less cog-
felt that as a student of Anlo-Ewe culcure I needed to be exposed to all nitive or intellectual way) to disavow it, in part because of her adher-
facets of life, but she did not conceal her belief that this man was igno- ence to Christianity. The metaphysics summed up in this experience in-
rant, superstitious, and backward. She :1lso knew that he was opposed volving vodtt indicates in yet another way that vodu is not a superficial
to her efforts to bring "development" and health-care services to this idea that can be easily discarded, nor is it a religious cult that can be
area. In serving together on a local district council, she felt that he joined. Rather, vodtt is a deeply embodied phenomenon residing largely
blocked her efforts to educate and improve the quality of life of young in the domain of seselelamc while being pervasive in Anlo cultural logic:
women and was against her efforts to disl,urse information about fam- an idea reminiscent of Bourdieu's habitus (1977:78-95) as "history
ily planning, contraception, an4 AIDS. She felt his attitudes were directly turned into nature."
related to his "traditional religious beliefs," which included the relega- In its purest meaning of "gleaning power from resting to draw water
tion of women to childbearing and domestic service. Accordingly, I was from a well," vod11 calls upon Anlo-Ewe (and Fon) philosophical ideas
received by this vodu priest in a less than warm and cordial way, and the about strength and resolve, or physical balance and health, deriving from
meeting was quite brief and uneventful. However, as we left the center, an ancient reservoir symbolized by water deep in the earth. The sym-
Janice recounted the following story. bology of water in Anlo contexts is quite powerful. One of the first cul-
When she returned from Britain in the early r97os, Janice had cause tural practices I learned during my sojourn in Anlo-land was to offer a
to interact (on a number of occasions) with various members of this vodtt cup of water to a guest immediately when she arrived at my home. Ini-
center. At the end of one particular meeting t1ey suggested she bring a tially thinking of this as simply a practical gesture in such intense hear,
.goat tQ sacrifice a~.Jhe shrine. Holding strongly negative beliefs about only later did I begin to reflect on the symbolism of water, rituals of of-
such "sacrificial rituals," Janice went home and forgot the request. A fering water to ancestors and guests, and the point I raised at the begin-
week later she became ill, visited the (hospital) doctor, took several ning of chapter 7: the fact that Anlo-land itself was surrounded by water.
courses of medicine, but failed to improve. Janice explained that she felt The Atlantic Ocean, the Volta River, and the Kera Lagoon: all bodies of
not only fatigued but also "hounded by something" as if it were "hov- water that provided essential sustenance and nourishment in Anlo
ering" about her or "following" her around. worlds. Furthermore, in many outdooring ceremonies (which introduced
_\

Anlo Cosmolog}', the Senses, and Practices of Protection Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and Practices of Protection 197

a child to the family, community, and universe) water was sprinkled on The Anlo-Ewe word dm has commonly been translated into English as
the baby's body, thereby exposing the child to essential elements. When "magic" or "charm" (see Westermann 1973(c928):26), or it has been
I asked the seemingly straightforward question of wh> water was im- glossed using the more generalized West African term ;11;u. 2 ~ Variously
portant, people were incredulous. "We must have water, we arc made of conceptualized as fetish, amulet, sorcery, or medicine, at the root of dlO is
water, our bodies would perish without water," one person impatiently the artistry, science, or sensibility of transformations of material and psr-
declared. After the birth of a baby in Kpbt:>b, family members, the mid- chological states. Blier ( 1995:205-238) suggests similar interpretations for
wife, and I poured libations, and I asked once again why water was used certain vodim art forms (especially boci:J) in Fon and Ewe culture, demon-
as an offering to the ancestors ... Water is precious. We come from water strating that manr of the practices associated with these objects arc in-
before we are born. And when we die ther put us in the ground where tended not only to transmogrify matter but also (and perhaps more im-
we arc back with the water. We all need water, and we must share water portant) to alter mencal and emotional states. Here I argue, therefore, that
with all those we encounter-including the ancestors." The task of dzosasa can be conceptualized as transformative arts, and is a cultural prac-
"fetching water" was one of the ways many children learned to master tice aimed largelr at manipulations of seselelame. Then in chapter 9 we
a sense of balance, through repeated efforts at placing a bucket on top tum to how dmsasa can be linked to sensory perception and (in fact) how
of the head and carrying a load of water. ln these and other ways, the dzosasa (as transformative practices) is emblematic of experiential con-
recognition of water as tantamount to life itself could be observed in rit- nections among cosmic, social, and personal fields of well-being.
uals and daily habits. The section on vodu metaphrsics raised the issue of the need for pro-
Experiences with vod1', then, ranged from very positive (among peo- tection from malevolent forces and how this can involve employment of
ple who actively cultivated its powers) to extremely negative (among peo- dzoka and manipulation of sensory fields. Fiawoo explains ( 1959a:76),
ple who felt they had fallen victim to its force). Yet whether vodu was "The term dzosasa encompasses the whole field of magical charms for
experienced as negative or positive, for Anlo-speaking people health was both destructive and protective ends. A charm is normally a mixture of
almost invariably related co metaphysical notions of vod11. Janice be- varied ingredients, including animal, mineral or vegetable maucr." He
lieved that vodu was not a legitimate or real thing. But when we analyze lists ( 19 59:77-8 1) eighteen classic "charms" aimed at transforming con-
her perceptions and her experience and look at her story in ontological ditions such as the inability to conceive, the vulnerability of a newborn
and epistemological terms, despite conscious efforts to disavow herself baby, weakness in battle, lack of success in love, and so forth. Blier's ex-
from vodu, Janice was involuntarily entangled in this metaphysics. To planation of the relation between boci:J (sculptural) forms and well-being
sustain one's health, Janice and many Anlo-speaking people maintained among the Fon also illustrates the role of dzosasa in many Anlo-Ewe con-
a consciousness about the potential of vodu and protected themselves texts, especially in regard to healing. Many people who practice arts such
from the negative side of vodu forces and power-as Janice did through as dzosasa are focusing on what seems to be a contradictory valuation of
her sacrifice of a goat. Protection was in part accomplished through em- both .. constancy and transmutability" and this (Blier suggests) "corre-
plorment of dzokawo or dzosasa, so the discussion will now turn to an sponds with the principle aims of boci:J sculptures in maintaining life and
examination of transformative arcs. encouraging well-being, particularly by transforming and dissipating sit-
uations of difficulty or potential trauma" (Blier 1995:209). These "situ-
ations of difficulty or- potential trauma" that need "transforming and dis-
LEOSASA: TRANSFORMATIVE ARTS
sipating" could include those listed previously or could involve something
While living in Sr:>gboe I had a dream that took place in a chemistry lab. less formulaic than the "classic charms" cataloged by Fiawoo. For in-
In the dream a person handed me a stone (which fit perfectly into my stance, my interest was in how people perceived situations of difficulty
hand) and then explained, "You can turn this into anything you like." or potential trauma that needed dissipating or transforming. What kinds
Several days later I recounted the dream to my friend Raphael, and he of phenomena were experienced and perceived as either the workings of
stated simply, "That's dzosasa. You were dreaming about dzosasa or dzo or in need of the influence of dzo? The following accounts arc merely
dzoka." two from dozens described to me by various m:J{ialawo.
198 Anlo Cosmologr, the Senses, and Practices of Protection Anlo Cosmology, the Senses, and Practices of Protection 199

Acco11rtt One: A familr moved imo a house for which they had paid five count of the phenomena of legba, vod11, and dtoka. It provides :m ex-
years rent in advance. At night the)' heard the voices of people co11\'ersing ploration of how the senses manifest in the cosmic realm and how this
on the first floor, they smelled the aroma of various soups and freshlr
cooked 11kple (a staple food for Ewe people, made from cassava and corn influences or relates to the general province of health. At the beginning
dough}, and they heard the sounds of pots and pans being moved ahout in of che chapter I suggest chat well-being is based in a consensus aboul or
the kitchen. When they descended the stairs and entered the kitchen, how- a common notion of sensed phenomena, sensed and perceived "reali-
ever, they could see nothing out of place. Despite numerous consultations ties," and interpretations of what is real, perceivable, imagined, fanta-
with diviners and specialists, nothing they did (no cilokawo that they sized, and so forth. l then explore some basic aspects of Anlo cosmo-
employed) could combat this force, and they eventually moved out of the
house. logical perceptions, such as Mawu-Segbo-Lisa as the experience of
supreme (well-) being or as god, Nyigbla's ability to strike people dead,
Acco11T1t 1iuo: A scudent moved in with a middle-aged woman-a remote the role of one's amedz::Jt::J (ancestral sponsor) in shaping an individual's
relative-when he first attended college. He began suffering from se\'ere
sensibility, and so forth. I suggest that a reinterpretation of their religious
headaches and an inability to concentrate upon sitting down to study. As-
pirins and other medically prescribed pharmaceuticals failed to relieve his system, including a new analysis of specific components such as vodu
symptoms. He consulted a diviner who was able to see the woman placing and dlosasa, allows for an understanding of these as practices and tech-
various dt.okarvo in his quarters. The diviner explained that the woman niques for sensory ma11ip11/atio11 aimed at influencing the bala11ce of
wanted her own son to succeed in school and had previouslr emplo)ed health. In addition, approaching their traditional religion as a system of
dzosasa to sabocage other young men sta)ing in her house. TI1e college stu- the body-as a metaphysics that emphasizes the interoceptive and in-
dent returned home, looked to see that a dtoka or two were indeed hidden
in his room, and promptly moved out. He also employed his own cV.oka to trospective valuation highlighted in chapter 6-allows us to better un-
then prevenr this situation from arising again. derstand the psychological influence vod11 obtains throughout Anlo cul-
tural worlds and not simply for individuals who state an explicit belief
The anecdotal nature of these accounts is readily appart:nt, and I did nae in vodu. This discussion focusing on the senses highlights some of the
even attempt to verify the "reality" of pocs and pans moving in the night forces (many invisible) that arc "known" to those who have grown up
or to measure any markers of the headaches' etiology since authentica- in the area and brings to the foreground specific sensibilities at play in
tion was not my goal. Rather, I was interested in the issue of /1erception Anlo-Ewc "intentional worlds."
and how cultural models connect to the social experiences of individu- I argue that many Ania-speaking people hold complex notions of that
als Uackson and Karp 199o:I2.). 25 Dzosasa was an old and important which is beyond the visible realm, and they utilize multiple sensor}' fields
idea for many Anlo speakers, and when people experienced or perceived (coalescing in sesclelame) co discern what is happening around and in-
something they classified as dtosasa they were standing at the confluence side of themselves. Their preponderance for the proprioceptive and in-
of personal, social, and cosmic fields (of [well-) being). That is, a person teroceptive sensory modes that we saw exhibited in the discussion of the
might sec, hear, feel, smell, or intuit something that in one circumstance etymology of their name (from IJfa) is repeated here in the focus on vodrt
might be perceived as a routine social phenomenon (cooking occurring as a system of metaphysical maintenance (keeping the inner world bal-
in the kitchen) and in another situation as an extraordinary event (cook- anced). And vodrt functions, in many ways, as a set of manipulable arts,
ing oc;cLU'ring in the kitchen with no human beings present). With the ways of working with sensory fields to maximize knowing and maxi-
addition of that last componeht (no human beings present), this phe- mize balance in regard to seselelame. For example, the account of a di-
nomenon automatically became a "situation of difficulty or potential viner perceiving Mr. Adzomada's amedz:>t:> (ancestral sponsor) to be
trauma" that needed "transforming and dissipating," so sensory ma- wearing shoes is enriched through understanding the local epistemolog-
nipulation was accomplished through ckosasa. 26 ical links between the sensory-emotional and the dispositional and vo-
cational aspects of an individual's life. Vodrt and other spiritual practices
In conclusion, this chapter outlines three dimensions of the cosmologi- arc thus shown to operate as a kind of sensorium beyond the body (some
cal system of many Ania-speaking people: the basic structure or hierar- would call this a virtrtal reality), while holding a clear relationship to the
chy of the cosmos, the role Nyigbla plays in the system, and a brief ac- sensorium instantiated in the body during child socialization. The ex-
.!.00 Anln Cosmology, the Senses, and Practices of Protection

CllAl'TER 9
ternal world is manipulated (through ritual and spiritual practices in
11od11 and dwsasa) to affect the internal world (the milieu interior); and
the inner world (psycho-emotional-sensory states, or what Anlo people Well-Being, Strength, and
refer to as seselelame) is manipulated to change circumstances in their
external environment. Health in Anlo Worlds
Clearly this discussion could be taken much further, and I therefore
suggest that this chapter simply opens the door to further research that
could delve into much deeper portrayals of the sensory dimensions of
Anlo and Ewe religious experience. But what has been accomplished here
is to demonstrate that well-being is inextricably tied to the cosmologi-
cal, in many different ways, and the ontological ramifications of this
point are better understood with a grounding in local notions of sensory
fields and an Anlo-Ewc category (for feeling in the body) called sesele-
lame. And finally, when we approach their traditional religious system
through the lens of the local sensorium, we find that the senses are de-
ployed in culturally pacterned ways to provide avenues for knowing and
engaging with lineal ancestors, nature spirits, and god.
I suggested in chapter 7 that well-being in many Ania-speaking contexts is
dependent on something that Thompson ( 1966) refers to as "an aesthetic
of the cool." He argues that this principle of a cool, even-tempered stance
is not only an imponant facet of Yoruba art, music, and dance, but it is
"comparable to Canesian philosophy in point of influence and imponance"
throughout West Africa (Thompson 1966:86). In the last chapter I took
this focus on the "mediating principle in cool water" funher with a rein-
terpretation of the local meaning of vodtt. l showed how an ancient phi-
losophy of 11od11 emphasizes the process of obtaining personal strength
through "resting to draw the water," or meditating on the critical and sen-
sual role that water plays in everyday life and health. What I have described
for a 11od11 metaph)sics in Anlo contexts parallels Thompson's point that
the Yoruba "posit water, certain leaves, and other items as symbols of the
coolness that transcends disorder and without which community is im-
possible" (1966:86). Toward that end, in chapter 7 we explored the bal-
ancing of heated and cool dancing at a local ritual in Sr:>gboe, which was
aimed at restoring the community's health and equilibrium.
An "aesthetic of the cool" can also be seen in certain child-rearing prac-
tices. Chapter 5 touched on the imponance of aurality in a child's encul-
turation and described how "listening well" involved minding one's par-
ents. Disobedience and obstinate behavior was sometimes dealt with
(especially by older people) through "ear pulling" (tohehe), which sym-
bolized the imponance of the car and the emphasis on listening well in the

201
!01 Well-Being, Srrength, and Health in Anlo Worlds Well-Being, Strength, and Health in Anlo Worlds !03

procc..-ss of becoming a moral person. In this vein, parents talked to me abour different categories of disease, described as "d:Jtsoafe or sickness of natu-
teaching rheir children to hear certain things and let them pass right through ral causation and gb:Jgb:mzed:> or sickness of [a) supernatural" cause (Fia-
the body, to remain cool and keep a collectedness of mind. To maintain sta- woo 19 59a:i..8 5). While Fiawoo used the English terms natural and s11/1er-
bility and not become ill, it was important for children to learn a kind of natrtral to characterize the division, I was concerned that this distinction
maintenance or regulation of sesclelame (hearing, feeling in the body) such represented less how Anlo speakers thought about different sicknesses and
that imbalances and overstimulation did not lead to impulsive and exces- was more of "a dichotomy that often appears in Western comments on
sive behavior. non-Western medical theories" (L'lderman i99r:r5). Etymologically,d:Jt-
This chapter examines how well-being is integrally bound up with sen- soa/e (d:J: sickness, illness; tso: from; afe: home) signified a common, every-
sory experience and sensory engagements. I develop the ideas introduced day, household-cype sickness, while gb:Jgb:Jmed:J (gb:Jgb:J: spirit, ghost; me:
in the last chapter by directly addressing various kinds of illnesses and afflic- in; d:J: sickness) literally meant "a spirit in the sickness." Furthermore,gb:>g-
tions, including the loss of certain sense modalities, in an effort to exam- b:Jmed:J was not exactly considered "un-natural" since the spirit world was
ine links between a sensorium and theories of disease. Here I am suggest- an organic and normal part of everyday experience. But illnesses labeled
ing that recognition of the social basis of health and healing compels us to gb:>gb:Jmed:> were definitely not as common as those labeled "illnesses frol\1
take account of variations in sensoriums because certain illness states may home" (d:Jtsoafe); and the former were somewhat unusual in that they
involve grounding in a sensory order different from the orthodox sensory posed a challenge for human beings in search of a cure. When l asked Anlo
order of a cultural group. 1 For instance, hearing things that those around speakers to translate gb:>gb:>med:> into English, they usually said "a spiri-
you do not or cannot hear or seeing things that others deem invisible or tual sickness" (rather than a "supernatural" or "unusual" illness). The
nonexistent arc symptomatic of insanity and losing one's grounding in re- salient feature of gb:Jgb:Jmed:> seemed to be that embodied in the illness
ality, or at least indicate adherence to an alternate reality. In Anlo-Ewe was almost literally a spirit; or, a spiritual component was a major aspect
speaking contexts, the notion of se or sese (as in seselelame) not only is the of this cypc of disease. This in rum implied chat irs cure was beyond the ju-
closest idea we have to the English term for sensing bur also refers in their risdiction of humans, including many of the healers.
world co the ideas of obediettce and adherence, which I suggest illustrates The determination for whether a disease or illness was classified as
the way in which sensing grou~.ds a person in the "intentional world(s)" d:1tsoafc or gb:Jgb:m1cd:J was rather complicated and circumstantial.
shared with others. Condition~ of insanity were expressed by many Anlo However, in hoping for a neat and clear delineation, I asked whether
speakers as equivalent to the loss of all one's senses, and, conversely, sens- d:>tsoafe would not include such illnesses as minor stomach aches
ing (as those around you sense and perceive things) forms a strong basis (d:miec{11i), headaches {taquame), and coughs {kpe) that dissipate or do
for the actual maintenance of sanity and adherence to what people think not linger as well as malaria (asra), dysentery (kpeta), measles (gbari),

-------
of as material reality. So I begin this chapter by laying our some general in-
formation about illness concepts but then move to an example of a specific
chicken pox (aqibaktt), and so forth. I suspected that gb:1gb:1med:J must
cover inflictions such as infertility and dtikuicltikui (dzi: to bear; ku: to
affliction that involves the "sense of speech" (mtfofo) and feelings in the die), in which the children of one woman consistently died, as well as
mouth (sesetormme). This leads to further discussion of the somatic and tohorz:>fui, contracted when a person was struck by lightening, or g11d:>,
sensory mode of attention that involves an "aesthetic of the cool," or keep- which constituted a puffiness or bloated condition associated with e1111
ing balanced and calm in an effort to prevent sickness. (a condition called "mouth," which will be described momentarily). The
distinction was not what I anticipated, however, since any stomach ache,
cough, or bout of malaria (for instance) could mutate into a spiritual
ON D:JTSOAFE AND GB:JGB:JMEDO: "NATURAL"
sickness under various (and idiosyncratic) circumstances.z One specific
AND "SUPERNATURAL" TYPES OF DISEASE
kind of illness, called em1, illustrates how sensory models are integrally
When an individual became ill, it was usually referred to in Anlo-Ewe as tied to health and loss of health, whether from spirits or sickness from
"catching" or "seizing" sicknc..-ss (d:J/e/e). Broadly speaking, there were two the home.
Wcll-Hcmg, Strength, and Health in Anlo Worlds Well-Being, Strength, and He.11th in Anlo Worlds !05

si\e modes. If em1 results largely from nufofo (or from some aspect of
ENU SEIZING THE MOUTH IN CASES
OF ANIMOSITY AND BAD WI LI.
or quality in the sense of speech), it illustrates how certain cultural mod-
els of sensing and embodiment are "linked to the social experience of
Numerous times when I observed deliveries managed by a tradicional the individual" (Jackson and Karp 1990: 12).
birth attendant in and around Sr:>gboe, I wicnessed the effects of some- That chapter also presented a cultural model in which 1111/ofo (speak-
thing Anlo-speaking people referred co as em1, or literally, .. mouch." In ing) involved sound waves affecting the speaker while simultaneously
cases where labor pains were severe or when chere was a delay in labor, traveling outward and enveloping the listener. Words in Anlo-land, there-
the traditional birth attendant usually brushed the woman's abdomen fore, were described as not simply thoughts or mental phenomena, but
with a twelve-inch whisk in an effort co discard the causes of enu. Enu, coming from the body as well as the mind (see Houston and Taube z.ooo
they explained, was a very bad sickness chat usually seized children buc for similar claims about ancient Mesoamerica). As in other Wesc African
could also attack pregnant women. The cause of this illness, I was cold, contexts, many Anlo speakers believed there was power not simply in
was bad will or enmity among household members or between people "'words as carriers of referential meaning, but in the sounds of the
within the same familr. Despite being closely associated with "the words" too (Stoller r984b:568). Among the neighboring Fon speakers,
home," whether enu was classified as d:Jtsoafe or gb:Jgb:}med:J always ... Critical to the activation potential of speech is both its transferential
depended on the specific case. nature and its potent social and psychodynamic grounding" (Blier
While che most common meaning of che word em1 was simplr "mouth," 1995:77). The "transferential nature" of nufofo (speaking) included
it could also be glossed as "opening, entrance, edge, brink, point; end, con- more than imparting meaning or "mental ideas," for in en11, speaking
tents, amount, quantity; effect" (Wescermann 1973[ 19z.8):177). Whr was was one of the culprits in the transference of emotional, psychological,
this word used co describe this specific affliction? A child (or pregnanr and physiochemical disturbance. That is, when bad will or enmity was
woman) would be seized with em1 because of disrespectful, wicked, or evil expressed in verbal exchange, it was not simply the meaning of the dia-
things chac passed through the mouchs of people in the household. The scace logue that caused children and pregnant women to fall sick, but rather
of e1111 (the sickness called .. mouth") symbolized, to a certain extent, en- children sensed the animosity and rancor and it was transferred to their
mity and bad will flowing through openings and entrances and having an very bodies in part through the striking action of the speech. 3 In regard
effect on the vulnerable-pregnant women and children in the house. (This to this "notion of speech as wielding an unknown potential: 'Speech is
is reminiscent of the significance of thresholds and our discussion of /egba irreversible; that is its fatality. What has been said cannot be unsaid, ex-
in chapter 8.) Nufofo (the sense of speaking) was thus believed co be one cept by adding to it'" (Blier 1995:76-77).4 Once speech containing an-
of the primary forces and channels involved in the etiology of enu. imus was externalized, children (and pregnant women) began absorbing
Chapter 3 explored how s/1eaking is not considered a sense in mosc the negative energy. In fact, through sesetonume (feeling in the mouth)
contemporary Western culcures buc chat many societies do indeed count one could absorb one's own bad speech, so speaking was believed to be
speech as part of their sensorium. Whereas our five-senses model rein- one of the primary forces involved in the etiology of en11. Children, on
forces the idea of the senses as nacural faculcies and as "passive recipi- the other hand, were not believed to contract emt from their own sese-
ents of data" and we think of speaking as involving "an active cxccr- tonume, or feelings in the mouth, but rather through bodily absorption
nalization of data" (and to be an acquired or learned skill), for many .of the physical power of the words. 5
cultural groups the senses in general are conceived of as .. media of com- These acrimonious exchanges, characterized locally as enu, generally
munication" (Classen 1993b:z.). We use our sensorr apparatus not only resulted in a serious illness such as one that some Anlo-speaking people
to receive data (as in perceiving and "reading" other people and phe- called gud:J. While I never observed a case of gud:J, it was described for
,, nomena in our environment) but, as sensate creatures, we also employ me as a condition in which the person exhibited .. puffiness," was
'' our senses in acts of communication. In the same way that we touch noc swollen, inflamed, or "blown up." Westermann ( 1973( 1928):79) defined
only to apprehend something but to make scatements, many Anlo speak- it as "a sickness acquired by committing a wrong," but some m:Jfia/awo
ers conceptualize or imagine 1111/ofo (speaking) in both active and pas- I consulted deemed that description incorrect. That is, if e1111 seized a
!06 Well-Reing, Strength, and Health in Anlo Worlds WcllBcing, Strength, and Health in Anlo Worlds !07

child and it resulted in gud:i, it was the wrong-doing of other members pie charged with the responsibility of curing this affliccion (or laying the
of the family that caused the disorder and not a transgression on the part groundwork of reconciliation that would allow healing to cake place)
of the child himself. The way in which Westcrmann's explanation was had co guard their own aural channels.
acceptable to certain m:ifialawo, however, was twofold. First of all, he Several diffcrenr rituals seemed to be applicable in cases where em1
translated it as "dropsy," or edema (Westermann 1973( 19:t.8):78), which had occurred. One m:ifiala explained that "you perform arbitration and
people considered an accurate gloss for the "puffiness" the)' perceived rites. You put herbs into a bowl. You 'say your say' [speak the things
when children absorbed the animosity. Second, and more to the heart of that you have grievances about) and drop them into the bowl [actually
philosophical issues, people did not become ill all on their own, but an earthenware pot). The other party docs the same. You both wash your
rather sickness was due in pare to the influences of those around the in- hands in the water. This heals the enmity." Another m:ifia/a, Fiagbedzi
dividual. With these clements of the cultural model firmly in hand, sev- the reacher, described two different ricuals (one involving fire, the other
eral m;:,fialawo agreed with Westermann's observation ( 1973( 1928j:78) based in the potency of saliva), which I observed performed on numer-
that gud:i was a result of trespassing "against acknowledged laws of de- ous occasions. In the following quote from an audiocapcd interview, Fi-
cency, respect or reverence," and they added that when the family as a agbedzi used the term "incinerator" to mean the designated area in the
unit committed such a wrong, someone was bound to suffer from gttd:J compound or ward where garbage was routinely burned, and by "pot"
or to acquire emt of another form. The transgressions of the famil>' were he meant the covered barrel or clay pot in which drinking water was
appropriated into the body of the child (or occasionally a pregnant stored within the home.
woman); these individuals thereby contracted gud:i or exhibited symp-
toms from another manifestation of the larger category of afflictions re- [E/1111 kills very quickly. It is a spiritual disease, bur you sec it physically in
ferred to by many Anlo speakers as emt (see Riesman 1992:109 for a that a child can he vomiting, or have swelling. You use certain herbs, or
similar condition among the Fulani). you take the child to the incineraror. You put the child near the incinerator,
then )'OU use the broom. You can put something on the ground early in the
How was e1111 diagnosed and cured? Emt could be detected by any of
morning, or late in the evening, and place the child on it. Then you start to
the main types of Anlo healers: bob, or Afa priests; amegashi, or di- say some words, all the things chat you have been doing: if they are the
viners; gbedala and atikew:i/a, or herbalists and "root doctors"; and alSo things which have been worrying the child, they must go into the incinera-
by vixela (midwives and traditional birth attendants). Whether the av- tor, to discard the bad will, discard or destroy the "garbage." Mostly chil-
erage person without special training or experience could recognize emt dren get 1111, not many adults. You don't sec it clearly (or much) among
adults. It is in the children, almo~t all the reflection goes into the children: it
was not very clear, though most people seemed to believe it was neces-
is there that we get to know the parents (or other members of the house-
sary to consult a specialist. Often a child was initially taken to a clinic, hold, compound, famil)) are not on good terms. They do things that they
but after injections and pharmaceuticals failed to produce results, the shouldn't do to each other.
family would confer with a diviner, herbalist, or another popular med- During birth there must be certain rituals. The pregnant woman may
ical practitioner. Ultimately, I was informed, the proper authority was a not be on good terms with others in the house. That (bad will) can prevent
member of the Ame clan. Indeed, Nukunya explained in his ethnogra- the childbirth. They must take the pregnant woman near to the pot. She
must take the water and spit it onto the pot three times-thinking that
phy that members of the Ame clan "have the prerogative of settling any everyone goes there to drink the water, and therefore you arc now trying to
dispute between kinsfolk that has resulted in sickness for one or both reconcile with other people. You take the water into you, and you spit it
. ~r,, parties {mtgbidodo)" (Nukunra 1969b:196). Included among the vari- out three times, onto the pot, so we assume you have settled any dispute
! ous taboos prescribed for chis clan, members were not allowed to "be with others ....
.! During festivals, at Hogbetsotso on reconciliation day, they are doing
held by the ear. If held by one car by mistake the other car must also be
the same thing-reconciliation-because it is also 1111. The paramount chief
held" (Nukunya i969b:r9 5, emphasis added). Those who performed
may be doing bad things which the subchiefs cannot see. Mc knows that
reconciliation could not let their auditory organs be pulled, tampered certain things may have gone on all over but they cannot come to him and
with, or harmed. With the root of emt (or a major dimension of its cause) say it, so it is because of that he goes there to say it: "You people have been
being "mouth" and m1fofo, or speaking, it was striking chat those peo- doing this, this, this, and it has been making me angry but I couldn't say it,
208 Well-Being, Scrcngch, and Healch in Anlo Worlds Well-Being, Strength, and Health m Anlo Worlds 209

so it is today that I want co let you know it is had, the things you have been grounding" (nlier r 99 5:77 ). Therefore, a proverb used occasionally in
doing arc bad." Then a subchicf will stand up and say all che chings that Euro-American contexts, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but
the paramount chief has been doing which have annoyed the subchicfs, and words will never hurt me," would probablr not ring true for many Anlo
they couldn't say it. "All these things we have been doing against c.1ch
other! We must ha\c peace." So they bring those things together, and spit people. So the "transferential nature" of 1111/ofo (speaking) includes more
onto themselves. Then peace has come. All these things arc called em1 or than imparting meaning or "mental ideas," for in em1, speaking is one
just plain 11u from the word for "mouth." of the culprits in the transference of emotional and physiological dis-
turbance, especially to children. In the presence of an acrimonious ver-
In efforts to deal with em1 in both childbirth and in reconciliation cer- bal exchange, it is not simply the meaning of the dialogue that causes
emonies of the body politic, I frequently observed ritual spitting or spray- children and pregnant women to fall sick, but rather it is perceived as a
ing water from the mouth. Among the neighboring Fon, "in the saliva phenomenon of seselelame (feeling in the bodrJ, and the animosit}' and
(atan) that one spits, accumulate the mysterious magical forces that em- rancor are transferred to their bodies in part through the striking action
anate from humans" and "[tlo put saliva on someone or an object con- of the sound of speech itself. It is not simply the hearing of an argument
stitutes ... the accompaniment of a wish". (Blier 199 5:78 ). furthermore, and the consequent psychological effect that are at stake here, but rather
in conversations.with numerous Anlo-speaking people about important the notion that once speech containing animus is externalized, adults can
practices that their children were required to learn, rinsing the mouth absorb their own anger through sesetormme (feeling in the mouth) and
immediately upon waking in the morning (before greeting or speaking children absorb the rancor through seselelame (feeling in the body, flesh,
to anyone) was consistently offered. Again, a similar practice has been or skin). To prevent such absorption, one older m:.>fiala, Adzoa Kokui,
documented among the Fon: "'[T)he mouth as an organ of speech explained that it was important for children to learn to hear things and
charged with power, should, to expulse the harmful magical forces that let them pass right through the body. This perspective illustrates how a
accumulate in the saliva at night, be vigorously rinsed in the morning central notion of well-being involves maintaining an "aesthetic of the
before addressing the greetings to no matter whom. The filth of the cool" discussed earlier, or a regulation of sensory stimulation. Speech in
mouth (1mgbe) designates the words of quarrel between adversaries'" this context moves out of the cognitive or purely psychological domain,
(Blier 199 5:380). What en11 illustrates is a cultural model for what Blier and the sensory and bodily dimensions of verbal exchange come to the
calls the "activation potential" of the sense of speech. An individual's foreground. 6
experience of speech occurs in the context of the recognition that enmity
or bad will can become embodied in the affliction called enu and can lit-
BEING WITHOUT SENSES: EXPERIENCES AND
erally kill.
SYMBOLISM OF "ALTERNATIVE SENSORY MODES"
Not in Anlo culture per se, but among Ewe people devoted to
Gorovodu, there exists an ethics of speech that reflects the notion...r...h..,ar.....__ __ Are blindness, deafness, or the inability to walk illnesses? Here I exam-
"speech is not just one's words or a repetition of other's words; it also ine how Anlo-speaking people conceptualized and treated sensory and
involves accents, scowls and tears, rage and seduction, all sorts of (every- somatic modes that were different from those of the norm in their "in-
body's) gestures. ~peech is also the mass of words inside, thoughts and digenous sensorium."
plans that must finally come out" (Rosenthal 1998:191). There is a sanc- Chapter 5 introduced the idea that flexibility was highly valued among
tion against acting without thinking in Gorovodu and support for con- Ania-speaking people through a discussion of how babies arc massaged
sulting with the gods. Anlo-Ewe people with whom I worked also and their joints flexed early in life in order co create supple, lithe bodies
stressed the strong links between speech and seselelame (feeling in the and flexible people. Chapter 6 took this topic further by noting connec-
body) and the importance of letting rancor or negativity pass right tions between this somatic mode of attention to flexibility and a cultural
through. logic emphasizing adaptability and accommodation to differing ways of
The sense of speaking among both Anlo-Ewe and Fon speakers clearly life. While I am not suggesting there is a simplistic causal relationship be-
holds a "transferential nature and ... potent social and psychodynamic tween mothers flexing the joints of newborn babies and Anlo-spcaking
.z.ro Well-Being, Strength, and l-lcalth in Anlo Worlds Well-Being, Srrcngth, and Health in Anlo Worlds

adults then holding a flexible psychological orientation, I am suggesting He would probably be in agreement wich the idea chac in regard to .. the
that an interest in and attention to flexibility is a cultural value chat ex- sensorium of the blind and deaf: 'one who sees wichout hearing, is much
ists among many Ania-speaking people on a physical level and as a theme more perplexed, and worried, than the one who hears without seeing.' The
elaborated in various areas of their cultural logic. 7 In terms of alternative blind ... have a more 'peaceful and calm disposition,' for it is easier to
sensory modes, chis attitude and approach based on a kind of pliability make sense of sound without sight than it is to make sense of vision wich-
is also revealed in the stance many people took toward blindness, deaf- out sound" (Synnott 1993:148). This particular m:J{iala articulaced nearly
ness, and so on. As one m:J{iala explained, "There arc no throw-away the same perspective, and then proposed chat going deaf actually shattered
people in Anlo society; everyone counts." Therefore, despite a person's all one's senses, especially balance. lf a person lost her sense of hearing, he
inability to hear, see, or move about on both legs, many people expres- indicated, it would disturb the organ in her ear related to balancing.
sed that the individual could still function in some vital role within the As was discussed in chapter 5, balancing (agbagba</.o</.o) was such an
community. important function in Anlo-land chat the inability co balance signified a
kind of failure to become or be human and was tantamount to the exis-
tence of wild animals or bush creatures crawling about on four legs. ln
The Grave /ntp/ications o{Tokuno, or Deafness
a similar vein, I asked Adzoa Kokui what they called people who either
Responses to the inquiry of which sense modality was the worst co lose did not hear well or who refused to listen well, and she offered the word
were very idiosyncratic. Some m:Jfialawo said chat sight was the worst gbemelawo-which connotes wild animals or creatures in the bush. She
physical loss, others perceived it co be easier co operate without being able explained chat not listening well or going deaf made you behave like g/Je-
to see than to function without the ability to hear, and a few talked of melawo-bush animals who had no family structure and ran wild
their misery when (due to an illness) they temporarily lose sensations of through the forests and hills. Disobedience was one form of not listen-
taste and smell. It would therefore be misleading to suggest chat all Anlo- ing well, but it seemed that losing the ability co hear was perceived as a
speaking people held a unified, homogenous attitude toward the prob- very grave condition chat disoriented a person and handicapped more
lem of which sense was the worst one to lose. The graveness with which general use of the various sensory functions such that it could make a
people spoke of the condition of being deaf, however, was quite striking. person literally go wild or become insane. In the course of my fieldwork
Interviewing Elaine one day, I asked her co explain a saying from a I did not meet or encounter anyone in Anlo-land who had lost their hear-
book of Ewe proverbs (Dzobo 1975:204), which seemed to suggest ing or was deaf, so this account is unfortunately limited to what people
something about the value of hearing: foleatik:Je be sese kfJ/e ame thought and reported about hearing impairments. I did, however, inter-
c[okuisin:Jn:J (The kite says that hearing and readiness go together). She act with several blind people.
answered, "Oh, that is another dialect. \Vie Anlos sar Awko be sese kple
c[okuisin:Jn:J. Amko is a hawk (and also the word for kite). Anlos don't
t-:f kuno or Loss of Sight
like chis bird. When it cries over your head, this means chat bad news is
coming. Or when it lands two or three times on your rooftop, there is A common proverb was often cited by people as a way of capturing what
bad news coming. So, yes, 'hearing and readiness go together.' When you ther perceived of as kind of a cultural orientation toward loss of vari-
hear the awko cry, you must brace yourself and be ready. Or when you ous sense modalities. The saying claimed, "If a blind man says he is going
hear cJ1e gunfire blast, you muse run away. If you don't heanl~e noise of co stone you, be sure that he has his foot set on a stone" (Ne qku-gbag-
the gun, they will capture you. So if you are deaf, it is a handicap: you bat:J be yele kpe /11 ge wo la, nyae be c[ee wo c[o af:J kpe dzi). This proverb
cannot be ready, you cannot respond. lf you can't hear, you will stay seemed to suggest that sight was by no means the only sense that allowed
there, and then the buffaloes will chop you!" (meaning-that you would one to actively participate in life. It implied that even if people had lost
be eaten by wild animals). their vision, they still possessed other faculties on which they could rely
Indeed, a prominent Anlo-speaking scholar suggested chat being with- (such as to11ch, in that his foot was in contact with a stone, and heari'1g,
out hearing was the worst state since it caused complete disorientation. since he could detect the person's location through listening to the voice
212 Well-Being, Strength, and Health in Anlo Worlds Well-Being, Strength, and Health in Anlo Worlds

or sound of movement). Indeed, this saying seemed to sum up a fairly speaking people, even when residing in Accra ~r ocher major cities. ~~at
common attitude among many Anlo speakers toward people with al- is, commercial transactions occurred largely Ill the context of familial
tered sensory modes. When I asked what it was like to be without sight, and language-based networks, and (more to the point) they were con-
people often pointed out that a blind person could still hear, speak, and ducted mostly with people one knew. In comparison, the impersonal na-
walk. When I asked what it was like to be without sound, they often in- ture of many commercial transactions in other cultural settings meant
sisted that the person was still able to see. As for being lame, their logic chat first impressions and "appearances" counted more heavily. A phar-
was that one still had the ability to hear, speak, see, and use one's mind. macy with a blind man behind the counter would probably not be suc-
Questions on this topic, therefore, tended toward a rather circuitous dis- cessful in a system where impersonal transactions were the norm. In
cussion or a circular form of logic, bur emerging as the essence was the Anlo-land, on the other hand, the pharmacist's blind condition was in-
notion that people who had lost abilities in one sensory field were still consequential since most people (most families) knew him, and they
expected to lead full and productive lives. knew he kept track of the medications contained in his various vessels.
The cultural logic exhibited in this attitude illustrates the idea of flex- Blindness in this context did not prevent individuals from contributing
ibility. For instance, a blind man who lived in our village would regu- something tu the commtm~y and from leading active lives.
larly venture into the lagoon, setting out nets and capturing fish. A young
woman in the community, who walked with a pronounced limp and used Tekuno-Buno: Lameness and the Inability to \'<la/k
a cane, still balanced items on her head and was still the object of a great
amount of attention from young men who flirted with her and consid- The attractive woman with the limp, mentioned previously, moved about
ered her appealing and pleasant. The point is that loss of sight (or any on public transportation (lorries, taxis, minivans) despite needing assis-
one specific sensory function) did not equal total impairment and was tance for boarding and disembarking. This issue of reliance on others
not perceived as an outright handicap or an impaired state of being. In- for assistance in basic movements raises the question of whether expe-
stead, dexterity was the expectation in that people were required to do riences and notions of dependence and independence are different in rel-
what they could with the faculties they still possessed, and such differ- atively more "sociocentric" compared with more ... egocentric" societies.
ences were no reason to shun or treat people with a lack of regard. What specific "somatic modes of anention" are involved when there is
Not long after I arrived in Anlo-land I came down with a minor med- impaired mobility or an alternative mode of movement? And what do
ical problem that I was confident could be treated with some nonpre- these "culturally elaborated" forms of attention to and with the body
scription drugs, and my hosts directed me to what they deemed a par- (Csordas 1993:138) reveal about the nature and relations of being
ticularly reliable pharmacy in Anloga. When I walked in and began among Ania-speaking people?
discussing my problem with the pharmacist, I was quite surprised to dis- Blindness, deafness, or the inability to walk are rarely approached (in
___....;;c.-o_.v.;;.er.that the man was completely blind. After he listened to my symp- the scholarly literature) from a phenomenological point of view. One such
toms, he turned around, walked to the glass cases lining the back wall, piece, however., sheds light on these questions. Describing the case of an
and silently counted shelves and jars to locate several different remedies American woman with quadrilateral limb deficiency, Frank ( 1986:214) ex-
he thought would work. He brought them over to the counter, showed plains, "From the perspective of Diane's embodiment in American culture,
me !!~ch one, and informed me of their respective merits. After this ex- it appears that mobility and independence of self-care are central values,
perience I asked numerous people whether they were uncomfortable hav- ends to be striven for in themselves. Anything that gave her more mobility,
ing a blind man dispensing medications in their community. They usu- more independence, was accepted and incorporated into her body scheme."
ally brushed it off with a comment such as, "Oh, as for him, we've Most Anlo-speaking people who engaged in alternative modes of mobility
known him for so long." Or they would say, "You can trust him; he (or who possessed what Euro-Americans would call a "disability") were
knows what he's doing." Such comments revealed more than attitudes not experiencing this same incense striving for more and more independ-
l
simply toward blindness. As I explained in chapter i., Anlo-speaking peo- ence. If we consider a spectrum ranging from independence to interde-
JI
ple conducted a great deal of their business among other Anlo or Ewe- pendence and then to dependence, I would suggest that in many Euro-
!I
t
Well-Being, Strength, and Health in Anlo Worlds Wcll-1\eing, Strength, and Health in Anlo Worlds
. .,
American contexts the emphasis is on the former, while Ania-speaking peo- de/11mclent /1erso11 with institutional type care or being an i11de/1e11de11t per-
ple arc more oriented roward and accuscomed to dependence on others. so11 with limited but attainable employment skills and capacity to take care
The culcural meaning of disability is simply not the same. of herself. To be 'independent' would require prosthesis use ... co 'increase
Since balancing (agbagbac[oc[o) and walking or moving (az:JliZ:JZ:J) her functioning,' although it was felt that Diane would always be very de-
were such significant functions or sensory experiences for many Anlo- pendent on others" (Frank c986:200). While I acknowledge the great dis-
spcaking people, how were those who had lose this sense modalicy crepancies when drawing a comparison between Kobla's and Diane's sit-
treated? How was their experience different from others around them? uations, in part because their respective disabilities were different (hers
During most of his elderly years, Mr. Kobla Ocloo had been in a wheel- were quadrilateral and congenital; his were acquired late in life and only
chair. While the topic of his disability was rarely broached, I observed a affected his legs), certain cultural differences arc still illustrated in the com-
fair amount of daily interactions among members of the household. The parison. The idea that Diane would always be "very dependent on oth-
striking thing was the ease with which Kobla's alternative mode of move- ers" contained a stigma-for therapists who worked with her, for the so-
ment (or az:J/iz:JZ:J) was integrated into a regular social routine typical ciety at large, and for Diane herself. This kind of discomfort or shame
of many Ania-speaking households. The structure of the house included surrounding dependency did not exist among most Ania-speaking people,
a continuous cement floor extending from the back rooms to the from thereby shifting che entire meaning of impaired or alternative mobility. In-
sitting room and then to the outside patio covered by a canopy from a terdependence and reliance on family members were unquestioned and in-
large tree. Kobla wheeled throughout these rooms, usually with the as- tegral parts of life for most Anlo-speaking people, and Kobla's case was
sistance of Sena or one of the younger members of che household. While perceived and accepted as simply another facet of this mode of social in-
their three children were grown and lived away from home (one in Accra, teraction. While an individual could be without certain sense modalities,
the other two overseas), several young nieces resided in the household the m1t11re of being and the relatio11s of bei11g (within Ania-speaking con-
under foster care. In addition, visitors came frequently and often assisted texts) already involved so much interdependence that the alternate sen-
Kobla in his movements or in fetching items he wanted to use. In reflect- sory mode di.fl not seem co engender the kind of stigma that it would in
ing on these interactions, I was struck by my own hesitation in helping contexts where individuals were expected to be self-sufficient. This is fur-
Mr. Odoo move about compared to the readiness of Ania speakers to ther illustrated by the image of a buffalo and a white bird that Anlo speak-
engage with him, adjusting his wheelchair, modifying his position, and ers often referred to when crying to convey the interdependence on which
so forth. It certainly occurred to me that a sound explanation for this their concept of the individual was based. They described a massive and
difference in behavior could have been that I had only known the Ocloos strong animal like a buffalo tolerating or even welcoming the company of
for a short time, while many of the other visitors were either rclacives or a delicate egredike bird since the bird would pick ticks and insects from
long-standing friends and had thus accommodated themselves to this his skin. The strength and well-being of both, therefore, was dependent
----~
style of interaction. However, I also wondered about possible cultural on their mutual support and association.
differences in ways of attending to and with the body that might have
been at play in this situation. Those of us who come from more "ego-
ON MADNESS, INSANITY, AND
centric" societies tend to think of persons as dearly bounded and indi-
"BEING OUT OF ONE'S SENSES"
viduated selves, and these notions extend beyond personality to the level
of the body. We are often reluctant to draw attention to peoples' de- A number of m:J{ia/awo suggested chat insanity was equivalent to the
pendencies, whereas interdependence and outright dependence (social as total loss of one's sensory and percepcory abilities. They expressed a
well as somatic) were (relatively speaking) more acceptable conditions strong preference for the loss of any one sense modality (whether it was
in many Ania-speaking contexts. the use of one's eyes, ears, or legs) over the debilitating state of madness.
One of the points here is that among most Ania-speaking people it Several healers also reported that mental illness was "the most difficult
would be extremely rare for a person to reside alone. This contrasts sharply sickness to cure" since these individuals could not "hear" as others
with, for example, Diane's case where she had a "choice between being a around them heard, their speech did not seem to make sense, and they
.!.16 Wdl-Bcing, Strength, and Health in Anlo Worlds Well-lkmg, Strength, and Health in Anlo Worlds .!.17

often "saw things" that no one else could detect or perceive. Moreover, drugs." "Well, is he mad?" I asked. "He's mean," Elaine shot back. She
while most people did not exhibit pity for individuals in Anlo-land who believed that he understood perfectly well what he was doing when he
were blind, deaf, or lame (since a range of sensory faculties were still in- accosted me, and she pointed out that he chose me instead of her. What
tact), a fair amount of compassion and charity was often extended to she meant is that his faculties were intact enough for him to see that I
those considered "insane" or "out of their senses." A dear distinction was not an Anlo, and he could calculate that I would not really under-
was made, however, between people who had lost their senses due to stand what was happening, whereas he knew that she would beat him if
abuse of alcohol or drugs and those who met with an accident or be- he struck her. ~And he docs this because he drinks and takes drugs," she
came insane from circumstances beyond their control. I often observed concluded.
people providing "truly mentally ill" individuals with a little money or This incident in Dzelubfe, in r99z., contrasted quite dramatically with
food, while they avoided, dismissed, or abused people who were habit- an encounter I had later that summer that really did constitute my first
ually drunk and people who took illicit drugs. brush with insanity in Anlo-land. Elaine and I set off one morning to take
Several Anlo-Ewe lexical terms were used to designate mental illness or the canoe from Keta to Kedzi to visit some people in Adina and Denu. As
insanity. They included tagb:>gbcgblct:>, tsukim:>, and efe tabg:> flu. Tag- we disembarked from the canoe and boarded a lorry in Kedzi, I noticed
b:>gbcgblct:> signified "owner or master of a head or intellect which was the tallest Ewe man I had ever seen. More striking than his physical stature,
ruined or destroyed." Tsuk1m.1 referred to "a person who was suffering however, was his countenance and his behavior. His eyes somehow sunk
from a senseless and confused disposition." Efe tabg:> flu indicated that deep into his face, and he seemed to look right past you when he came
"his head or intellect was blurred." While technically correct, all these ex- face to face. He was vocalizing nonstop, the pitch alternating between a
pressions were considered by a number of m:>fialawo to be rather harsh whisper and a shout, and he staggered about the canoe launch. Older
ways of denoting the condition of insanity, and they preferred the phrase women placed coins in his palm as they passed by him. I asked Elaine who
Mele nyuie o, which simply meant "He is not fine" or "He is not well." he was, and she furrowed her brow and shook her head, which I had come
I was interested in what they believed was "not well," or more to understand as signaling she did not want to talk about it.
specifically if they believed it was a sickness confined to the head, since the We made several more trips to and from Denu that summer. On a num-
phrases tagb:>gbcgb/ct:> and efe tabg:> flu denoted something amiss ber of occasions, Elaine gave him money or food. Finally, as we were sit-
specifically in the mind. But madness (in Anlo-speaking contexts) seemed ting on the bench one day, waiting to board the canoe for home, Elaine
to be perceived as more pervasive, as a disturbance throughout an indi- volunteered the following story. Years ago this tall, statuesque man was
vidual's entire being. M:>fialawo who spoke English explained that "all their the most brilliant English teacher in all of Anlo-land. Elaine's father was
faculties were disturbed" or that the deranged person was simply "out of a principal in one of the high schools, and she reported that he and everr-
his senses." Of the three Anlo-Ewe terms, several m:>{ialawo definitely pre- one else adored this man. He was a dignified, elegant, and eloquent per-
ferred tsukun:>, which 1m:ant "a person who was suffering from (or labor- son who inspired his pupils by reciting long passages from Shakespeare
ing under) a senseless and confused character, nature, or disposition." and other great works of literature. But one day he simply snapped. She
Several anecdotes about tsukim:> may help to fill out the picture. One explained that he went from being the most lucid and dear person she
day while standing on the street in Dzeluk:>fe (a borough of Keca), a man knew to being completely out of his senses. She described him as not seem-
ran up to me, grabbed my elbow, and started beating me on the shoul- ing to hear what people said to him and suggested that his eyes failed to
ders and chest and kicking me in the shins. Rushing to my aid, Elaine focus on real people and things. He stared into the air, gesticulating to-
and a tailor that we had just visited pried the man away from me and ward invisible entities and babbling nonsensical words. Hypersensitive to
pushed him down the street as he shouted obscenities. After recovering touch, if you tapped him on the shoulder he jumped, startled, and lashed
from the scare (I did not sustain any physical injury), it occurred to me out. He stopped bathing. And he did not even have enough sense to beg
that this was my first brush with insanity in Anlo-land. Or was it? He or to eat. This was the reason people handed him money and food.
seemed psychotic to me, but what would Elaine and the tailor say? I Here was a case of insanity, according to Elaine. He was not mean,
asked, and they were quick to report that he had "ruined himself with as she deemed the drunken man in Dzelubfe, but rather this man who
2.18 Well-Ucing, Strength, and Health in Anlo Worlds \'Veil-Being, Strength, and Health in Anlo Worlds

inhabited the Kcdzi canoe launch was disturbed through and through, I explore some of the ways in which Anlo speakers employed d!okawo
with each sensorr field more disrupted than the next. I-le could not even to safeguard and bolster their health.
walk in a normal fashion, indicated by the staggering and lack of motor Among many Anlo speakers, cb.osasa allowed them to probe myster-
control. As ts11k1111;, implied, he was suffering from senselessness and ies and explore relations between things, and it was ultimate!> aimed at
confusion; there was a pervasivcnc..'SS of disturbance through his body directing a kind of "psychic transformation." Accomplishing psychic
and mind. Elaine helped to translate when I had interviewed Adzoa transformations involved manipulation of sense perceptions and somatic
Kokui and we had discussed how children must learn to hear things and modes of attention. For instance, one account described the use of dm
let cerrain items pass right through, not affecting their seselelame. She in altering an onlooker's perception so that sand could seem to change
agreed with Adzoa, and in a subsequent conversation between the two into "a perfumed white powder," not through an actual material
of us, Elaine used this man as an example of what can happen if you let modification but by virtue of dto revising the spectator's vision (Cudjoe
things disrupt the way you feel-feel-at-flesh-inside (seselelame). 197 1:202-203 ). While alterations in olfactory and visual perception arc
In the local cultural logic about insanity, then, there seemed to be a described as part of this process, questions typically raised by such an
link with sensory (as distinct from intellectual or cognitive) aspects of a account focus on what constitutes "reality"? Phenomena like dtosasa are
person's being. Many of the Ania speakers I consulted perceived mad- ~crutinized for whether they produce "real transformations" or simply
ness as tantamount to the loss (or malfunction) of all sensorial ability, "changes in perception." From the point of view of phenomenology, this
as having a nature or disposition in which the sensory functions were dilemma poses a false dichotomy and the transformations need not be
: . completely confused or amiss. From an ontological perspective, this im-
plied that individual well-being was deeply tied co intact sensory func-
considered :my less real because they occur in the psyche instead of in
the object itself. 8
tioning, and cases in which this was disrupted called for genuine com- My husband and I became friendlr with a young man in Anloga
passion and care. Alternative modes of sensing could be sustained in one whom I will call Kobla. He was an enterprising and energetic entrepre-
or two areas without disruption to reason, judgment, or basic knowing neur who owned several lorries and a store carrying general goods. One
(as was demonstrated in the discussions of blindness, deafness, and the evening Kobla invited us for a beer, and our conversation soon turned
inability to walk). However, madness ensued when a person's entire sen- to the topic of dreams. I asked him what kind of dreams he had, and
sorium was disturbed, which meant that people perceived the nature and Kobla replied that they were "big dreams." Not understanding what he
grounds of knowledge to be tied to sensing. The following section will _ meant, I asked him to be more specific and describe one or two of his
address the philosophy and methods involved in protecting this delicate. dreams. Kobla explained that his "dreams" involved becoming success-
balance, or keeping the sensorium and one's health and strength intact. ful and financially powerful. Realizing that by "dreams" he seemed to
mean goals, I was still surprised to hear Kobla relate the following (which
I recorded later that evening in my fieldnotes): "I fiave watched women
PERSONAL WELl.-BEING AND THE VITAL ROLE
since I was young and I've seen that women will try to bring you down
OF IZOSASA (TRANSFORMATIVE ARTS)
if you have achieved something. People here do not like to see me
Earlier I discussed how an Ania phenomenon called cb.osasa (dm: magic; achieve. I work hard and I'm only thirty years old, but I have accom-
sasa: tying, binding) was once interpreted as simply talismans or pro- plished more than manr older men. If you're not careful, though, and
tective charms but that I had gradually come to understand dtosasa as a don't watch yourself, women will destroy you." If his "dreams" focused
kind of "indigenous psychotherapy," or a way to transform psychoso- on wealth and success, these comments seemed to represent Kobla's
matic conditions of disruption or disturbance. In addition, while dmsasa "nightmares," or the negative counterpoint to his goals. Intrigued by this
was considered by some as antiquated and obsolete, I found that it was candid expression of fear concerning the power women could have over
used quite frequently by many Ania-speaking people with whom I an individual, I wondered whether this was a prevalent attitude (among
worked. Herc I treat ckosasa as a kind of model of transformation, and Anlo men) or was it just his own idiosyncratic point of view? Second, I
2.2.0 WellBeing, Strength, and Health in Anlo Worlds WellBeing, Strength, and llcahh in Anlo Worlds !.il

wondered why women (rather than other men, children, or even spiri boci::> and nail sculptures of the neighboring Fon-speaking people arc
rual entities) were perceived as the ones who could destroy him. And counterparts of the Anlo speakers' dzokawo. In these traditions, some
how was it that women managed to do this? Finally, how could a per individuals focus more on the object itself (kind of projecting their own
son protect himself from this threat (to his well-being, stability, and inner conflict onto a separate person or thing), while others use the oh
strength)? ject in an effort directed at conjuring new or transformed psychosomatic
Over time I found that Kobla 's point of view was not particularly states. The latter approach involves manipulation of senses and percep
unique, although nor everyone I consulted articulated the issue in terms Lions in an effort to reformulate an individual's state of being toward one
quite so literal or in ways that exhibited what many Euro-Americans of greater strength and health. In addition, I have raised the issue of
might interpret as a kind of paranoia. Some people (such as Kobla) per- "medicines" and the way a dzoka usually contained a varictr of ingre-
ceived the threat to be from "real flesh and blood women" who could dients (including animal, mineral, or vegetable) and could be ingested,
seduce men through manipulating their seselelame, br sweet talk (play- donned, or possessed. While acknowledging that there were many char-
ing to their sense of hearing), and through sensual caresses (working the latans and fools exploiting the use of dzokawo, several m.,fialawo char
senses of the skin). Of seduction (and its consequent dangers), another acterized dzosasa as the manipulation of attitudes and behaviors, as well
m:ifiala explaines:l that "you can hear it in women's voices [which are) as reliance on pharmaceutical and material substances, to assist indi-
soft and luring and their touch makes you melt." Both men perceived viduals in transformation of psychosomatic states.
these tactics to result in sapping their energy and causing an ambitious A second case that illustrates the sophistication of the theory and prac-
man to become soft, lazy, unproductive, and weak. From this perspec- tice of dzosasa is based on a dream that Raphael reported he had in his
tive, one's sensory and somatic modes could be manipulated such that it sleep. He apologized in advance for the graphic content he felt it con
could render a man completely off balance (a total disruption to agbag- rained, but began by explaining that in his dream he was lying in bed
bacfoc[o). Many believed chat a man relegated to this state was the vic- and opened his eyes to sec a woman descending on top of him, from no
tim of someone engaged in dzosasa. panicular place. She was simply floating in the air, naked, and descended
When I consulted other m:ifialawo about the ideas articulated by on top of him. The unidentifiable woman covered his mouth and nose
Kobla, they interpreted his situation to be less about the dynamic that with her vagina, so in his dream Raphael could not breathe. Raphael rc-
occurs between men and women and more about a conflict occurring p9rted that he awoke the following morning with a terrible case of si
within the young man himself. Some m::>{ialawo suggested that the man nusitis, and even after going to the hospital and taking the nose drops
was "putting onto women" what was going on inside of himself (a ten- and medication the doctor prescribed, he experienced no relief. The per-
dency he was trying to resist toward becoming soft, lazy, unproductive, sistence of the sinusitis finally prompted him to consult an Afa special
and weak). Several suggested that dzosasa (transformative arts) could be
employed in this young man's case, but the "binding" action effected ........
--..b
dzosasa would be in terms of parts of himself (the conflict between the
___....
ist (diviner). The diviner explained that the person in the dream was
"bringing witchcraft and trying to give it to him or thrust it upon him."
Raphael would have to "use some herbs" and "take some steps to ward
ambitious and the weak or soft). While some Anlo speakers believed this off." He proceeded with "the stepsft (which would be classified as
Kobla was gripped by external forces (just as Kobla thought various dzosasa but which he would not describe for me as he considered it se-
women were trying to sabotage his business), others understood it to be cret knowledge), and Raphael's sinusitis soon cleared up.
a case of workings completely inside Kobla himself. Dzosasa could be I asked both Raphael and other m::>{ialawo to analyze this dream and
implicated and employed in either case, and some understood its func- received varied and sometimes contradictory interpretations. However,
tion to be about one's own transformation, while others believed dzosasa the one theme that consistently emerged revolved around the notion of
could be used to change external events. 9 amequmee w:ianu amc, which is a phrase meant to capture or sum up
As already indicated, dzokawo were usually considered (at least by ideas and experiences of how "those close to you can harm rou the
missionaries and scholars) to be charms, amulets, talismans, fetishes, or most." Some people's interpretations focused on the idea that his mother
some kind of object toward which one could direct imocations. The or wife was most certainly trying to harm Raphael, as either one of them
Well-Being, Strength, and Hcahh in Anlo Worlds Well-Being, Strength, ;md llealch in Anlo Worlds

might be jealous of his progress and achic\'entems. Within this interpre- perceived as dangerous or pocentiallr harmful, herbs ~rnd sculpwral ob-
tive approach, the woman in the dream was perceived rather literally as jects were used to elicit cosmological powers in bolstering the strength
Raphael's mother or wife. It was not dear to me why a mother or wife and health of the self. Central to this process is the body, or how the
would try to harm rather than support and encourage him, hur I w:is in- body serves in part as a source of consciousness and information (cf.
formed that she probably did not even know or realize she was causing Schwarrz-Salant 1995: 15). Dzosasa, in rum, can be understood as a kind
him harm, as it was a thought or urge somewhere within the uncon- of strategy for manipulation-its practitioners dedicated to transforma-
scious. tions of psychosomatic (including sensory} dimensions of che self. An
The second interpretive approach also drew on ideas about the uncon- aesthetic of the cool (letting disturbing things pass right through you) in-
scious but focused more on the unconscious of Raphael himself. That is, dicates a cultural value on regulation of the senses as a strategy in main-
when I asked if the image of rhe woman in the dream was a literal mani- taining health.
festation of his wife or mother, some people insisted it was symbolic of a 1111 referred to the ways in which bad will and animosity among kin-

problem that Raphael was experiencing within himself, and since the folk manifested in a small child becoming deaf or mute or in a pregnant
conflict was within him, Raphael had the power (particularly with the as- woman experiencing the ordeal of a stillbirth. In relation to such
sistance uf cV.osas;1) ro resolve it. These interpretations also stressed ame1111- processes, one m:ifiala suggested a phrase directly tied to sensing: aleke
mee w:iam1 amc (those close ro you can harm you the most), but people nese le lame, or "how you feel within yourself when something is done
who perceived rhe dream m represent an "internal battle" explained that to you" or literally, "how you feel it inside your body." The body here
close relatives had the greatest influence on a person and could get inside was clearly experienced as a source of information, not jusr cognitive or
of an individual's mind and spirit and dri\e him mad. To my question of discursive information bur visceral and inrnitive messages, and such no-
whether the relatives actually entered one's bodr or "being," people were tions were what underpinned the logic of a phenomenon such as emt.
usually amused by this simple-minded notion and explained it as a result Dzosasa was a practice not all Anlo-speaking people embraced, but re-
of i11{1ue11ce and workings of the unconscious or the inner person (amcme). versing or protecting oneself from phenomena such as emt and pre\'ent-
In a sense the image of the woman was considered a manifestation of psy- ing a d:>tsoafe (illness fron) home) from incurring gb:>gb:>med:i (a spirit
chic harm that Raphael was experiencing, based largely on the interper- in the sickness) often involved its use.
sonal relations and family dynamics in which he was involved. 10 This The phenomenon of dtosasa further underscores the idea that in many
process was very similar to that described as the etiology of enu, or "seiz- Anlo-speaking contexts there is not a rigid separation between body and
ing the mouth," of children (and pregnant women). mind or berween the experiential and the ontological (Csordas 1994a:8).
A cultural model of well-being among An lo-speaking people necessarily
In cases such as those discussed in this chapter, dtosasa was often cm- draws together the personal, social, and cosmic (or spiritual) fields, and
ployed to bolster one's health or to strengthen seselelame (bodily --.----~
cc - dzosasa demonstrates the ways these three spheres coalesce in embodied
ing). In existential terms, while many Ania-speaking people deeply be- and sensate experiences, especially those associated with sickness and
lieved that "those close to you can harm you the most" (ame1Jrm1ee health.
w:imm amc}, the 1nethocls and mechanisms of injury were usually nor
obvious and were typically '"invisible." Sensing was sometimes discussed
as a/eke neselelame, or "how you feel within yourself when something
is done to you." Sometimes it was only through the "feeling within your-
self" or l!iruugh a variety of sensory channels (hearing, feeling in the
skin, disruption to one's sense of balance) that a person could come to
know that someone near to him was causing harm. Experiences and im-
ages that emerged from dreams were another war of acquiring such
knowledge. When social situations and inter/1ersom1/ interactions were
r:?S.:: ...na .na =

()
0
z
.-c
()

-z
V>

'
CHAPTER IO

Sensory Experience and


Cultural Identity

I have used four broad claims concerning sensory orders, embodiment,


identity, and well-being to structure ethnographic descriptions of Anlo-
Ewe sensory experiences and philosophical thought. I have argued that

I. physiological evidence suggests human bodies gain sensory in-


formation in a variery of ways;
'
'
: : 7-. a Western model of five senses is a folk model;
~
3 an Anlo-Ewe model is different, and it privileges balance, kines-
:

thesia, and sound;


:

4 the impact of this model (or approach) can be seen in four


: : areas, each of which affect the others:
: a. the use of language to describe the sensorium;
b. moral values embedded in child-rearing and social develop-
ment;
c. an Anlo-Ewe model of personhood;
d. ideas about illness and health.

In this final chapter, my goal is to develop these arguments in greater de-


tail as a gesture toward providing an interpretive framework for the
study of scnsoriums and sensory experience and their place in our un-
derstandings of cultural difference.
l.l.8 Sensory Experience and Cultural Identity Sensory Experience and Cultural Identity

the senses and the elements-earth, air, fire, water, and the quintessence"
Proposition One: Sensori11ms differ as a res11lt of c11lt11ral tradition
(Classen 1993b:2).1
In contemporary Western cultures (or at least in Euro-American con- During the Enlightenment there emerged a rationale for the five senses
texts) when we speak of "senses" we usually mean the five modalities of that is distinct from Aristotle's and begins to resemble our own tradition
sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Our taxonomy of senses is organ- steeped in philosophical empiricism. No longer the subject of rheological
based, and sensing for us corresponds to a theory of how we apprehend and allegorical interpretation, study of the senses moved into the realm
stimulus from objects outside our bodies and then represent these sounds, of science and philosophy. Hobbes and Locke were in agreement about
textures, odors, and so on in our minds and to each other. Our defini- the senses being the foundation of thought-revealed in Hobbes's state-
tion of sensing revolves around the idea that we have bodily structures ment that "there is no conception in a man's world which has not at first,
that receive stimulus from objects outside our bodies, and these organs totally, or by parts, been begotten upon the: organs of sense" and in
then send messages to the brain that arc registered and finally interpreted Locke's declaration that "nothing can be in the intellect which was not
by the mind. Sensing for us is directly tied to the idea that some thing, first in the senses" (quoted in Synnott l99t:69-71). Descartes, on the
some object makes an impression on our sense organs, and we thereby other hand, was suspicious of the senses, believing that sensory experi-
(somewhat passively, our ethno-theory purports) become aware or con- eiace confused logical thought since sensations were inherently deceptive.
scious of various elements in our environment. He sought to separate bodily experience from mental or intellectual judg-
While we may be very attached to this definition of sensing and be- ment (Lakoff and Johnson 1999:391-414). All were in agreement, how-
lieve that it describes a kind of anatomical reality verified by medical sci- ever, on the idea that sensing was a physical and natural function, a means
ence and psychology, it is, as I have argued before, a folk ideology. A by which information about the external world was conveyed to the
burgeoning literature on the social history of the senses (e.g., Berman mind. Locke believed this was a vital aspect of our consciousness;
1998; Classen 1993a, 1993b; Classen, Howes, and Synnott 1994; Howes Descartes considered it suspiciously illusory. But during the Enlighten-
1991; Rivlin and Gravelle 1984; Stoller 1989b; Synnott 1993) demon- ment, solidified were the notions of sensing as a physical function void of
strates that even within Western culture there has been an evolution in cultural determinants (Classen l993b:4) and of the five-senses model rep-
the way sensing has been defined as well as in the number of senses in- resenting a universal and natural account of immediate bodily experience.
cluded in any particular taxonomy. Furthermore, sensory scientists are Over the past century a new perspective on sensory perception has
in agreement that the exact nature and number of human senses is ac- been unfolding. Efforts at replicating sight, hearing, balance, motion, and
tually an open empirical question. other mechanisms in robots and various space technologies have led to a
In the ancient world of the West, Plato's writings reveal a conflation deeper appreciation of the complexity of sensory systems in humans and
of sensing and feeling. Sometimes his work discusses sight, smell, and other mammals as well as in reptiles and birds (Rivlin and Gravelle 1984).
hearing as senses, but he omits taste and touch. Instead he includes hot Research on artificial intelligence and virtual reality, ju addition to expe-
and cold, along with fear, desire, pleasure, and discomfort (sec Classen riences with drug-induced alternate states of consciousness, have led to
1993b:1-11; Synnott 1993:128-155). This taxonomy is significant be- questions about the potential of what the human mind can know and also
cause (as we have seen) the word feeling plays a significant role in trans- about the capability for extension of our sense organs both organically
lating the way Ania speakers think of sensing, along with the fact that and in the form of tools and machines (Rheingold 1991). By "extensions"
Plato did not confine himself to five modalities, which parallels the case I mean things such as remote sensing; echolocation; x-ray vision; infrared
of many non-Western cultural groups. lt may be Aristotle who is re- vision, or the ability to "see" heat patterns; navigational abilities (of hom-
sponsible for the taxonomy of five senses within Western culture, or it ing pigeons as well as humans [see Baker c981 )), and so forth. 2
may simply be that he reified and codified an idea that was circulating In addition, medical research on the brain and technological innova-
among scholars of that time. Noteworthy is that his rationale for limit- tions aimed at replicating human sensory systems in computers have re-
ing sensing to five modalities was quite different than that used by us sulted in the suggestion that we may have more sensory systems than
today. Aristotle believed that there is an "intrinsic relationship between simply five (Rivlin and Gra\elle 1984:9-28). Depending upon how the
l.JO Sensory Experience and Cultural Identity Sensor)" Experience and Cultur:1l ldcntil)' l.3 I

term is defined, additional human senses might include four taste recep- Sensation - - Perception - Cognition
tors rarher than simply one (making sweet, salty, biner, and sour distinct
modalities); some mechanism (akin ro a vomeronasal system) capable of
hearing
detecting pheromones (odorless chemicals); 1 different skin senses such
. . seeing thinking
as mechanoreceptors (sensitive ro pressure and indentation), thermorc- imme~iatc - - - smelling - inference -
experience casting knowing
ceptors (responsive to temperature}, and nociceprors (mediating pain
more severe than that hancllccl by the other two receptors) (Barlow and feeling
Mollon 198:z.:369-386); a functional pineal gland able to respond to
light (Rivlin and Gravelle 1984: 16); a sensory S)'Stem for apprehending excavate (so to Sa)') cultural categories and sensory orders because im-
visual contour, contrast, and form that is different from that used for mediate bodily experience is not understood or defined in any universal
color (Rivlin and Gra vclle 1984: 16); a magnetic sense that governs nav- way. My second claim is that in a sensorr order we find cultural cacc-
igation or direction (Baker 1981 ); and so forth. gories for experience. We find cultural meanings that arc cmboclicd, and
It is clear that sensing most likely involves more than five fields, and b.ccausc they arc as much a part of the body as the mind, they arc con-
this raises the question of how people in cultures outside of the West sidered "natural" ways of being, but in fact they arc learned or acquired
have thought about this problem of how we know what we know. In the at an early age. In other words, a cultural group's sensory order reflects
accompanying scheme I graphically display what I take to be the Amer- aspects of the world that arc so precious to it that (although they remain
ican folk model of the general process or progression of the stages we largely unconscious and habitual) they arc the things that children grow-
define as sensing, then percehing, and then cognizing. ing up in this culture dcvclopmcncally come to carry in their very bodies.
For example, a bod ii)' impression that we identify as an aroma or smell This raises an important question abour whether a sensorium is em-
makes an impact within the realm of our nostrils. That immediate expe- bodied and, hence, \'cry dear (to members of a cultural group) or whether
rience bridges the domain of sense and percept, while the inferences we a scnsorium and sensorr orientations arc so dear (i.e., they reflect values
begin to make about such a smell ("I smell smoke") connect rhe arenas of that arc precious to the cultural group) that they therefore become em-
perception and cognition ("I think there is a fire"). Notice that interpre- bodied (during processes of child socialization). I wanr to suggest that
tation enters imo the model and the parameters of the categories. How we cannot really separate or distinguish between these rwo processes or
then do various cultural groups define the foundational category? What even establish a definitive causal arrow. They are so intertwined in a so-
arc the basic bodily impressions in a given tradition that constitute some- ciohistorical sense that we arc forced to use seemingly paradoxical state-
thing we might gloss roughly as "sensations" or "immediate experi- ments ro capture in words how this works. That, at any rate, is the way
cnccs"?4 How do they define the boundaries of the category? What com- I have come to interpret Bourdieu's phrases aimed at summing up the
;
~.
ponents or what experiences do they include? And finally, what meanings habitus: "history turned into nature" or "durably installed gencrati\'c
-, arc then associated with the different components? In this book, I suggest principle of regulated improvisations" (cf. Csordas (1994b::z.78-:?.79) on
that culture affects not only inference and not only perception but also the "theorizing in oxymorons"). How can something both evolve hisrori-
,: seemingly basic domain of sensation through the organization and clallO- callr and be considered "of nature"? How can it be both regulated and
rarion of categories through which immediate sensations arc perceived. In improvisational? I would suggest that a scnsorium and the process of
this reading, culture docs nor only affect the mind. Jr changes the body. sensing has as one of its essential qualities this very paradoxical charac-
,,
r. teristic, and that is perhaps one of the reasons it is a human function that
t is verr difficult to study and why it has been neglected by the social sci-
l'roposition Two: A seusorium is embodied; sensory oriet1tatio11s are
cnccs.5 In this second proposition I therefore suggest a twofold (and, in
acquired through processes of child socialiwticm
my mind, noncontradictory) process: first, a sensorr order is embodied,
So this is a study of some of the processes by which "history is turned and this is one reason members of a cultural group find it precious, dear,
into nature" (Bourdicu 1977:78). Mr first proposition requires that we and downright '"natural"; second, a sensory order also contains cultural
Z.JZ. Sensory Experience and Cultural Identity Sensory Experience and Cultural Identity

categories that are considered so dear (i.e., they arc deemed so valuable ment" in this inquiry, it lies in the speculation or in the hypothetical point
by members of a cultural group) that they literally make these themes or of view that the senses are ways of embodying social categories. (This
these motifs into "body." idea is very close to the notion of habitus.) Embodiment as a method-
To put it another way, human beings arc ushered into (or "durably ological approach has been developed most coherently by Csordas
installed" with) their culture's sensorium, which reflects some of the most ( 1990, 1994a), and to a great extent I rely on and refer to his concep-
fundamental and dear values and categories that have been reproduced tions of what this means. For example, he suggests that a paradigm of
in this cultural community over time. The ushering in begins symboli- textuality has dominated anthropology and cultural theory in general
cally in the (ritually packed) birth event itself and continues during early for some time, and he proposes not to supplant that perspective but
childhood experiences so that sensory and somatic practices become em- rather to provide it with a "dialectical partner" in the form of a para-
bodied. In this way, phenomena cm-bodied, or made body, are "placed digm of embodiment (1994a:11-12). By paradigm he means a "consis-
beyond the grasp of consciousness, and hence cannot be touched by vol- tent methodological perspective that encourages reanalyses of existing
untary, deliberate transformation, cannot even be made explicit" (Bour- data and suggests new questions for empirical research" (Csordas
dicu 1977:94). They are some of the most "ineffable, incommunicable, 1990:5). Within this approach, Csordas distinguishes between "the
and inimitable" aspects of being, and as Bourdieu suggests ( 1977:94), 'body' as a biological, material entity and 'embodiment' as an indeter-
there is nothing "more precious, than the values given body, made body minate methodological field defined by perceptual experience and mode
by the transubstantiation achieved by the hidden persuasion of an im- of presence and engagement in the world" (1994a:12). When embodi-
plicit pedagogy" embedded in cultural and socialization processes. ment is evoked as a methodological field (as it is in this book), that means
The idea of habitus, though first employed in anthropology by Mar- it is an arena where a mode of inquiry or a process of doing something
cel Mauss ( 1935), has more recently been developed and popularized by is carried out, and within this field or arena our locus of inquiry lies in
Pierre Bourdieu ( 1977, 1984). In Bourdieu's terms, habit11s refers ro how processes of perception, experience, a person's presence, and the en-
history is "turned into nature," with habitual practices reflecting and gagement of the self. This phenomenological approach is distinct from
housing traditions and attitudes of mind passed on through symbolic (but, Csordas argues, complementary to) semiotics, with its focus on lan-
systems and sociocultural processes. Likewise, embodiment (from the in- guage, representation, and the model of culture as a set of texts. Ulti-
tellectual tradition of phenomenology) has been adapted to anthropol- mately Csordas suggests that "semiotics and phenomenology are com-
ogy (and ethnographic endeavors) as a way of treating the body as "the plementary ways to think about culture and that both can be applied to
existential ground of culture and self" (Csordas 1990:5). I take this to linguistic or narrative data" (1994b:xii). I highlight this effort to bridge
mean that existence for human beings is not separable from the body in these two methodological approaches because in a study of sensation,
which we experience life nor is the body removable from the process by sensory experience, and sensory orientations, too restrictive a focus on
which culture melds with the self. Rather, the body is the very med ... .....,_ _ _,. either language or on experience would not do justice to the data, and
in which this melting and welding takes place (the mind, of course, being therefore I have relied on both in my own work.
part of the body).6 My own study of sensing, perception, and identity, Furthermore, in empirical terms embodiment is inextricable from the
then, is part of a larger project in anthropology aimed at developing "a habitus in that if we define habit11s as a "durably installed generative prin-
theory of culture and self grounded in embodiment" (Csordas 1994a: 13, ciple of regulated improvisations" (Bourdieu 1977:78), the phrase
emphasis added). "durably installed" is evocative of what is meant by phenomena embod-
By embodiment do I mean a theory, a methodological perspective and ied. That is, if an aspect of the person or self is embodied, this means that
approach, or an actual empirical phenomenon? Embodiment can be used it is "turned into a permanent disposition." Habitus can also be explained
in all three ways, so let me explain. My own goals here arc largely to ad- as "an acquired system of generative schemes objectively adjusted to the
vance our understanding of the role that sensory perception plays in the particular conditions in which it is constituted ... (and it) engenders all
development of self, in the maintenance of psychological well-being, and the thoughts, all the perceptions, and all the actions consistent with those
in the reproduction of cultural identity. If there is a "theory of embodi- conditions, and no others" (Bourdieu 1977:78). Sensory perception is a
i
: '

Sensory Experience and Cultural Identity Sensory Experience and Cultural Identity

very significant part of the habirus since the gating aspect of sensing is ac- paracivc studies of concepts of chc person, the cultural shaping of sen-
quired while at rhc same time is an elaborate .. generative scheme" that sory experience and perception is often nor made explicitly apparent, yet
influences (or engenders) a person's experience and understanding of the sensory orientations are an integral part of chc development of self. 8
world. By gating I mean something called "sensory gating," which refers For example, Shwcder and his colleagues have advanced enormously
to a feedback system between the brain and sense receptors themselves our understanding of persons and of the ways in which culture and psy-
that funcrions as a kind of damper or regulating mechanism on sensory che "make each other up" (e.g. Shweder and Bourne 1991; Markus and
activicy (Aronoff et al. 1970:347). This allows us to screen and orches- Kicayama 1994 ).
trate stimuli from our environment; we can tone down stimulants to one
sensory field while heightening or amplifying information coming through From the moment of birth (and even earlier in some cultural contexts), in-
another channel or pathway. I would suggest that it is in sensory gating dividuals arc given meaning and engaged as persons. Through this cultural
panicipation, they become selves. An infant's mentality or consciousness or
that a certain amount of cultural variation occurs. way of being in the world is thus patterned according to the meanings and
In turn, the sense perceptions and experiences of an individual closi!ly practices that characterize a given cultural community, and the communi
reflect the broadc:r scheme we could call a "sensorium," or sensory order, tics arc maintained by these mentalities. There is a continuous cycle of mu-
which can be described in terms of the historical and cultural conditions tual attuncment and coordination between psychological tendencies and
in which it was constituted. More than one hundred years of anthropo- the social realities on which these tendencies are brought to bear.... [FJea-
turcs of the cultural system such as the characteristic ways in which one is
logical research on perception, while being far from robust in either led to focus on and attend to others can become directly incorporated into
amount or results, has at very least provided us with the understanding individual systems of experiencing and organizing the world. The)' become
that the senses are made to be shaped by culture. Psychologist Jerome sclfways. (Shwedcr ct al. t998:900)
Bruner has long argued that the senses be treated not simply as "passive
recording devices" or receivers and that "the sensorium itself is already My contribution is to insist that "attentional" or orientational processes
a 'mind-orium.' It's not really just a sensorium as such ... there is no such arc shaped by culture, and "selfways" therefore involve the continual
thing as the pure senses" (quoted in Shore 1997:44). In regard to the culcivation of particular ways of hearing, seeing, smelling, moving one's
senses as "active constructors of experience" (Shore 1997:42), a phono- body, and so on or of attending to the flow of life. The notion of sensory
logical analogy can be drawn with the fact that humans are prewired for orientation is implicitly contained within the comment about "charac-
; ' the acquisition of language, but once a specific language has been learned, ceristic ways in which one is led to focus on and attend to others." That
;~ it is more difficult for an individual to even hear (as in distinguish, iden- is to say, we not only know the environment with all its inanimate ob-
tify, reproduce) the sounds of other human languages. 7 Phonemes are
"durably installed" or even "embodied." Hearing is not the only sense _____..,.
modality that functions in this way, and it certainly does so not only in
jects through our senses but we also experience our own selves and each
other to a great extent through our senses. We sec each other, hear each
other, smell or do not smell each ocher, touch or do not couch each
relation to language but to a range of cultural and environmental sounds; other-as chc case may be from one cultural contcxtto the next. So how
all of the senses are like this in that they are made to be shaped and tuned. one becomes socialized toward the meanings of sights, sounds, smells,
It is this capacity of sensing that I suggest we examine and explore, and tastes, and so forth, represents a critical aspect of how one acquires a
it is this dimension of the senses that I am arguing is a repository of cul- mode of being-in-the-world, or an "individual system of experiencing
tural categories or cultural values and orientations. and organizing the world."
We routinely engage in (culturally constituted) interactions or prac-
tices that arc governed by the meanings assigned to (or ways of inter-
Proposition Three: Se11soriums help shape 11otio11s of the person
preting) ccrcain smells, sounds, couches, tastes, and so forth. In turn, the
and ensure that persons differ culturally and yet appear natural
orientations one develops toward smell, sighc, sound, and such, are part
We experience the world and know each other to a great extent through of what shapes certain cultural practices. Sensory orientations, therefore,
our senses. I invoke this seemingly obvious point here because in com- represent a critical dimension of how "culture and psyche make each
236 Sensory Experience and Cultural Identity Sensory Experience and Cuhural Identity !37

other up" and play a critical role in a person's sensibilities around in- son devdops a self-awareness and a perceptual framework in the context
tersubjective dynamics and the boundaries between self and other. And of what Hallowell called a "culturally constituted behavioral environ-
these sensoriums may affect the very basic features of our ability to judge ment" (1955:89-109).
each other. For example, in chapter 5 I described how within Anlo cul- Both scholars were influenced by psychological and philosophical no
tural contexts a particular odor can mark a person as having received an tions chat stemmed from phenomenology. Building on these ideas, along
improper first bath (immediately after birth) and then a more general- with those of Bourdieu and Merleau-Pont)', Csordas has developed a
ized improper upbringing, thereby creating a stigma for the lineage. In working definition of the self as "neither a substance nor entity, but an
almost two years of living among Ania-speaking people, I was never able indeterminate capacity to engage or become oriented in the world, and
to really grasp (perceive, sense, notice, attend to, comprehend) the pre- it is characterized by effort and reflexivity" (Csordas 1994c:340). My
cise odor that those around me were aware of when they decided that own use of self and person follows this line of thinking (from James to
someone was marked by dzigbe<f.i (the local term used for this condition). Hallowell to Csordas). Recognizing che indeterminacy allows us to focus
My point here is that in specific cultural contexts persons are designated on issues of attention and orientation, how these are culturally shaped,
or identified as moral or immoral-as "true, beautiful, good and nor- and how the senses are implicated in such attentional processes. Csor-
mal" (Shweder et al. 1998:867)-through reference to cultural categories das distinguishes self and person by saying, "Self-processes are orienta-
that implicate and contain sensory phenomena. What it means to be a tional processes in which aspects of the world are thematizcd, with the
person and notions about the kinds of persons that exist are directly tied result that the self is objectified, most often as a 'person' having a cul-
to the senses that a cultural group recognizes, attends to, and incorpo- tural identity or set of identities" (Csordas 1994c:340). This way of con-
rates into their way (or ways) of being-in-the-world. So while such ways ceptualizing person and self allows us to count the senses among vari-
of being seem natural, sensoriums assure that notions of the person (ways ous kinds of oricncational processes. We can even consider various
of being a person) differ culturally. sensory fields (such as balance, kincsthesia, auralicy) as "aspects of the
Let me explain how I am using the terms person and self My ap- world that become thematized" or as "somatic modes of attention" that
proach to these concepts has its roots largely in the work of William arc "phenomenon of embodied incersubjectivity ... pcrformativcly elab-
James (1890) and A.I. Hallowell (1955:75-110) but has more recently orated in certain societies, while ... neglected or feared as abnormal in
been elaborated in the ethnographic applications of Csordas ( r994b, others" (Csordas 1993: 146). It is in these thematized aspects of the world
1994c). What these scholars share is not only a concept of self that ac- (some having clear links to the sensorium) that we can make the bridge
knowledges the embodied dimension but, more specifically, a definite at- between sensing and cultural identity.
tention to or appreciation of sensory perception as a vital aspect of how One of the central problems taken up in this book is the question of
people orient themselves. what is involved in being a person in particular cultural ways 9 and how
---Ia..,m~es (1890:291-401) conceptualized the self as having four compo- comprehension of a sensorium helps us to understand issues of cultural
nents: the material self, the social self, the spiritual self, and the pure ego. identity. While I was in the fieJd many Anlo speakers wanted to instruct
But here it is important to note that for James, self-awareness necessar- me about.stories or motifs that they deemed to be the "core" of their
ily involved sensing and a grounding of ideas and experiences in the body "traditional culture." At the time I believed (in poststructuralist fashion)
Uames 1890:296-304). Hallowell (195 5) developed the concept of "be- that these stories and topics represented a kind of packaged or superficial
havioral environment" to attend to the relationship between culture and rendition of their culture-a view of a kind of homogenous way of life
.,
self and suggested that culture provides basic orientations that serve the that some subset of powerful or elite Anlo speakers had set forth as the
self in a constitutional sense and are the basis of self-awareness. The ori- official story about how they should be represented to the world. Grad-
entations include those of self to other people, self to objects, self to space ually, however, I came to sec these anecdotes and motifs as what Csor-
and time, self to motivations aimed at satisfying needs, and self co the das calls aspects of the world that have become "thematized," and I
normative values, ideals, and standards of the person's cultural group. began to examine the themes for what they revealed about cultural cat-
The attributes of these various elements are of course symbolic, so a per- egories that were based in a sensorium. Many of these topics and themes
Sensory Experience and Culcural ldcntitr Sensor)' Experience and Cultural Identity i.39

have made up the ethnographic descriptions in this book, such as T:>b processes of intentionality" (quoted in Shore 1997:52.). This perspective
At:>lia (the "fifth landing stage," where criminals were buried alive); Tog- resonates strongly with the idea of intentional worlds, which can be un-
bui Tsali, who many consider Anlo-land's greatest mystic; and the flight derstood in the following way:
from Notsie over three hundred years ago. But what is important to high-
light here, in theoretical terms, is the issue of "effort and reflexivity." Self Cultural psycholog)' is premised on human existential uncertainty (the
search for meaning) and on an "intentional" conception of "constituted"
processes are not automatic; we become persons in the midst of complex worlds. The principle of existential uncertainty asserts that human beings,
social relationships and interpersonal power dynamics as well as in the starting at birth (and perhaps earlier), arc high!) motivated to seize mean-
midst of continuous historical and cultural change. We all have individ- ings and resources out of a sociocultural environment that has been
ual stories and narratives that reflect congruence with and disparity from arranged to provide them with meanings and resources to seize and to use.
others in our cultural group. The point is that self processes, including The principle of intentional (or constituted) worlds asserts that subjects and
objects, practitioners and practices, human beings and sociocultural
those of sensory attention and orientation, require effort or agency and
environments, intcrpcnctrate each other's identity and cannot be analyzed
intentionality, some kind of engagement with the process of life. The sen- into ind~pcndent and dependent variables. (Shwcder 1991:74)
sorium helps assure that notions of the person both differ culturally yet
appear natural co those who hold them.
-
I!1hercnt in this position is the premise that perception must be studied
from the standpoint that it is a process or human function constituted
by culture. In other words, "intentional ... things exist only in inten-
Proposition Four: Notions of the person and engagement with
tional worlds," or what makes the existence of "things" intentional is
other intentional persons are central to health and well-being
that they could not "exist independently of our involvements with them
and so are directly tied to or based in a cultural group's sensorium
and reactions to them; and they exercise their influence in our lives be-
In all cultural contexts there are individuals who see, hear, and feel things cause of our conceptions of them" or "by virtue of our mental repre-
~ '
differently than those around them: they see things that others consider sentations of them" (Shweder 1991:74).
nonexistent, they hear voices that others cannot detect, they feel sensa- The first point to make about intentionality, sensing, and health, then,
tions that drive them to erratic or violent behavior. \Y/e often take for is that a state of well-being is dependent on a person's sensations and
granted, l think, how well-being is based in a consensus about or a com- perceptions of "things" being congruent with the perceptions of those
mon notion of sensed phenomena, sensed and perceived "realities," and around him, or that a person's interpretations of various sensibilia be
interpretations and meanings ascribed to a whole host of sensibilia. This consonant with the mental representations that others hold about those
requires that people share in an understanding of what is real, perceivable, same sources of stimulus. This implies a kind of shared sensibility. And
imagined, fantasized, and so forth and calls for reference to what is known on the other side of the spectrum, insanity involves (among other con-
in cultural psychology as "intentional worlds" (Shweder 1991:73-76). ditions) a slippage in this area: a lapse or breach in what is deemed sen-
My own use of the term intentiona/it}' (and the notion of agency) sible, a lack of concordance in the arena of intentional things and in-
draws on the work of a number of different cultural theorists but at- tentional states. That is, "intentional things have no 'natural' reality or
tempts to apply the concept directly to issues of sensing, perception, iden- identity separate from human understandings and activities" and "in-
tity, and health. I will review some of the essential sources of my own tentional worlds do not exist independently of the intentional states (be-
thinking about this issue but then will bring the discussion back to the liefs, desires, emotions) directed at them and by them, by the persons
interrelatedness of well-being and the sensorium. Decades of research on who live in them" (Shweder 1991:75).
perception, cognition, and personality processes has led psychologist A personal anecdote might serve to illustrate the relation of sensing
Jerome Bruner to argue that we should not "make the organism a pas- to intentionality that I am trying to describe. When I was in my early
sive recipient of anything" and (in part in response to behaviorist no- twenties, I had a series of experiences that seemed rather odd to me and
tions of stimulus control) that "a stimulus is not a stimulus is not a stim- I actually sought the counsel of a psychologist to make sure my symp-
ulus" but rather "a stimulus is something which in effect sets up toms were not somehow indicative of the onset of some kind of psy-
.qo Sensory Experience and Cultural Identity Sensory Experience and Cultural Identity .qi

chosis. The experiences arc best described as premonitions and revol\'ed impression, so let me try to clarify. Rather than being simply a "rccci\'-
around "knowing" or being aware in ad\'ance that I was going to run ing function," Bruner suggests that sensing has to be considered an "out-
into a particular person that day, but the reason these experiences struck ward seeking kind of thing" (quoted in Shore r997:40). But by "out-
me as bizarre is that the "knowing" or awareness would first come to ward seeking" do we mean a necessarily self-conscious process? Or can
me in my skin. I would feel a tingling or prickly sensation throughout this definition include attentional processes that could be considered un-
my skin, and only after that physical feeling passed would I be aware of conscious? My answer to these questions can be summarized as follows:
a mental image of a person (always someone I knew, but different peo- sensing, intentionality, and health coincide (shape each other) in an em-
ple over the course of several years) whom I was going to encounter that bodied field of perception and practice where the dichotomy of con-
day. I actually changed outfits a couple times after having such a pre- sciousness and unconsciousness is false or (more to the point) simply
monition in the morning-once because the premonition involved some- meaningless. 10 This point of view stems squarely from my reading of
one I had asked for a job, and I did not want her to see me in such in- Csordas's notion of embodiment, which is a synthesis and reworking of
formal attire, and another time because I had a mad crush on the person Hallowcll's perspective on the self and orientation, Merleau-Ponty's phe-
I "knew" I would be seeing. The point of this story is the following. nomenological-theories of perception, and Bourdieu's theory of practice
Growing up in the cultural context of Euro-America, I had ne.vcr heard and the habitus. This synthesis is critical here in that it provides a foun-
of people having premonitions that occurred (at least in the first stages) dation for my argument that comparative studies of personhood, iden-
in their skin. And while the psychologist I consulted helped me to un- tit}', and intentional worlds benefit from an explicit account of sensory
derstand and treat these experiences as a form of intuition that was sim- orders and sensory engagement. 11
ply embodied in an unusual way (and not symptomatic of psychosis), it Csordas acknowledges Hallowell's critical role in developing a notion
was about ten rears lacer, when I was living with Ania-speaking people of self that involves orientation (which was reviewed previously, in re-
in Ghana, that I took on a whole new perspective about these experi- lation to proposition three), but he finds fault with Hallowell's overem-
ences. Anlo speakers were trying to explain to me what something they phasis on self-awareness. He suggests (Csordas r994b:z.77) that making
called seselelame meant, and one of the consistent experiences for which the self equivalent to a state of self-awareness involves two problems.
they used this label concerned situations that could only be described as First, it confuses self with person, or it imbues the self with a character-
feeling sensations in the skin that were then linked to a premonition. A istic that is more accurately attributed to a person, since persofls (in Csor-
somewhat literal gloss for seselelame is "feeling or hearing in the flesh, das's definition) have such objectified qualities but the self does not. His
the body, or the skin." In one cultural context chis particular sensory ori- second point is related tu the first: an assumption that the self has as one
entation (this "somatic mode of attention" to the skin) is very unusual of its characteristics the "self-awareness" that Hallowell attributes is tan-
and docs not fit with the profile of a psychologically sound person; in tamount co projecting our own Western or Euro-American ethnopsy-
another cultural context, however, meaning and significance are readily chology into our theoretical seance. This is a significant point because
attached to this sensory experience, such that it is labeled or identified we can expect chat self-awareness and consciousness will vary in both
t with a specific term. In other words, this kind of attention to skin sen- quantitative and qualitative ways in different intentional worlds. Just

I sations and the association of it with premonition or an intuitive way of


knowing are considered commonplace and perfectly healthy sign~ in their
within the United States significant variation exists in the ways different
subcultural, ethnic, and class-based groups make associations between
r
intentional world. states of health/well-being and levels of awareness and consciousness
The term intentional seems to imply a kind of consciousness or a self- (and so, for example, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis arc more ef-
awareness about these processes. Am I suggesting, therefore, that peo- fective at maximizing health in some cultural groups than in others). Ear-
ple are continuously cognizant of processes of sensory perception (such lier I recounted how awareness of sensations in my own skin and then
as the one just described) and the associations or meanings they ascribe interpretations of them as a kind of message is in the first instance not
to these events and (perhaps more significantly) that health and well- the sort of thing that the average Euro-American person tends to pay at-
being is dependent on such self-awareness? I do not mean to gi\'e this tention to or be aware of, and second, a consciousness of it actually runs
1..p. Sensory Experience and Cultural Identity Sensory Experience and Cultural Identity

counter to our notion of health and serves as an indication of instabil- bilities? Can "sense of duty" be placed right alongside "hearing"? What
ity or mental defect. But in contrast, awareness and consciousness of is Bourdieu suggesting with chis juxtaposition? On one hand we have a
these precise sensations is a sound practice in many contexts in Anlo- sec of seemingly biological, anacomical functions (touch, rnscc, smell,
land and contributes to health and well-being. How do other people hearing, and sight), and on the other hand we ha\e what seems more like
(other cultural groups) understand this process of becoming aware? a list of functions of temperament or dispositional states, sensitivity at-
My own starting point is to better understand the sensory order in tributes of different kinds of personalities. Why does Bourdieu want us
which the other is functioning. Bourdieu theorizes that socialized agents co consider the similarities between the ability to sec (can we call it a
possess "in their incorporated state, the instruments of an ordering of "sense of vision"?) and a sensitivity to funny things ("sense of humor")
the world, a system of classifying schemes which organize all practices," or between the function of hearing ("sense of audition"?) and a sensi-
with linguistic schemes being only one part of the total habitus (though tivity to what is proper or an acute awareness of one's obligations (a
it receives an undue emphasis, according to Bourdieu, in most contem- "sense of propriety" and a "sense of duty")? While his point is noc thc-
porary culture theory). More extensively, Bourdieu argues that genera- orecically explicit nor empirically developed, what l take from this (and
tive schemes work to bridge macro and micro levels, or to unify the so- wpat l myself would argue) is that the conditioning of what and how
ciohistorically driven traditions that constitute the objective aspects of you see, of what and how you hear, has an isomorphic relationship to
elite culture (the kind of packaged, tourist-brochure rendition of Anlo the conditioning of what you consider moral, what you find funny, what
culture that I discussed earlier) with the personal, subjective practices is absurd, what is beautiful, and so forth. "Tastes" and desires plus com-
and experiences of daily life. And in the following extended excerpt from pulsions and repulsions unite mind, body, behavioral practices and cul-
Bourdieu's argument (which dovetails with Csordas's concern over the tural background.
problem of how self-awareness is produced), we find one of his most ex- Here I return to one of che central issues of this book: my concern
plicit statements on the role of "the senses." with the forms of being-ill-the-world that make a person part of a cul-
tural or echnic group and that distinguish any given people from another
,.
'"' (T[o grasp through the constituted reality of myth the constituting moment (which points to issues of identity). Within my own mother tongue (Eng-
of the mythopoeic act is not, as idealism supposes to seek in the conscious lish) and within my own cultural heritage (Euro-American), I find the
mind the universal structures of a "mythopoeic subjectivity" and the unity
of a spiritual principle governing all empirically realized configurations re- notion of "the senses" or sensing as one of the more profoundly critical
gardless of social conditions. It is, on the contrary, m reconstruct the prin- or foundational ways to get at an understanding of what constitutes the
ciple generating and unifying all practices, the system of inseparabl> cogni- way people are orientated, their attraction or attachment to (and repro-
tive and evaluative structures which organizes the vision of the world in duction of) ways of being, or a kind of "going coward" or aversion to
accordance with the objective structures of a determinate state of the social things (which is clearly conditioned through culture). 12 What I have tried
world: this principle is nothing other.than the socially informed l1ocl)', with
to establish is that it is also a primary dimension of that principle on
its tastes and distastes, its compulsions and repulsions, with, in a word, all
its sc11ses, that is to say, not only the traditional five senses-which never which Bourdieu focuses: the socially informed body.
escape the structuring action of social determinisms-but also the sense of Classen has written (1993b:59) that "[tJhe exploration of how we
necessity and the sense of duty, the sense of direction and the sense of real- grope to express sensory experience through language, and to convey
ity, the sense of balance and the sense of beauty, common sense and the non-sensory experiences through sensory metaphors, is revealing not
sense of the sacred, tactical sense and the sense of responsibility, business
only of how we process and organize sensory data, bur also of the sen-
sense and the sense of propriety, the sense of humour and the sense of ab-
surdity, moral sense and the sense of practicality, and so on. (Bourdieu sory underpinnings of our culture." In other words, co link that to Bour-
1977:12.3-124) .. dicu 's argument and my own: in addition to its social, political, eco-
nomic, and moral dimensions, the habitus is eminently sensuous. The
Let me unpack a number of points Bourdicu makes in this passage. First, web of sensory experiences and sensory meanings in which everyday life
what is the relation between what he calls "the traditional five senses" takes place, in which engagements occur with other persons, other be-
and his list of more than sixteen additional kinds of "senses" or sensi- ings, inanimate objects, and landscapes (also sound-scapes, smell-scapes,
Sensory Experience and Cultural ldenrity Sensory Experience and Cultural ldenrirr

touch-scapes, etc. [cf. Porteous r990)) forms a critical foundation for and socialized in a Euro-American, capitalist, academically anthropo-
conditions of interaction, well-being, and health. logical habitusl and come into some semblance of the sensibilities of
those in Anlo-land. All of that now sounds naive. But the relative fail-
Anthropologists have traditionally produced echnographies as a way of ure of this strategy docs not stop me from continuing to wonder about
representing some aspect of the life of a particular cultural group. When the same issue Dan Rose raises (1990:16) when he asks, "What rela-
I initially began writing an account of the work I did in the early to mid tionships should ethnographers cake up with people of other cultures or
1990s in Anlo-land and of the things I learned while living with Anlo classes? Can we nor move beyond abstract rdations with them?" Rose
people in the homeland and in Accra, I thought of the presentation as then makes the much-needed point that despite all the recent reflexivity
somewhat ethnographic in nature, but I played with the term sensogra- within anthropology, it is mainly "the text that has received critical at-
phy as a kind of monograph devoted specifically to the sensate realm of tention, not relationships across cultural boundaries" (1990:36, em-
a particular cultural group. As the project progressed, however, I grad- phasis added).
ually became disenchanted with this strategy. Increasingly it struck me In Ania-Ewe contexts if you set out to "study" something you use the
as disingenuous since I am not an Anlo-Ewe person myself, and I have term sr., or sr.,n11 to talk about this practice. This same term sr:> is used
to struggle continually to grasf> ever-deeper understandings of how the for the endeavor we label in the English language as "marry." 13 They say
world is experienced and perceived by those who do identify themselves that to marry is to study the one you have joined, and to study some-
as Anlo. I can listen to their stories and I can observe my Anlo friends thing is to marry it. I invoke this Ewe aphorism not simply to suggest
living their lives, but I do not feel I can claim to be able co evoke (with that choosing a cultural group to study (in classic anthropological fash-
a text) the sensibilities that color and texture their existence. Giving up ion) is equivalent to marriage. The lifelong commitment to a place and
on "sensography," I had to ask myself why I resisted writing an ethnog- a people that an anthropologist is supposed to sustain is a well-estab-
raphy in the first place and what it is chat I hope my readers will cake lished standard-although I would guess that the divorce rate is also rel-
away from this account of culture and the senses. atively high. But my point is that there is a deeper sentiment in this apho-
For decades now, anthropology as a scholarly discipline and ethnog- rism that bears exploring.
raphy as a professional practice has been under fire (from both within Marriage in Anlo contexts is a complicated subject and docs not have
and without) for its history of collusion with imperialistic, colonialist, the same meaning, to be sure, that we attribute to "love marriages" ide-
and capitalist cultures of the West. In this climate, the very ace of "doing alized in Euro-America. But marriage is the union through which (clas-
fieldwork" is politically charged, even in the most benign settings, and sically speaking) procreation takes place. So to talk about the process of
the production of a text representing the Ocher is fraught with multiple marriage as studying, and of studying as marriage, is to imply a deep and
layers of complexity and harbors the potential to generate genuine of- transformative involvement that ultimately produces fruit. What of the
fense. Desiring a way out of this quagmire is certainly behind some of t----.......acy and physicality, or the sexual-sensual nature of marriage, when
the difficulty in figuring my way through crafting this account. But in we extend the notion to studying? Studying something, truly compre-
the end, this text sits squarely in the middle of this problem, not pro- hending it, involves taking it inside oneself, allowing it to change one's
!
i
ducing or providing an easy way out. I say this because I cannot claim
to have escaped the trappings of the bureaucratic, corporate, academic
perspective. So the sentiment here is that to marry and to study both
mean embarking on an endeavor that necessarily will alter or change a
I praxis that makes up the life-world of most ethnographers (cf. Rose person. But nowhere in this notion is the idea that you actually "become"
1990). For awhile I thought that a methodology committed to "being of the other person or "become" chat which you study. This harkens back
cwo sensoria" would help me to cross over-out of my own sensibility to the discussion in chapter 6 about Anlo-Ewe proverbs that espouse
into chat of my Anlo m:>fialawo. That is, I adopted an approach aimed change and mutability while at the same time encourage the maintenance
at "being able to operate with complete awareness in two perceptual sys- of a kind of essence of who you are or the sustenance of a core identity.
tems or sensory orders simultaneously" (Howes and Classen 1991:260). A black antelope can rub against an anthill and color her fur brown, but
And I hoped chat I could perhaps transcend my own sensibility (shaped that does not change the fact the she is still a black antelope underneath
Scnsoq Experience and Cultural Identity Sensory Experience and Cultural Identity

the new veneer. When you visit the village of the roads and you find them mean the activity or work that I performed as a student of Anlo culture
squatting, you must squat too. But a change in body posture, to adjust (i.e., attending to "homework" given to me by various m::>fialawo) as
to a life among toads, does not mean you actually cross over and become well as to mean the examination or analysis of a specific subject (an
a coad. "ethnographic study" of sensory embodiment in Ania-Ewe worlds). But
This represents a knowledge about identity and difference that has cir- the point is that this problem or process brings us back to the notion of
culated, in the form of proverbs, in Anlo and Ewe worlds for centuries. srom1. To do ethnography, one must, in the end, expend a great amount
In this perspective is a wisdom, l believe, that has something to offer an- of energy in the practice and activity of study. Anlo speakers would have
thropologists and others outside of African worlds. 14 Claudia Strauss and us understand that this mtsosro (study or studying) is tantamount to mar-
Naomi Quinn ( 1997:9) have bemoaned the fact that "[g)iven the impor- riage: a union that inevitably transforms those involved and diat is aimed
tance, not just in anthropology but in the world today, of analyzing and at producing offspring or fruit. The ways in which I was affected and
understanding identities, it is very unfortunate that most academic dis- changed by my time in Anlo-land and through my ongoing association
courses on identities tend to assume only two alternatives: Either identi- with a wide network of Anlo and Ewe people could cerrainly fill a book.
ties are predetermined and fixed or identlies are completely constructed Perhaps some day I will write that sort of memoir or include more of
and fluid." In an Anlo-Ewe philosophy about identity we find neither of that sort of information in an ethnographic text. But the "offspring" that
these two poles. Instead, they espouse a way of being-in-the-world that we have here, in the form of this book, focuses more narrowly on the
includes flexibility and adaptability (a "fluidity") while maintaining some problem of culture and the senses. l have tried to explore that philo-
core ("fixed") sense of an identity as Anlo. Strauss and Quinn suggest sophical issue in a dialogical way, tacking back and forth between my
that the inadequacr of the earlier (academic-anthropological) approaches concerns and information about experiences in Anlo contexts that spoke
to identity can be helped through the use of psychological models (such back to the "study" that my presence embodied and invoked. So the
as the cognitive model presented in their own work). They explain that main approach taken in this work has revolved around exploration and
"identity has an implicit (normally out of awareness) component, which explanation. And while I do not claim this as anything close to a defini-
is neither complerely fixed nor entirely fluid. Without such psychological tive account of the senses in Anlo contexts or in Anlo-Ewe worlds, I hope
models," they argue, "it is all too easy to see either fixed physical attrib- char in the spirit of 1msosro, it allows Anlo-Ewe people themselves some
utes or the ever-changing immediate context as more determining than new insight or a fresh perspective from which to explore their own his-
they are and to underestimate the out-of-awareness processes that shape tory, language, and culture.
conscious choices" ( 1997:9-10). Anlo-Ewe notions of identity concur An Anlo person who herself set out to study the sensory order of her
with Strauss and Quinn's point about identity being neither completely own cultural heritage, or to study experiences of sensory embodiment in
fixed nor entirel)' fluid. So, as neither fixed nor fluid, I would suggest that Anlo-Ewe worlds, would most certainly arrive at and prodQ.ce an alter-
the perspective on identity that we find in Anlo-Ewe contexts also fits wid1 nate account. 15 Perhaps she would find far more congruence between the
!; : Csordas's idea (discussed throughout this book) that the self is "an inde- senses at play in Anlo-land and the five-senses model that I have worked .
I,

to deconstruct. Or perhaps this individual wou.!d concur with Mr. Ad~


t'
I1 terminate capacity to engage or become oriented in the world"
(1994c:340, emphasis added). In the way.that my mofialatuo insisted I zomada that there is nothing in their cultural heritage to suggest they
become oriented to certain themes or motifs that they deemed critical to have ever had a theory or philosophy of the senses. This book is meant
an understanding of what it means to be Anlo, I would suggest that to open the door on these issues, in both Anlo contexts and in other cul-
we see a concurrence with Csordas's notion that "self-processes are ori- tural settings. But that seemingly innocuous goal has not prevented me
enrarional processes in which aspects of the world arc thematized" from worrying, each step of the way, about the possibility that this pres-
(r994c:340). entation simply exoticizes the life-worlds of the people who helped me
Through a dialogical process during fieldwork, these themes, or the- to explore these questions in the first place. In the end, however, I real-
matized aspects of the world, became the major contents of my study. ize that I cannot have it both ways: if I accept the reality of something I
Here I am intentionally using the term study in an ambiguous way, to am calling "cultural difference" and I set out to explore, describe, and
Sensory Experience and Cultural Identity Sensory Experience ;111d Cultural ldcntit)'

explain it, I cannot also end up with a book chat makes Anlo-Ewe peo- there is a "historically dynamic social realitr'' that we could describe as
ple appear as clones of my own group, Euro-Americans. So here I wane a feeling and a sensibility about being Anlo. That is, I have cried co cake
to say a few words about why I am interested in "difference" and why the discussion further than simply the problem of naming and probe that
I think the senses are one of the most significant avenues through which visceral level where we "feel" difference, or get at the place from which
to understand and explain it. we "sense" cultural distinctions. And this, in the end, is where I believe
In his work On Race and Philosophy, Lucius Outlaw argues (1996) a significant portion of cultural difference really lies: in the realm of the
that whether or not anthropologists accept the existence of races, the senses. I think that we can discursively portray and rationally account
term race is still deeply meaningful to many African Americans. He refers for only so much. In the end, there is a point of contact chat involves sen-
to his approach as a "conservation of 'race'" and makes a case for the sory engagement. When chose sensory fields are not completely in sync,
terms race and ethnic (or "ethnic group") as viable terms in our discourse we feel or detect or encounter cultural diffcrcnce. 16
about cultural difference. But these terms are not employed unselfcon- Along these lines, let me quote Outlaw again, as he makes a point about
sciously. While critiquing scholarly and scientific (especially anthropo- the interplay beC\veen what we chink of as the social and the natural.
logical) efforts to classify and delimit human groupings, he also holds
[HJuman groups, rhough historical, sociall)' consrructed realities, also ha\'c
the position that there still is a reality of difference between groups of
nat11ral hisrorics, and this makes for particularly rhom) conceptual
people and ways of life. But in relation to that phenomenon we call "dif- challenges. Thar is to say, humans arc part of rhe natural world and are
ference," one of the things that concerns Ouclaw ( r996:138) is "how to subject to many of the principles or laws that govern the processes that
name something that changes and by the naming provide a 'handle' for make for order in nature. To the extent thar we take wisdom or true under-
dealing with it, intellectually and practically, in a way that is more or less standing to involve systematic knowledge of the rules or principles that
stable, if not permanent, over time." He then wonders, "(A)s human govern the object of inquiry, then efforts to distinguish human groups arc
also efforts to understand and explain \'aricties of human groupings as in
groups can and do change in their composition over time, whatever the
some sense "natural": as conditioned-though by no means strictlr deter-
rate, what is it that the name is a 'handle' on?" (Outlaw i996:i38). And mi11ed-by processes in the natural, but socially inAuenccd world. (Outlaw
he docs not, in the end, arrive at a clear solution: "Racial and ethnic 1996:t38)
classification and identification, as ventures involving efforts to relate
logically ordered classificatory terms to historically dynamic social real- Here I wane to highlight his statement chat "humans are part of the nat-
ities and have the names he appropriate objectively and subjectively, are ural world," so humans, coo, "are subject to many of the principles or
no simple tasks" (Outlaw 1996:138). laws that govern the processes chat make for order in nature." This point
In this book I have not employed the term race but occasionally men- takes us full circle co some of the issues I raised in chapter 1. I opened
tioned ethnicity and, more often, simply referred to the phenomenon I the book with the observation chat the senses are often treated as defini-
was invoking as cultural differe11ce Bue I cake seriously Outlaw's point tively "natural"-as a psychobiological system that transcends cultural
about how important it is that this "naming" be appropriate at both an and social influence. But I went on co point out that modern sensory sci-
objective and a subjective level. In West Africa, many of the names used ence may have more open questions about human sensory abilities than
to designate specific human or social groups link closely to labels for the answers. So the line between natural and sociocultural dimensions of
languages that they speak. But it is never that simple, and attached to human sensory functioning may not be as clear or distinct as some would
each label or name is a complex history and sociology inevitably inter- believe.
twined with the nineteenth-century evolutionist-colonialist (and by im- I have intentionally left these boundaries somewhat blurred and in-
plication anthropological) project of classification. In this book the name stead opted for Bourdieu's strategy of "theorizing in oxymorons" (Csor-
or the label "Anlo" received a fair amount of attention. I tried to show das's [1994b:278-279l characterization). That is, I have focused in this
not only that there exists a grouping of people who are objectively book on neither the purely natural or purely cultural aspects of sensory
deemed (by other West Africans and Ghanaians) as "Anlo-Ewe" and experience but rather I have examined the ways in which history is
who self-monitor and subjectively identify as "Anlo-Ewe" but also that turned into nature (Bourdicu r977:78). I have tried to understand Anlo
Sensory Experience and Cultural Identity

ways of being-in-the-world not as "strictly determined" but as "condi-


tioned" (rouse Outlaw's terms), or as arising from a "durably installed
generative principle of regulated improvisations" (Bourdieu r977). This Notes
approach makes room for i11determ