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Embodying Colonial Memories: Spirit Possession, Power, and the Hauka in West Africa

Embodying Colonial Memories: Spirit Possession, Power, and the Hauka in West Africa
Author: Paul Stoller
ISBN 13: 9780415908771
ISBN 10: 415908779
Edition: N/A
Publisher: Routledge
Publication Date: 1995-09-29
Format: Paperback
Pages: 240
List Price: $46.95

Embodying Colonial Memories is the first in-depth study of the West African Hauka, spirits in the body of (human) mediums which mimic and mock Europeans of the colonial epoch. Paul Stoller, who was initiated into a spirit possession troupe, recounts an insider's tale of the Hauka with respect and "brotherly" deference. He combines narrative description, historical analysis, and reflections on the importance of embodiment and mimesis to social theory, with particular reference to the Songhay peoples of the Republic of Niger.

Why have the Hauka mimicked white men and their colonial behaviors? In this innovative book, Stoller argues that mimicry is about power. To copy something is to master it. Through the Hauka, the Songhay try to divert the power of the Europeans.

Embodying Colonial Memories not only desribes a spirit possession cult; it considers such significant subjects as the cultural sentience of the body, the dynamics of colonial movements of resistance, and the particularly poignant political discourses of West African postcolonies.


On contemporary life & culture in the Espanola Valley of northern N.M. Covers colonial history and its influence upon the cultural diversity of the region. Interviews and some 80 fine, evocative b&w photos give a good sense of the current society. No index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)