In Elders, Shades, and Women, Richard T. Curley describes the ceremonial life of a Nilotic community in northern Uganda and traces the alterations in its ceremonial activities from the turn of the twentieth century to the beginning of extensive contact between the Langi and Europeans in the 1960s. Setting his analysis within the broad context of Lango social organization, Curley discusses the makeup of the community and shows how the innovations of the colonial period led to changes in kinship relations and residential patterns. He is particularly attentive to the husband-wife relationship and to the changing status of women within a patrilineal system.
After describing Lango social organization and the changes that it has undergone, Curley turns to the three complexes of Lango ceremonial activity. One of these, traditionally performed by older men, has virtually disappeared, a victim of altered political relationships. The second set, comprising eight separate ceremonies performed for married women, concerns the problem of incorporating a women into her husband's lineage while recognizing that she was born in her father's. The third complex, centering on spirit possession, has become increasingly popular, and women participate to a much greater extent than men.
The author treats his religious material within the framework of structural-functionalism by concentrating on ceremonial activities rather than on belief and by relating the ceremonies to social processes. He departs from structural-functionalism, however, in borrowing heavily from work on the analysis of symbols, and he attempts to describe change rather than analyzing Lango religious activity at a single point in time.
This title is part of UC Press's Voices Revived program, which commemorates University of California Press’s mission to seek out and cultivate the brightest minds and give them voice, reach, and impact. Drawing on a backlist dating to 1893, Voices Revived makes high-quality, peer-reviewed scholarship accessible once again using print-on-demand technology. This title was originally published in 1973.