ABSTRACT

Anthropologists have long been enthralled by the specter of spirit possession. Numerous articles and books have been written on possession, and there are several memorable-if not controversial films-like Jean Rouch's Les maitres fous, that attempt to capture the carnivalesque nature of the phenomenon. Scholarly writing on spirit possession has not been limited to straightforward ethnographic description. Many anthropologists have used their materials on spirit possession to expound upon theories of society or of social meaning. Writers have employed one or several of the five dominant forms of explanation to analyze spirit possession: functionalist, psychoanalytic, physiological, symbolic (interpretive) and theatrical.