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Pluralism and Problems of Belief / Pluralisme et problèmes de croyance. - article ; n°1 ; vol.54, pg 21-42

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Archives des sciences sociales des religions - Année 1982 - Volume 54 - Numéro 1 - Pages 21-42
22 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.



Publié par
Publié le 01 janvier 1982
Nombre de lectures 23
Langue Français
Poids de l'ouvrage 2 Mo


M.F.C. Bourdillon
Pluralism and Problems of Belief / Pluralisme et problèmes de
In: Archives des sciences sociales des religions. N. 54/1, 1982. pp. 21-42.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Bourdillon M.F.C. Pluralism and Problems of Belief / Pluralisme et problèmes de croyance. In: Archives des sciences sociales
des religions. N. 54/1, 1982. pp. 21-42.
doi : 10.3406/assr.1982.2255
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/assr_0335-5985_1982_num_54_1_2255Arch Sc soc des Rel. 1982 54/1 juillet-septembre) 21 -42
Cet article fait partie un projet de recherche plus vaste mené
par auteur en 1978-79 sur les rapports religion santé et guérison
dans Etat de Cross River du Nigeria Il donné lieu une commu
nication présentée Intercongrès du symposium de U.l.S.A.E
tenu Amsterdam en 1981 sur le pluralisme religieux
La zone rurale étudiée vingt kilomètres de la capitale Calabar
fortement peuplée immigrants Ibibio se caractérise par la coexis
tence de nombreuses confessions religieuses certaines faisant une
large part aux rituels de guérison Toutefois malgré cette diversité
les pratiques auxquelles ont recours les populations peuvent être
classées en trois catégories traditionnelles modernes et religieuses
Le but de cet article est étudier la relation il en existe
une entre religion et phénomènes de guérison et de souligner les
rapports existants entre croyance religieuse appartenance religieuse
et réponses apportées la maladie
This paper arises primarily out of research project conducted on
religion health and healing in rural area about twenty kilometers from Calabar
capital of the Cross River State Nigeria sponsored by rural health project in
The rural area in question comprises traditional Efik villages heavily popu
lated by Ibibio immigrants in search of employment and income near the State
Capital and workers camps inside the Pamol rubber estate Residents had
variety of sources of healing to call upon all of which can be fitted into the three
main categories traditional modern and religious There were also number of
religious denominations active in the area some of which emphasized healing
practices The principle purpose of the research was to examine the relationship
if one existed between religion and healing practices in order to make sug
gestions on how the rural health project could more effectively bring modem
medical knowledge to the rural population In the process found needed to
modify my understanding of belief and of religious affiliation which is the subject
of the present paper which look at the relevance of religious belief and
religious affiliation to responses to illness
The problem was most acutely presented by the man Sebastian who started
teaching me Efik and who became my principle contact in and chief informant
on the village Ikot Okon Archibong and the neighbouring Pamol camp D4
where conducted most of the research
Sebastian was an elderly primary school teacher an Ibibio man who had
lived for some decades in the area and who had taught many of the young men
in the village community He was staunch Roman Catholic the chief catechist
of the Mission based on the expatriate priest living on the outskirts of the
village He has been Roman Catholic from childhood and owes his unqualified
entrance into the teaching profession to the patronage of early missionary edu
When first met Sebastian he used to tell me that he would have nothing
to do with traditional medicines which in his view are concerned with devil
worship He claimed that whenever he or any of his children were sick he went
for treatment to the rural health centre at Ikot Omin some six kilometers away
or to modem hospital of which there were two available local private and
very expensive and the government hospital in Calabar nearly twenty
kilometers away He pointed out that his children were bom in the health clinic
Later he introduced me to Mma Mary an elderly woman of an old Efik
family widowed but fairly well-off with Ibibio clients dependent on her estate
She also was practicing Roman Catholic and traditional healer with repu
tation for being able to deal with problems concerning pregnancy and with
sickness in small children Sebastian and other Catholics explained that she
was no magician involved devil worship but that she knew of variety
of herbs which she used purely medicinally She was said to be good person
who charged no fees for treatment but accepted only whatever gifts were offered
It was certainly true that she was popular to judge from the continuous stream
of visitors who called on her even sometimes when she was not liberally giving
out palm wine It was also true as far as could discover that she had nothing
to do with sacrifices to troubling spirits dominant characteristic of much of
traditional healing in the area But the gifts clients brought for her invariably
included the traditional bottle of kaikai liquor distilled from palm wine) some
of which she poured in libation to the ancestors who taught her her medicine
Also the explanations she gives to an interrogator of the diseases she treats very
often involve traditional troubling spirits 2)
On one occasion when was with Sebastian at Mma house while
she was treating child who had convulsions he showed enthusiasm for the
skills and assured me that the child would start to get better that evening
and would shortly be running around He explained that one of his own children
had once suffered from the same complaint common enough in an area where
virulant malaria is endemic The child was very ill and Sebastian had no time
to take it to hospital he explains how he was confused state of panic
when on the advice of neighbours he rushed with the child to Mma Mary under
whose treatment the child quickly recovered
On another occasion he assured me of the skill of local traditional
midwife explaining that she had delivered one of his children His wife had
been attending ante-natal clinics as usual at Ikot Omin but on this occasion her
labour started unexpectedly and slightly early He was called from his farm and
did not know what to do So he sent for the local midwife who successfully
delivered the child Subsequent children were delivered routinely at the health
centre though the teacher still vouches for the competence of the local woman
There are number of general practices and attitudes in life
which go against his expressed conviction He uses common native herbal
remedies for such symptoms as fever and some concoctions given to him by
another native healer to whom he is related by marriage and who does use the
traditional sacrifices of native healing There is traditional bone-setter in the
village whose skills are praised by Sebastian In the camp there is man who
is supposed to cure diseases caused by witchcraft for very high fees Sebastian
believes that there are illnesses which can be cured only by such man but
claims that such illnesses only occur when person has already tampered with
witchcraft and that his family would never have to use this kind of treatment
Yet Sebastian still maintains the general belief that native medicine is
unreliable and often evil This belief can be partly explained in terms of his
long connection with and dependence on expatriate Catholic missionaries Yet
it is not adequate to dismiss Ms belief as verbal formula appropriate for
conversations with missionaries and other whites We are concerned with
conviction belief which affects behaviour Sebastian usually chose modem
medicine often at considerable expense and inconvenience Yet in number
of instances he adopts attitudes which go against this conviction Sometimes he
was concerned to justify an action which went against his basic beliefs but
usually this was under my provocation and often he was not interested in apparent
Such an attitude is not universal but it is certainly not unique Another
teacher in the community was much more concerned to hold and present
coherent view of healing and tried to provide rational explanations for different
choices even in this case the rationalization did not always concur with the
cause of particular choice For the majority it appeared that coherence was
not an issue It was obvious enough that there were in the community number
of patterns of belief and behaviour from which an individual could choose It is
also obvious and has repeatedly been stated e.g Lewis 1966 66 Horton 1971
1975 Goody 1975 102) that change in religious affiliation does not normally
mean total change in ways of thinking and acting What the case of Sebastian
drew to my attention was that variety of ways of thinking and acting sometimes
conflicting ways could be adopted at appropriate times often very temporarily
by an individual in order to meet the different situations that face him
Jack Goody makes literacy key issue conversion 1975 103 Changes
in allegian

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