Personal Particularism, Mediumship, and Distributive Memory

  • Michael Lambek
Part of the Contemporary Anthropology of Religion book series (CAR)


In the previous chapters I examined two forms of the division of Sakalava historical labor, concerning, respectively, the segmentary quality of Sakalava polities and the complementary tasks of various “kinds” of people within them. This chapter elaborates a third way in which the tasks of bearing Sakalava history are distributed, which I refer to as personal particularism. It follows from the fact that the ancestors are not lumped together as an amorphous mass but distinguished as discrete individuals. It is a division of knowledge and labor by historical personage or character. These personages are borne primarily by tomb custodians and spirit mediums. Respectively, they guard and host specific royal ancestors, not ancestors in general.


Individual Medium Spirit Possession Sacred Place Segmentary Quality Active Possession 
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© Michael Lambek 2002

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  • Michael Lambek

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