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60  that shape or affect their lives. The possibilities for increasing one’s own resources and possibilities among the living by harnessing the powers of the invisible realm is, however, also what constitutes the greatest threat to one’s existence. Not everything is known, and what is known is that power works in hidden and capricious ways. Basically, it is never possible to fully gauge whether someone else is attempting to gain a wrongful advantage by inflicting harm on his or her peers. As Ashforth tellingly argues in his analysis of witchcraft in Soweto, South Africa, ‘unless you have good reason to believe otherwise and only for so long as those reasons remain plausible, everyone must be presumed able and willing to cause you harm’ (2005:66). In this particular context, life was built on a ‘presumption of malice’ where it could be assumed that anyone with the motive to cause harm would cause harm, e.g. through witchcraft attacks orchestrated by ancestral spirits guiding the lives of their descendants. According to Geschiere (1997), witchcraft is closely linked to understandings of kinship, as occult forces always operate from within. Witchcraft is the “flipside of kinship” (ibid.:25), as it were. In the urban Soweto community like in many different settings across sub-Saharan, people Africa live with witchcraft as a constant and latent possibility, implying that a person’s spirit is continuously exposed to harmful intrusions by witches secretly lurking in the community (cf. Stewart and Strathern 2004:79). If the witch successfully captures a person’s spirit, the victim’s Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, will say. In his analysis of personhood in the South African Lowveld, Niehaus describes the concept as the human spirit leaving the body after death (2002:195, 201), and from my conversations with urbanites living in Maputo, I got the same impression. Spirits live as omnipresent beings detached from their human body, while still remaining on the same existential level as human beings, as is most clearly apparent from their relative limited powers and ’want of moral character’ (Junod 1962b:425). Ancestor spirits focus on their own lineage and do not hesitate to punish severely those who do not abide by their rather idiosyncratic normative rules.4 Most Mozambicans have two names, their Portuguese public name, which is what defines the individual as a national citizen, and a traditional name, given concomitantly after birth to confirm the relationship with the particular ancestor who is the living person’s namesake (Junod 1962a:38). Namegiving essentially constitutes an extension of the living person (Changana nàvàlàlà) whereby his or her personhood is formed in a relationship between the living person and the deceased spiritual namesake (Changana màb’ìzwenì). In order for the living person to benefit from the relationship, he or she must consequently reciprocate the actions of the màb’ìzwenì through rituals and commemorative ceremonies in honour of the ancestors. Through divinatory rituals, ancestral spirits guide their descendants while also enabling the latter to control particular forces in the world problem in understanding sub-Saharan African cosmologies was that many African societies did not use concepts that corresponded to what Europeans understood as ‘religion’ (Ellis and Haar 2008:183). In many if not most societies across sub-Saharan Africa, human life continues to be guided by an understanding of the universe as animated by spiritual forces, which are knowable only through by their effects (Arens and Karp 1989). Not unlike Euro-American societies where the ultimate principles of existence are fundamentally hidden, there is thus more to life than meets the eye. Reality contains not merely the visible realm but, equally, an invisible world ‘distinct but not separate from the visible one, that is home to spiritual beings with effective powers over the material world’ (Ellis and Haar 2004:14). In contrast to Euro-American religious belief systems (say, Protestant Christianity), however, spiritual powers residing in the invisible world are not imagined as supernatural but, rather, as natural forces and beings. Crucially, in many sub- Saharan African societies, the invisible world is occupied predominantly by deceased ancestors still asserting their influence on the lives of the living (Peek 1991; see also Nielsen 2012). In his classic study of the Tallensi of northern Ghana (Fortes 1987), Meyer Fortes describes how, ‘(A) person’s physical extinction does not obliterate the impress of his life on his society. Material objects he created or was associated with outlive him, and what is more the living (especially his progeny) continue him, partly physically, but more mysteriously in their personalities and in their relationships with one another, as if he were in some sense still among them’ (op. cit.:7). In an altered and inherently invisible form, deceased ancestors thus continue to exist as central figures to be reckoned with. In southern Mozambique, for example, it is widely held that when a person dies, the spirit remains “as the effective manifestation of his or her power and personality” (Honwana 1997:296). Death merely signals the transition to a new dimension of life from where spirits continue as real beings to assert their influence on everyday matters. According to Junod, any deceased individual becomes a shikwembu (god) who should be seen as an “exact continuation of this earthly existence” (1962b:373, 376). In that regard, the Changana2 notionof moya is significant.3 Literally it designates the wind or spirit – even air, as people in


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