“This Is My Profession”—Changes in African Ritual Consciousness over Thirty-One Years



In this article, I point out significant changes in the field of Ndembu ritual after a gap of 31 years, 1954 until 1985—when I returned to Zambia. I depict rituals for spirit affliction, first in 1954, and later in 1985. In the 1954 era, many other adepts used to join with the main patient in trance. The success of such rituals was about 1 in 4. In 1985 the story tells of but one medicine man, Kabwita, dressed in traditional garb. Kabwita was proud. He would say to me, “This is my profession.” Now, later in 2011, anthropology itself has changed. The empathy of fieldworkers has taken a step forward so that their subjects hardly seem “subjects” at all but are simply comembers of the human race and coresearchers.