African Indigenous Religions and Disease Causation: From Spiritual Beings to Living Humans

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African Indigenous Religions and Disease Causation: From Spiritual Beings to Living Humans. By David Westerlund. Leiden: Brill, 2006. Pp. viii, 237. Paperback euro73 / $99.

Even the title of this book by Swedish historian of religion David Westerlund is heavy going, which matches the text as a whole. Based on Evans-Pritchard's thesis that the predominant motif in a religion is usually "to what sickness and other problems are attributed" (p. 4), Westerlund compares concepts of disease causation and treatment, as well as respective institutions for problem solving, of five African peoples. After giving an ethnographic survey in chapter 1, the author discusses in detail five people groups. Two are nomadic pastoralists: the San (Bushmen of Namibia and Botswana, chap. 2) and the Maasai (Tanzania, chap. 3); the other three are settled agriculturalists: the Sukuma (Tanzania, chap. 4), the Kongo (Democratic Republic of Congo, chap. 5), and the Yoruba (Nigeria, chap. 6).

The author compiled this detailed and excellently referenced comparison from a vast amount of published and unpublished materials not only to inform but also to show the "processes of change" (p. …