Cover

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Contents

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p. ix

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Introduction

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pp. 1-17

A lipele is a basket that contains sixty or so small articles, from seeds, claws, and minuscule horns to coins and wooden carvings. These articles have individual names and symbolic meanings; collectively, they are known as jipelo.1 People in northwest Zambia will tell you that a lipele is first and foremost a material object, a chuma, much like a food basket...

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Chapter 1. Birth

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pp. 18-47

I wished from the start to work closely with Sanjamba,1 a senior diviner renowned for his wisdom, boldness, and wealth. He headed a populous and prosperous village; had several wives and many children; owned cattle and two big houses with glass windows; and among his smaller possessions he counted a sling reclining chair, a radio, a bicycle, and an oxcart newly painted in bright blue...

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Chapter 2. Initiation

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pp. 48-81

On the same day Sakutemba stole the basket from basket maker Pezo, he had it initiated into a mature oracle during a nightlong ritual. Basket divination led me from one ritual to another ritual. In addition to being a way of making a living, basket divination was also a way of doing things through ritual. The more I traced the biography of divination baskets, following them as they moved in space, the deeper I entered into liminal arenas...

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Chapter 3. Adulthood

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pp. 82-133

When a newborn lipele is ritually initiated into divination, it becomes an oracle. An adult lipele is a personified basket, a basket endowed with agency, cognitive skills, and psychological traits. From the perspective of the diviner whose basket becomes an oracle, however, the lipele is much more than an awe-inspiring person who stands at the core of sociocultural life in south Central Africa. Basket divination is part of who the diviner is...

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Conclusion: A Way of Living

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pp. 134-141

The lipele is caught in a lifelong ontological ambiguity, being simultaneously subject and object, spirit and matter, person and tool. It is endowed with that quality that Pietz calls “irreducible materiality” (1985:7), and yet it is empowered. Th is idea of irreducible materiality is at least as old as the Latin origin of the term “fetish,”...

Notes

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pp. 143-148

Glossary

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pp. 149-150

Works Cited

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pp. 151-163

Index

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pp. 165-172

Acknowledgments

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p. 173