n Acta Germanica : German Studies in Africa - Magie der Symbole. Schamanismus und Psychoanalyse in Hermann Schulz' (1998)

Volume 39, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1273


In the middle of the 20th century, Claude Lévi-Strauss described Western psychoanalysis as a 'modern form of shamanism'. In his view, both techniques of healing rely on the 'effectiveness of symbols' : By acts of re-symbolisation, they aim at integrating their patients' symptoms into alternative world views, allowing an experience of the disorders, and their handling, that way. This paper discusses Hermann Schulz's novel (1998) as a text that contrary to a great part of new German Africa literature tries to avoid an exotic representation of traditional forms of healing, representing them in a Lévi-Straussian way as treatment practices of an 'intellectual psychology of a different sort' instead. According to the French anthropologist's theoretical model of magic (as) exchange, the three 'positions' of the magical relation - 'sorcerer', patient, and public - 'oscillate' in Schulz's novel, thus making it increasingly difficult for the reader to discern who is at the centre of the rural inhabitants' healing efforts during the missionary's boat trip through the African jungle with his terminally ill daughter on board.

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