Magazine German Morgenlaendi Society vol 146 - number 2 1996 pp 728
DAVID ZEITLYN: Sua in Somié. Aspects of Mambila Traditional religion. Sank
Augustin: Academia Veriag 1994. 260 S., cards and diagrams (Collectanea Instituti
Anthropos 41.) ISBN 3-88345-375-7, 78.00 DM.
Sua in Somié: behind this something puzzling title hides a noteworthy study of the Mambila living in the border area of Cameroon and Nigeria and their traditional religion. The main part of this group lives in Nigeria, and the few work written so far deals with itself also with the Nigerian Mambila. ZEITLYN executed his field research mainly in Somié, one of the three main settlements of the Mambila in Cameroon. This book developed from a thesis thus closes a gap in the ethnographic knowledge of this region.
In the preface ZEITLYN addresses some theoretical problems, which emerged in connection with its investigation, in particular the difficulty to describe the religious system of a culture in which there is no tradition of elaborate reflection on religious actions and concepts.
In the first section he presents a ethnographic overview, which predominantly refers to the Mambila of Somié, and deals with aspects of the relationship system, the political structure and the economy. A description of life crisis rituals closes the section and leads up to the next, in which the different religious and ritual institutions, like oaths and divination, and the term sua are given a first description. Sua is a central concept in the traditional religion and includes both the complex of the masquerades and the process of the swearing/placing of oaths. Although the creator God,Chàng " is the ultimate cause and reason, sua [ is ] the ultimate means of action " (P. 103).
The following sections are the empirical core of the work. In them different the texts of sua oaths in their English translation are examined in detail. Readers interested in the Mambila language may refer to the original texts and their literal translations by electronic access over email from the Oxford text archive.
In the conclusion section ZEITLYN discusses the theoretical implications of its work and places it into the context of science-theoretical discussions.
Altogether the volume represents the virtues of the British social anthropology with a solid empirical basis on the one hand and a elaborate theoretical perspective on the other. It is remarkable the carefulness, with which ZEITLYN takes on his topic. The considered and legitimate generalisation has not been forced upon the data he collected. J. A.