Seminar: Fluid Boundaries: Politicising Rituals of Purity in Ghana

Presenter:  Kirsty Wissing (PhD Candidate in Anthropology, ANU)

Title:  Fluid Boundaries: Politicising Rituals of Purity in Ghana

Date:  Friday 14 June, 3-5pm.

Venue:  Milgate Room, A.D. Hope Building (Building 14)

Abstract:  In this presentation, I will analyse how flows of fluids and people shape each other in southern Ghana. They do so both literally and metaphorically, as landscapes and people are defined, sorted, contested, and manipulated in projects of inclusion, exclusion, and containment.  In Akwamu understandings, water, as well as blood and alcohol, are attributed qualities of cleanliness and/or purity and, by extension, moral value.  These ideas of purity and pollution, I suggest, are often generated and expressed in ritual. By exploring the ritual uses of water, blood and alcohol, I will consider how fluids connect people to spiritual powers and are thought to transition a person, place or situation from pollution or danger into cleanliness, order and morality. I will also ask how, in ritual practices, fluids are used to maintain or subvert power relations defined in terms of purity. However, liquids also hold the potential to spill and slip through human control, in both material and metaphorical ways. By focusing on the threshold of flows and blockages, I will consider how multiple, co-existing ideas of cleanliness/purity can become politicised and ask just how bounded fluids and people really are.

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