12/03/2015
lisa monaghan

Kurimoto (1992). An Ethnography of 'Bitterness': Cucumber and Sacrifice Reconsidered

In Nuer Religion (1956) Evans-Pritchard writes that the Nuer of the southern Sudan may sacrifice a wild cucumber in place of an ox. If no beast is available Nuer may sacrifice the Cucumis pro-phetarum, aknobbly cucumber called kwolyang, cow's cucumber. When a cucumber is used as a sacrificial victim Nuer speak of it as on ox. In doing so they are asserting something rather more than that it takes the place of an ox (Evans-Pritchard 1956: 203, 128). This 'a cumcumber is an ox' proposition, together with the 'twins are birds' proposition (Evans-Pritchard 1936; 1956: 80, 128- 33, 141), has puzzled and charmed many philosophers as well as anthropologists. Some thought this issue was relevant to the problem of rationality or 'prelogical mentality' in 'primitive thought' (see articles by Gellner and Maclntyre in Wilson 1970; Firth 1966). Hayley tried to explain it through a psycho-analytical approach (1968). Levi-Strauss referred to it from his own perspec-tive on totemistic thought (1962a; 1962b).

Category: Anthropology and History

Sub-category: Socio-Cultural Groups and Practices