Makris, G.P. Changing Masters: Spirit Possession and Identity Construction Among Slave Descendants and Other Subordinates in the Sudan. Evanston, Ill:: Northwestern U P, 2000.
For all the attention paid in Islamic culture to how effectively women's bodies succeed in the project of protecting family honor, there is relatively little support given to caring for them. For a start, Muslim women may not be attended by a male physician or other health-care provider (Howson, et al. 46ff). Since women are less likely to become physicians than men, and since in any case Sudan is among the most illiterate nations in the world, Muslim women are potentially in a precarious health condition (Howson, et al. 28). Small wonder there is widespread belief in spirit agency in physical well-being. Indeed, it has been hypothesized that preoccupation with spirit power is in fact a psychic stressor, which can aggravate physical illness or lead to manifestation of mental illness. Modern anthropological analysis has established that among Muslims of sub-Saharan Africa, including Sudan, neurotic disorders may be manifest in physical terms. The pressure on women to carry the burden of cultural and family honor would seem powerful enough to put strain the strength of even a minimally scrupulous conscience. The psychological origin of somatic pain, by the way, is not an idea confined to Africa. Freud's famous analysis of "Dora" makes much of the inability of the patient's ego, or most immediate sense of self, to sort out the tension between itself and the superego (social demands, conscience) on one hand, and between ego and unconscious instinctive drives on the other (Freud 9ff et passim).
Quandt, William B. " Nine Parts of Desire." Foreign Affairs 74 (March-April 1995): 164-5.
The zar cult is not exclusive to Sudan, since the zar is a feature of culture in Egypt, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. However, this research concentrates on zar in northern Sudan, where the vast majority of women are Mus