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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Dirty Smith: Smell as a Social Frontier among the Kapsiki/Higi of North Cameroon and North-Eastern Nigeria
Author:Beek, Walter E.A. vanISNI
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Geographic terms:Nigeria
Subjects:sensory perception
social structure
iron forging
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/1160063
Abstract:Among the Kapsiki or Higi of the Mandara mountains of north Cameroon and northeastern Nigeria the division between blacksmith and non-smith pervades society. Blacksmiths dominate technical and ritual specializations - including the forge - and through their association with death are considered dirty. One way in which this opposition is expressed is through the definition of smell. Using ideophones, the Kapsiki distinguish fourteen types of smell, each associated with specific 'smelly' objects, animals or persons. The definition of smell by blacksmiths, however, is different from that of non-smiths; also women of both 'castes' define smell differently from men. Whereas men use the definition of smell to accentuate the gap between smith and non-smith, women tend to mediate the division. Smell is not associated with notions of evil or witchcraft, but it is associated with burial. The connection smith-corpse may be one reason for the 'smelly' definition of the smith. Another reason may be the notion of ambivalence and the tendency to draw strict dividing lines between social groups. The author carried out fieldwork among the Kipsiki in 1971, 1972-1973, 1979 and 1988. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. also in French.