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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Circumcision, Death and Strangers
Author:Middleton, Karen
Year:1997
Periodical:Journal of Religion in Africa
Volume:27
Issue:4
Pages:341-373
Language:English
Geographic terms:Madagascar
France
Subjects:Karembola
colonialism
circumcision
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Religion and Witchcraft
Cultural Roles
Health, Nutrition, and Medicine
Genital Circumcision/Cuttings/Surgeries
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/1581908
Abstract:In his 'How societies remember', P. Connerton (1989) shows the importance of bodily performance and commemorative ceremonies in the conscious evocation of the past. In this essay, the author draws upon Connerton's argument to move in a contrary if complementary direction by looking at the Karambola of southern Madagascar, who once practised circumcision, held to be 'an ancestral command', but who now no longer do. She shows how the uncircumcised body, in evoking the memory of a ritual which is no longer performed, can equally be a form of commemoration of a people's history, culture and identity. Karembola narratives around the decline of circumcision ritual present the uncircumcised body as a metaphor for their sense of political impotence and cultural decline in a 'modern' age shaped predominantly by foreigners (French colonialists). The author deals with the following questions: Are Karembola essentially right when they present the decline of circumcision ritual as indicative of their political and cultural impotence? Or can this particular 'body reform' also be understood to constitute a kind of resistance on their part? The paper is based on fieldwork carried out among the Karembola in 1981-1983 and 1991. Bibliogr., notes, ref.
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