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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Identity in African ritual
Author:Beek, Walter E.A. vanISNI
Periodical:Focaal: tijdschrift voor antropologie
Geographic terms:Mali
African religions
Abstract:Comparing the religions of the Kapsiki of north Cameroon and northeastern Nigeria, and the Dogon of Mali, the author traces processes of identity formation in rituals and investigates how these rituals can be interpreted in terms of identity formation. He presents one case from Cameroon and one from Mali, starting with a 'thin' description in which the individual is related to a number of ritual processes, and then adding additional layers of description to the framework as levels of identity formation are analysed. Both cases are drawn from first-hand anthropological research over a long period. Five varieties of identity formation are discerned: the secretive identity of the individual, the defensive identity of the family, the assertive identity of intermediate groups (lineage and clan, ward and village half, age grades and occupational associations), the balanced identity of the village, and the spurious identity beyond the village. Throughout, the flexibility of religious identity in both cases allows considerable room for manipulation by the individual participant. The author concludes that the relation between an individual and his identity is a dialectic, though sometimes opportunistic, process. From the total cluster of identity features, built on a framework of gradually widening oppositions between 'Us' and 'Them', strengthened by cross-cutting ties and bonds, an individual can choose whatever level of reference group, whatever feature of identity is most relevant, most acceptable, and most rewarding. For any choice, a religious backing can be found. Bibliogr., notes, ref.