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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Things of the ground: children's medicine, motherhood and memory in the Cameroon Grassfields
Author:Argenti, NicolasISNI
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute (ISSN 0001-9720)
Geographic term:Cameroon
Subjects:Oku polity
rites of passage
External links:https://doi.org/10.1017/S0001972011000015
Abstract:Soon after birth, infants in the Cameroon Grassfields chiefdom of Oku are submitted by their parents to rites known generically as 'children's medicine'. Ostensibly performed to protect infants from harm and illness, the rites are in fact fraught with tension: they embrace contradictory perspectives regarding the social role of the mother and belie the normative ideal extolling her as a figure of nurture and protection. The article argues that, beyond their overt purpose and symbolism as rites of passage, the rites evoke collective memories of child abductions and contemporary anxieties regarding the anticipated departure of older children and adolescents into foster care or migrant labour. Going beyond a classic tripartite model, the article takes a long-term view that sees life-crisis rituals as a form of collective memory that bears witness to social tensions that cannot be resolved - in this case the contradictions inherent within the hallowed image of the mother and the compromised nature of parental love. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]