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Title: Cutting the anthill : the symbolic foundations of female and male circumcision rituals among the Mandinka of Brikama, the Gambia
Author: Ahmadu, Fuambai Sia.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3401 4169
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 2005
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The main task of this thesis is to elucidate the historical and symbolic contexts of female and male initiation rituals among the Mandinka as well as linkages to matricentric or mother focused religious ideologies. The main argument of this thesis is that female and male initiation rituals correspond with ancient Mande creation mythology. I argue that, in Mande cosmology, excision and circumcision are "hidden" iconographic representations that refer to the creation and transformation of the world from androgynous nature to sexually differentiated culture marked by cross-sex relations of power. Female and male initiation rituals are re-enactments of this cosmology, particularly the third phase of creation, which concerns the symbolic reproduction of culture and the social world: female elders transform female initiates into "male" "seeds" and male elders transform male initiates into "female" "vaginas". In marriage, female elders represent the "Phallus" that transplant the "male" "seed" as "bride" or "foetus" through the groom's "vagina" and into the agnatic "Womb" which the male elders represent. I argue further that when women assert excision as "tradition" and "culture" they are claiming the power of their "grandmothers", or female elders, in passing on prehistoric "matriarchal" religious ideologies that buttress women's key roles in ritual, as well as their socioeconomic and symbolic value as producers of "rice" and reproducers of humans. Chapters one to four of this thesis set the ethnographic and theoretical stage for the analysis of ritual and mythical symbols. Chapters five to seven unravel dominant initiation ritual symbols and their parallels with creation myths and conquer/settlement narratives. This thesis concludes that female and male initiation assert the interdependence and complementarity of both "matriarchy" and "patriarchy" centred on the ideological axis of mother and son, which was in the past embodied by the "circumcision" queen (ngansimbaa) and the "warrior" king (mansoo) or the custodians of "tradition" and land respectively.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available