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Wrestlers on the Awasena Path: Wrestling, Fertility, and Rites of Passage among the Diola of Southern Senegal

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The existing literature on religion and sport focuses on the ways that sporting events take on many aspects of religious events, fostering a sense of community and reinforcing a sense of opposition to external groups. This article focuses on a different aspect, the use of ritual to reduce the uncertainties of athletic competition in wrestling matches and its role in socializing boys and girls into the religious obligations that they will assume as adults. Utilizing a case study from the southern Diola of the Casamance area of Senegal, it builds on the author’s participation in wrestling rituals to analyze the ways in which rituals surrounding wrestling matches socialize boys and girls into ritual life, while providing individual wrestlers with a sense of protection against spiritual attacks and the uncertainties of individual competitions.

Affiliations: 1: Dartmouth College, Department of Religion and the Program in African and African American Studies


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