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Women, Ancestors, and Alterity Among the Manjaco of Guinea-Bissau

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image of Journal of Religion in Africa

I explore a classic topic in anthropological studies of African religion-ancestor worship-by interpreting the rituals associated with the installation of a new ancestor figure into Manjaco household shrines. Women-pecifically out-marrying father's sisters-do most of the talking at the image's installation ceremony. And they generally characterize ancestors as selfish, capricious juniors. By exploring the way fathers' sisters assert their version of moral authority by denigrating or scolding the ancestors, I suggest that the cult does not objectify particular personae (i.e. elder males). Rather, the ritual and the orations that occur at the ritual contextualize particular relationships and processes (i.e. the enforced transformation of male junior to male elder) which privilege the agency of women in maintaining a precarious community of interest in the Manjaco house-a seemingly andro-centric corporate group.

Affiliations: 1: (Mary Washington College, Virginia


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