This essay explores how people in rural Burkina Faso act upon and seek to reconcile contradictions between cosmologically grounded ritual boundaries and geographically informed natural resource-use planning. On the basis of ethnographic examples, I reflect upon the process in which the ritual boundary—a ritually defined, religiously sanctioned, and often invisible frontier—of sacred groves and earth-shrine becomes politically significant and takes on some lawlike characteristics while preserving certain indigenous features. My purpose is to investigate how actors transform ritual boundaries from mythical lands into institutionalized local knowledge, either to be used instrumentally to settle political conflict, or to be made relevant for culture-sensitive development operations. By simultaneously invoking ritual power for biodiversity preservation and making political use of ritual boundaries without physically demarcating them, rural actors seek to reconcile cosmological and geographical notions of ritual boundaries. When ritual boundaries are invented in the development context, distinctions between insiders and outsiders are likely to be stressed.


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pp. 109-129
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