Abstract

This article reinterprets Dogon migration to colonial Ghana for European clothing as a phenomenon modeled on age group initiation practices on the Dogon Plateau. In initiation rites, young boys who were candidates for the prestigious Association of Masks were subjected to a test, undertaken in caves. Boys who underwent this initiation could only occupy the highest social hierarchy when they mastered the secret language of masks, the sigi so. Labor migration to Ghana in the early and mid twentieth century built upon and altered these social rites; with the rise to prominence of migration, mature men were reborn by migrating to Ghana, where they learned English and brought modern clothing back to their villages. Clothing and other imported items reproduced local institutions of social promotion and reinforced the hierarchical status of their age group. Thus, through migration, young men were initiated into Dogon society through the same processes emphasized by existing initiation rites: uncovering another world, acquiring new knowledge, and adopting new perspectives. For relatives who remained in the village, the human nature of migrants changed, as their modern clothing upon their clean bodies conferred upon them the image of men who had reached new social heights.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2163-9108
Print ISSN
0145-2258
Pages
pp. 73-90
Launched on MUSE
2016-11-16
Open Access
No
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