Challenging Adulthood: Changing Initiation Rites among the Balanta of Guinea-Bissau


School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding and Development

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This article is about how changing initiation rites among the Balanta of Guinea-Bissau are affecting their society, and how neoliberal changes in society are affecting Balanta rites of passage and definitions of adulthood. The transmission of cultural knowledge and the social structures that support it have undergone profound transformations in the era of globalisation. In light of these changing initiation rites, this article explores how Balanta communities perceive and value male initiation today. The article begins by tracing the historical importance of Balanta initiation rites. It then considers how this cultural institution has been changed by global economic and political developments. Migration, urbanisation, and capitalism are reframing the importance of Balanta initiation as a site of contestation – the status quo versus modernity. Here as elsewhere on the continent, the effects of global capitalism are readily observable through the changes in localised cultural institutions, in this case, the collective rites of passage known as fandadu.

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African Studies

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