Secrecy, Sacrilege and the State

Ferdinand de Jong

in Masquerades of Modernity

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print October 2007 | ISBN: 9780748633197
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748670642 | DOI:
Secrecy, Sacrilege and the State

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This chapter examines the historical trajectory of the Kankurang, a masquerade that is held to protect the initiates of the ‘Mandinko circumcision’ against witchcraft. It demonstrates that legal dualism, if this ever existed in colonial Senegal, becomes increasingly blurred in the postcolonial performances of the Kankurang masquerade. Certainly, as the public face of a secret society, the masquerade continues to challenge the state's quest for hegemony. But the secret society penetrates the domain of public politics and is itself also increasingly penetrated by this domain. The masquerade is still used to contest state authority, but cultural brokers have also tried to make masked performances compatible with state hegemony. The masked performance should be understood as yet another domain subjected to state control, while simultaneously subverting the legitimacy of the state.

Keywords: Kankurang; masquerade; initiates; Mandinko circumcision; legal dualism; secret society; state authority; state hegemony

Chapter.  11000 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: African Studies

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