Between Ontological Transformation and the Imagination of Tradition: Girls’ Puberty Rituals in Twenty-first Century Botswana

The paper contrasts Tswapong puberty ritual, the mothei, conceived of as effecting an ontological change in being and personhood, with the newly invented Kgatla puberty ritual. The latter, it is argued, while reflecting authority and embracing a collective tribal identity, lacks the ordeals of death...

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Bibliographic Details
Published in:Journal of religion in Africa
Main Author: Werbner, Pnina
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
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Published: 2014
In:Journal of religion in Africa
Year: 2014, Volume: 44, Issue: 3/4, Pages: 355-385
Further subjects:B puberty rituals ontological change invention of tradition Gender Tswana Botswana seriti Tswapong Kgatla
Online Access: Volltext (Verlag)
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Summary:The paper contrasts Tswapong puberty ritual, the mothei, conceived of as effecting an ontological change in being and personhood, with the newly invented Kgatla puberty ritual. The latter, it is argued, while reflecting authority and embracing a collective tribal identity, lacks the ordeals of death and rebirth inherent in the mothei ritual. I propose that rituals may lose aspects of their ontological inscription of gendered personhood and subjectivity while assuming new political or policy-related functions. The paradox highlighted is that despite endowing girls with ‘dignity’ and moral agency within a ‘society of women’, Tswapong girls are increasingly refusing to be initiated in the face of ‘modern times’, backed by teachers who regard the ritual as archaic, while concurrently southern Tswana Kgatla are enthusiastically mobilising mass girls’ initiations under the supervision of Kgatla royals with political agendas. My paper reflects on these apparent paradoxes of cultural authenticity as rituals change, hybridise, and are reinvented.
ISSN:1570-0666
Contains:In: Journal of religion in Africa
Persistent identifiers:DOI: 10.1163/15700666-12340013