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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Knowledge, Secrecy, and the Practice of Senior Womanhood among the Bamana of the Beledugu (Mali)
Author:Freeman, Julianne E.
Periodical:Mande Studies
Geographic term:Mali
Subjects:elderly women
gender relations
indigenous knowledge
Women's Issues
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Cultural Roles
Sex Roles
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/44078793
Abstract:In Bamana society, formal secrets of women and formal secrets of men point to separate educational paths for boys and girls. As with gender, so too is age reinforced by modes of secrecy. This article investigates the nature of secrecy in the activities of senior Bamana women of the Bèlèdugu, an area north of the capital city of Mali, Bamako, and the implications of this secrecy for the salience of gender and age constructs in Bamana society. Attending to the observation of George Simmel that secrecy is structured primarily by its form rather than its content, the exploration of how senior Bamana women maintain secret knowledge and preserve domains of secret activity is the author's main interest. To this end, she examines how the modes and practice of secrecy reinforce categories of gender and age, and play into the social construction of senior womanhood. Since the work of elder women often involves domains of life and death (midwifery, healing, initiation), senior women struggle to maintain a public image of one who knows and protects. The capacity that elder women have for working in dangerous domains of activity establishes a social niche for them that cannot be filled by men or younger women. Bibligor., notes, ref.