Published in Int. Journal of Anthropology – Vol. 30 – n.2 – 2015
Key words: symbolic participation, diasporic Azande, baby rituals, ethnicity.
In the first half of his anthropological career, Jacques Maquet established himself as one of the leading Africanists both through the richness of his ethnographic fieldwork experience and through his ability to develop new insights into the role played by symbols in various African cultures. By applying Maquet’s theory of symbolic participation to the analysis of recent transformations in the baby rituals used by diasporic Azande populations, this paper documents how symbolic participation mitigates physical separation and perpetuates ethnic identity. Azande mothers and midwives displaced from their ancestral territory and now living in Uganda use certain analogic ritual configurations to connect babies to their homeland in South Sudan. In so doing, they imprint Azande ethnicity on the baby and on older children participating in the baby rituals. These ritual innovations demonstrate how symbols can create their own meaning.
California State University at Northridge,
Northridge, CA 91330, USA.