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Deux sociétés secrètes dans des espaces publics: Bois sacrés, initiations et rites de passage chez les Sénoufo de la Côte d’Ivoire et du Mali

Authors Syna Ouattara
ISBN 978-91-7346-614-1
Publisher Göteborg University
Place of publication Göteborg
Publication year 2008
Published at School of Global Studies, Social Anthropology
School of Global Studies, Regional Studies Section, Africa Studies
Language fr
Keywords antropologi, Elfenbenskusten, Mali, Sénoufo, Afrika, utveckling, andlighet, spiritism
Subject categories Social Anthropology


This anthropological study explores the contemporary roles of two so called secret societies amongst the Sénoufo in the regions of Korhogo (Côte d’Ivoire) and Sikasso (Mali). Colonial and post-colonial authorities have successively regarded the associations of tcholobele (called poro) and of dozobele (“hunters”) as religious brotherhoods, bush schools, initiation associations or secret societies. Although these associations have since long experienced the influence of Islam and Christianity, as well as the secular heritage of colonial and post-colonial regimes, scholars have continuously documented that these associations remain alive and active, not only in their “traditional” roles, but also in addressing and resolving contemporary issues and problems. The study explores representations and contemporary domestic Ivorian and Malian discourses regarding the knowledge and practices of members of these associations, as well as the background of the international discourse on indigenous knowledge and its revalorization by international organisations and actors. Based on field research, the study shows that the association of the tcholobele remains important in local politics and in agriculture and development activities. It further shows, how, in the last decade, the dozobele (hunters) have come to play an increasingly prominent part in the maintenance of security in the area of field research : the population both admires and fears the dozobele. This respect and fear is due, not so much to the effectiveness of their weapons, i.e. to their bows and muzzle-loaders, but rather to the efficacy of the “occult” and “spiritual” knowledge attributed to them; that is, to knowledge and practices that the authorities cannot control. The study argues that local opposition to a revalorization of the knowledge of these associations and to their role in society is not, primarily, grounded in doubt about the scientific and practical relevance of this kind of indigenous knowledge, but rather ideologically and politically embedded.

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