The about 700 Dogon villages are widely autarchic. Hardly any political structure exists beyond the village level. The bonds between villages are weak, resulting in strong cultural differences between them. These are reflected in material culture and ritual institutions, such as the presence or absence of mask traditions. The linguistic diversity in the Dogon country, with more than fifteen dialects, also mirrors these differences.Author(s): Text: Brigit Dietz, extract from C. Kleinitz and B. Dietz (2003), Signs of the times, times of the signs: Rock art and circumcision at Songo. Leiden: Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde (digital publication at www.rmv.nl)
The spatial and social structure of Dogon villages is based on lineages, descent groups based on a common ancestor. The Dogon are patrilocal: children live with their fathers, women move to their husbandís place of residence. A village usually is divided into quarters which are inhabited by one or more lineages, so-called patri-clans (Lane, in prep.). Age groups (social groups incorporating individuals of the same sex that are born within a three to seven year span) are a further important characteristic of Dogon social structure. Social status and age are closely linked, with elders and councils of elders running village affairs. Every Dogon, male and female, has to undergo several initiation rites (rites de passage) in their lifetime, each of which brings them a step higher on the social ladder (Bouju, 1984: 68). Circumcision is one of these initiation rites.
The blacksmiths and leather workers form special groups in Dogon society (Huet, 1994). They are endogamous groups: marriage is not permitted to outsiders and both groups are excluded from certain important Dogon customs. Generally, the smiths play a particular role in the villages as advisors and intermediaries in conflicts. This latter function they share with the Hogon, the highest religious leader of a village (Paulme, 1988).
1984 Graine de líhomme, enfant du mil. Paris.
1994 Villages perchÈs des Dogon du Mali. Paris.
1988 (1940) Organisation sociale des Dogon. Paris.
Date created: 2003-10-18 - Date modified: 2004-03-02