Panel for the Nordic Africa Days, Trondheim (Norway) 1-3 October 2009
Research Associate at the FNRS/ULB (Belgium)
Call for papers
The study of funerals and that of social change have long evolved somehow separately in Africanist research. On the one hand, the anthropology of African funeral rites remained focused for decades on the persistence of “traditional” funerals and on their complex ritual logics. On the other hand, the sociology and anthropology of African social change developed in the wake of the school of Manchester and, in France, of the works of Georges Balandier, most often without much interest for the evolutions of funerals.
For approximately twenty years however, funerals started to be considered in more and more publications as playing a structuring role in the ongoing processes of change. In the last decades, the diverse effects of religious changes on the styles of the obsequies were however better tackled, and the crucial nature of the rural-urban relations in the structuring of funerals, that certainly are key moments, in several regions, in the reaffirmation of identities and social hierarchies, was highlighted too. Nowadays, the important size of funerals in many regions of Subsaharan Africa are well-known, as well as the fact that the ostentatious and lavish nature of these events mobilize huge amounts of economic resources. Funerals then appear as crucial social moments where diverse solidarities as well as patronage relationships and social differences are (re)produced.
In such a context, broadly outlined above, this panel seeks to further explore the contemporary social dynamics of funerals in postcolonial Africa. In particular, the panel will focus on the social debates brought about by the huge costs of funerals within African societies themselves, highlighting African reflexivity and reflexions on that key arena of African societies. Contributions showing how funeral-related expenses are actually debated in African families and lineages, and how the issue of funeral expenses is discussed in African societies, are particularly welcomed. However, the roles of religious changes, of the evolution of kinship relations, of rural/urban (dis)connections, as well as of the changes in relations between genders and generations, surely are key factors in the structuring of the debates surrounding contemporary obsequies, and all constitute possible axes or entries to explore the emerging trends in funerals in today’s Africa.
If interested, please send the paper proposals (no more than 300 words) for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org before 10 May 2009.
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