Social Anthropology



Masks and madness. Ritual expressions of the transition to adulthood among Miskitu adolescents a


Mark Jamieson a1
a1 Department of Social Anthropology, University of Manchester, Roscoe Building, Brunswick Street, Manchester M13 9PL mark.a.jamieson@man.ac.uk

Abstract

This article considers two forms of action among Miskitu adolescents, both of which encode in ritualised form anxieties and desires concerned with the imminent categorical transition from adolescence to adulthood. The first of these is a masked dance known as ‘mosko’ which is performed mainly by both young unmarried man and women in the village of Kakabila. The second is a supposedly culture-bound, and evidently contagious, condition known as ‘grisi siknis’ which afflicts mainly young unmarried women in Miskitu-speaking communities throughout eastern Nicaragua and Honduras. Analysis of this material suggests that where rituals directly enacting transformations to adulthood are absent, modes of action allowing individuals to express concerns surrounding this change of status are likely to be particularly dramatic.



Footnotes

a This article is based mainly upon materials collected during eighteen months residence in Nicaragua in 1992 and 1993, fifteen of which were spent in the village of Kakabila in the Pearl Lagoon basin.This work was conducted as a postgraduate student in the Anthropology Department of the London School of Economics, and as an associate researcher with CIDCA (el Centro de Investigaciones y Documentación de la Costa Atlántica). I am most grateful to both institutions for their considerable assistance. This work was also made possible by fieldwork grants from the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research and the Emslie Horniman Trust, and I would like to thank the trustees of both for their confidence in my ability to carry out this research. I also conducted shorter periods of fieldwork in the region, mostly spent in Kakabila, in 1997, 1998 and 1999-2000, courtesy of funds made available by the London School of Economics and the University of Manchester. I would also like to express my gratitude to Philip Dennis, Galio Gurdian and Eduardo Archetti for thoughtful and helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article. Remaining deficiencies are mine alone. Finally, I would like to thank Dr Marc Isler of Bluefields and the people of Kakabila and Raitipura - in particular Mr John and Miss Chavela Schwartz, their daughter and my comadre Lorna Schwartz, the late Mr Bernardino Schwartz Garth, Miss Rachel Schwartz MacPherson, Miss Buelah Theodore and Miss Gollita Theodore, all of Kakabila - for wonderful company and patient explanations.