The Funeral and Modernity in Manjaco

Peer Reviewed


This article asks what it means when Manjaco urban migrants embody and perform cosmopolitanism during funeral ceremonies in rural homelands in Guinea–Bissau. The format of the funeral allows for assertions of individuality that are routinely portrayed as destructive, but destructiveness is imagined as an enduring, by no means recent, feature of social life, whether traditional or cosmopolitan. Manjaco returnees are not compelled to disguise their cosmopolitanism in the mufti of tradition if they want to find a space for themselves in the village. Rather, as the funeral opens up a space for emigrants to celebrate their personal freedom of movement and their capacity to leave the village at will, cosmopolitanism can become the costume of choice at home as well as abroad. In enacting their accomplishments at funerals, Manjaco emigrants make room for cosmopolitanism as a part of what they consider to be “tradition” rather than its opposite. This cosmopolitanism as tradition is pervasive in West Africa. On the basis of an “ethos of modernity,” it is very different from the dichotomizing modernity that is a quintessential feature of both Western vernaculars and of the predominant discourses of social science.

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