Making of Maasai Men

Topics: Maasai, Female genital cutting, Circumcision Pages: 8 (3334 words) Published: March 25, 2013
Analyze the kinds of information each source offers, the ethical and legal standing of each, and the understanding of the rite of passage one would have by only consulting one of the sources, compared to the understanding available by consulting all three As we move on to the third millennium, there have been events that have shaped and transformed the way individuals and people around the globe approach life practices. One of such events is the culture of “making Maasai men,” a tradition that dates back many centuries. The tradition of making men is indigenous to the Maasai people, and they are located in North central Tanzania and Western Kenya. Maasai are traditionally pastoralists which is how they make a living. As discussed in class, the Maasai society is systematized into what is known as “age grade,” and every Maasai person belongs to an age group categorized by age and gender. It will be useful to define age-grades. Age-grades are stages that “mark major points in life cycle together: circumcision, warriorhood, graduation from warriorhood into elderhood (Hoffman 2008, slide 10, pg.2). In Maasai tradition, people, specifically, the Maasai men belong to an age grade due to their age, and are able to move from one stage of life to the next. In addition, as men move in each age grade and life cycle, there are noticeable changes in appearance due to body modifications. These eye-catching changes in body modifications which are parts of the Maasai genderization process are as follows: ear piercing, cutting and stretching of ear lobes and genital cutting. Under the age grade system as discussed in class, “Individuals remain members of the same age set throughout their lives, thus, uniting Maasai men from all sections, lineages and clans” (Hoffman 2008, slide 10, pg.2). As a result, this system allows for Maasai men to go through all of the major life stages with the same members of their age set. The rewards of marking age grade movements through life cycles are: increased levels of respect accorded, increased expectations for conformity to rules of respect (enkanyit), stages marking varying degrees of freedom, control of resources, and including human and bonding of individuals in the age set as they progress together through the stages. After spending a certain amount of years in an age set, Maasai boys who are also known as Olayion in Maa language, go through a unique initiation ceremony called a circumcision ceremony. It will be useful to define male circumcision also known as MGC. “Male circumcision refers to a range of alterations that vary from complete to partial removal of the foreskin and protrusion of the glands through an incision” (Maasai circumcision) (Hoffman 2008, slide 10, pg.6). Also, the Maasai name for male and female genital cutting is emurata, which means circumcision in English translation. The initiation ceremony for the boys is called Emorata. The emorata ceremony marks progression through the stages of life. For Maasai boys, these stages are: Olayioni (boy), Ilaibartak (newly circumcised boy), Olmurran (warrior), Olmorijoi (senior warrior), Olpayian (man and also husband), and Oltasat (venerable elder). All Maasai boys in the same age grade are initiated on one occasion. Subsequent to the initiation are responsibilities as the new initiates are recognized as adults. Furthermore, circumcision requires a great deal of psychological endurance due to the pain associated before and after the entire process. Cruel as this may sound, for most Africans, there are cultural reasons for both male and female circumcision. The cultural reasons for both male and female circumcision in Africa as well as in some African cultures, specifically Maasai culture are 1) identity (traditional, ethnicity/religion), 2) aesthetics, 3) morality, 4) sexuality and 5) rite of passage essential for genderization. During our discussion in class, Dr. Barbara Hoffman told a story of a Maasai family that...
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