Banda

Soldier_being_initiated_(1904)
American soldier being hazed (1904) by being thrown high in the air.

Have you ever been initiated or even hazed?  If so, was it a good experience, ultimately?

The Banda are an ethnic group in the Central African Republic, and I found that two aspects of their culture raised interesting questions.

Britannica states that “[t]hey used age grades and initiations called semali to assure unity in time of war.”  This made me wonder why military organizations so often have initiations or hazings.  According to Wikipedia (“Initiation”), initiations often act out a ritual death, which helps conquer the fear of a real death.  They help boys become men, and they help people accept spiritual realities.  These purposes do seem appropriate for the military.

Psychologists have this to say about initiations:

In the study of certain social forms of initiation, as hazing in college fraternities and sororities, laboratory experiments in psychology suggest that severe initiations produce cognitive dissonance [conflicting thoughts that need to be reconciled somehow].  Dissonance is then thought to produce feelings of strong group attraction among initiates after the experience, because they want to justify the effort used.  Rewards during initiations have important consequences in that initiates who feel more rewarded express stronger group identity.  As well as group attraction, initiations can also produce conformity among new members [as do uniforms and similar haircuts].  Psychology experiments have also shown that initiations increase feelings of affiliation. (Wikipedia, “Initiation”)

I was also interested in some economic aspects of Banda society.  According to Britannica,  “Marriage traditionally required bride wealth [a payment from grooms to brides’ families], often in iron implements.  Polygamy, while still practiced, has declined with the rise of a money economy.”

I wonder why the rise of a money economy (which I assume is more efficient and prosperous than a barter economy) would lead to less polygamy.  I also wondered whether polygamy is primarily an economic phenomenon or has other causes.

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1Rrdyg3

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