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Author: T.O. Beidelman
Title: Secrecy and society: the paradox of knowing and the knowing of paradox
Publication info: Ann Arbor, Michigan: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library

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Source: Secrecy and society: the paradox of knowing and the knowing of paradox
T.O. Beidelman

Evanston, IL: Program of African Studies, Northwestern University
no. 5, pp. 6-7, 1993
Author Biography: T.O. Beidelman is Professor of Anthropology of New York University.

Secrecy and society: the paradox of knowing and the knowing of paradox [1]

by T. O. Beidelman

For secrets are edg'd Tools

And must be kept from Children and from Fools.

—John Dryden, Sir Martin Mar-all, 1668

The Nature of Secrets and Secrecy

William Blake wrote that secrecy is the human dress, and while he clearly meant no compliment, there is no question that secrecy is central to human affairs, at least if one takes the term to include all kinds of concealment. Taking this broad view of secrecy, one finds few sides of social life where things are not hidden.

Everyone who has written perceptively about secrecy has remarked that it involves paradox, most often in the sense that for a secret to be realized, someone must not only conceal something but someone else must know or suspect this concealment. [2] Consequently, while the import of a secret may remain hidden, the act of concealment must be revealed if the secret is to have an audience and hence a social existence. Furthermore, the power and attraction of the secret lie in the possibility that it may be disclosed, either as a favor to the uninformed who seek to learn it or as a betrayal or lapse on the part of those hiding it. In either case, secrets imply that their own disclosure and knowledge are desired, because secrets give power to those who know them.

The ambiguities, the ambivalences, surrounding secrecy are best appreciated by considering how we manipulate information and how we construct personhood, activities both highly paradoxical in themselves.

Georg Simmel begins what remains the most searching analysis of secrecy by observing that all social life is founded on exchanging information about what people are, about what we may expect from one another, and about how to manage things. [3] Yet Simmel's exegesis, first published in 1908, quickly moves from considering candor to considering artifice, from considering information to considering misinformation, and to the related issues of truthfulness and lying, simplicity and adornment, distortion or concealment, in order to gain communicative advantages over others. This is characteristic of Simmel, for whom all social beliefs and practices hold a poignancy of multiple, conflicting implications. These social paradoxes account both for people's ceaseless problems in trying to master their affairs (problems that remain ultimately insoluble) and for their underlying though vain hopes that they may one day entirely succeed. The first of Simmel's social paradoxes thus rests on the fact that we need knowledge to live among others, but that such knowledge is so important and at times so dangerous that we and others often doctor it. To understand social information, then, requires wise discernment, which can sort out the real from the false, can reveal what is hidden, can tell what should properly be kept hidden, and can dismiss much else that is cunningly or cheaply proffered.

The word "secret" itself derives from Latin terms for setting things apart, for sequestering things and experiences into meaningful and useful categories, and for the power of such discerning operations. It is an inextricable element of these operations that their very limits cause distortion. By this I mean more than the limitations of individuals in mastering social categories. I mean the limitations set by language and symbols themselves, which necessarily both reveal yet limit. Carlyle put this philosophically: "In a Symbol there is concealment and yet revelation: here, therefore, by Silence and by Speech acting together, comes a double significance." [4] Sally Falk Moore, describing an East African piece of arcane knowledge, similarly remarks, "Certainly where such knowledge purports to explain gender, birth and death that telling of answers may only deepen the mystery by revealing the seeming inadequacy of any single solution." [5] This essential inadequacy of all words and symbols helps explain the common substitution of the term "mystery" for "secret" in some theological writing. [6]

The second ambivalent facet of social life that is related to an understanding of secrecy involves the construction of the person. The social person is the product of the repeated endeavors by which an individual attempts to create a social simulacrum toward which others will respond; it may also be a social straitjacket or label enforced upon an individual by those around her or him. Revealingly, the term "person" derives from the Greek word for the mask (prosopon, before the eyes) worn by an actor to denote his part in a play. [7] What is paradoxical about masks is that, like words, they may both reveal and conceal identities. They may reveal the roles in which individuals are cast, but they also obscure many other features about their wearers. If words inform but also lie and obscure, then masks reveal and define but also conceal and deceive. The paradoxes of secrecy are epitomized both in actual masks and in all our roles as social persons. The word "mask" itself is rooted in Arabic terms for mockery, deception, trickery, and laughter.

In the terms of this sociological discussion, which is so deeply indebted to Georg Simmel and Marcel Mauss, secrecy represents a vital side of all social affairs, the insoluble and paradoxical play by humans who recognize that sociocultural life involves a tension between conventions and deeper, more dangerous realities that perdure both on the cosmic level of death, generation, and perpetuity and on the individual level of experiences such as bodily pain, anxiety, fear, pleasure, and affection. It was on account of these realities that Emile Durkheim, Marcel Mauss, and Claude Levi-Strauss resisted facile, reductive analyses of social experiences. [8] There is another, less apprehensible world, and it is in this sense that we can recognize that the conception of secrecy offers the possibility of a second world. [9] Keeping these complexities in mind, one might be surprised at the simplemindedness with which secrecy was first addressed by ethnographic analysts of Africa. Unquestionably the first such extended accounts are Frederick William Butt-Thompson's shallowly ethnographic description of secret societies, [10] first published in 1929, and Hutton Webster's hardly more useful account of the initiation of African and other adolescents. [11] In the examples discussed in both books, novices are faced with a second world, either that informed by a secret society or that informed by adult knowledge (as contrasted to that of children). Owners of such secret knowledge provide it to initiates in return for many kinds of offerings, but it is never proffered casually or freely.

Types of Secrecy in Africa and the West

In the remainder of this essay I consider some of the ways that these paradoxes and ambiguities of secrecy are manifest in various African and European forms of art, ritual, ceremony, speech, and etiquette. I do not confine myself to African illustrations, even though I write apropos of an exhibit of African art. This is because I want to underscore my earlier point that the powers and complexities of secrets and secrecy permeate all societies. My African examples derive from the Igbo and Ebira of Nigeria, the Nuer and other Nilotes and the Azande of southern Sudan, the Kongo of Zaire, the Ndembu of Zambia, the Lugbara of Uganda, the Kaguru of Tanzania, and the Swazi and Sotho of southern Africa. Allusions to other African peoples also occur.

Probably the most widespread, institutionalized revelation of secrets in African societies involves the initiation of adolescents into adulthood. At such rites, boys and girls receive instructions about sexuality, etiquette and comportment, and sometimes history. Sexuality lies at the heart of such information—not simply physiological information but the sense of how generations perpetuate society, of how kin groups and marriage work in the replacement of ancestors. Such secrets may be bought with payments of wealth (sacrifices and fees) but also through bodily suffering. As Simmel observes, our bodies are our primary property, so that cutting, scarification, and other ways of remodeling the body inscribe the secret onto the person and constitute a sacrifice or pledge of dedication to the elders and to the dead. [12] In many African societies, such entries or transformations are made in the bush, itself a space imbued with impenetrability and concealment, with a secrecy that can yield its own gifts of medicine, nourishment, and powerful knowledge if it is approached properly. [13]

Beryl L. Bellman, among others, observes that secret knowledge often does not represent a profound revelation of new information. [14] Children often know many snatches of information about adult experience. Women and men likewise often know many details of one another's supposed secrets—of the very knowledge that is believed to define them as different not only from children but from each other. What, then, is revealed at initiation? This varies. Sometimes novices do learn new, arcane meanings, such as explanations about riddles, songs, masks, ritual implements, or legends and genealogies. Knowledge that is often couched in complex metaphors and allusions encourages speculation. In this indoctrinating process, initiates are introduced to the poetic and imaginative reconsideration of the familiar. [15] Webster wrongly describes initiations as simplistic duplications of static knowledge, [16] and later anthropologists have generally perpetuated his interpretation. In fact, initiation often promotes pondering and reflection as well as reduplicative memorization and obedience. Such skills are often refined and further developed as adults attend and serve at subsequent initiations. These abilities recall Erwin Panofsky's account of how complex meanings may be decoded from neo-Platonic Renaissance art. [17] Victor W. Turner has provided excellent examples of the richness of comparable African symbolic systems in describing the Ndembu. [18] These symbols may be embedded in the familiar experiences of everyday social life and surroundings, but the initiate now is forcefully made to ponder how they may form a system organizing place, time, personhood, the physical world, and history. [19]

Besides these revelations of iconic secrets or mysteries there are often other disclosures. One of these is the initiatory experience itself, something the uninitiated have long both dreaded and anticipated. Initiation may be painful and harrowing, especially because novices have never experienced anything like it before, although they have heard it mentioned and warned about for years. To have such experience and survive is itself a secret that no one could possess without undergoing it. Very close to this are the initiations that many Africans undergo after suffering illness and misfortune. Being treated and cured of such ills may end with one's entry into a society of curing and treatment, in which misfortune has yielded up its secrets to the sufferer, who now appropriates it to himself or herself to become a curer and diviner of the unknown. [20]

Simmel wisely observes that the concerns and rules around secrets often provide groups with their particular rules and forms, with an etiquette about language and behavior that marks them off from the unknowing. [21] One effect of these secrets is an intensification of individual identity setting off those who know from those who do not know what is hidden. Simmel argues that social means are required to mitigate this separatism, so as to head off social disruption. At the same time, such procedures continue to play upon concealment through what he terms "de-individualization." [22] By this Simmel means a process that by its obfuscations also deters pinpointing people's responsibilities for conspiring to withhold information from others (as in the case of a secret society) and punishing them for it. Masks are particularly eloquent means for such de-individualizing. Like a secret itself, a mask protects one from dangerous forces manifest by what one knows or where one is. Masks also free one from individual responsibility for what one is expected to do while wearing them, since one's identity becomes a mask's and not one's own. A mask may even involve more than one genre of iconography, so that some masks may display certain themes while concealing other identities, along with that of the wearer. [23] Masks even make visible the principle of paradox, allowing crowds to see the ordinarily invisible ancestral dead, or other spirits, while at the same time effacing the everyday individuals who wear them. [24]

As Simmel knew, secrets provide protection. [25] Exposure of secrets, both those truly unknown and those aspects of privacy that are conventionally respected or denied recognition, leads to a loss of the autonomy and esteem of the person or group whose secrets are revealed. It is in this sense that we can understand the Homeric Greek phrase "tearing away the veil" (kredemnon luesthai), which meant both violating a woman sexually (as in rape), thereby also dishonoring her male protector, and sacking a conquered city. [26] Anyone familiar with Homeric culture is aware of the complex interplay between exposure and display (honor) and concealment (modesty and shame or clever deception, metis) so vital to Greeks. [27] Similarly, while many Igbo know the identity of those who wear the sacred egwugwu ancestral masks, ritual conventions transform these figures into supernatural agents. Thus in Chinua Achebe's fine novel Things Fall Apart, when a Christian convert unmasks a dancer and yet survives, we know that traditional Igbo society is doomed. [28] Even earlier in the novel, the voiding of sacred communal assumptions (secrets) is combatted by exposing the offender's dearest intimacies. Thus when Christian converts declare that the Igbo gods are dead or impotent, an Igbo pagan believer curses them by telling them to burn their mothers' genitals. [29]

Similarly, in Kaguru society the body and sexuality should ordinarily be concealed and restrained. Nakedness and incest are associated with witchcraft (acting unrestrainedly outside and against society). They are also a weapon of retaliation against antisocial behavior: Kaguru parents may strip naked in front of thankless children in order to disown and curse them. As the parent does this, she or he speaks of the sexual act that engendered the child. All Kaguru know that a parent's sexuality is what brought them into the world, but to speak bluntly of this is monstrous (except in the secret instructions in the boys' initiation camps in the concealing bush, or in the secret depths of girls' initiation houses, where such talk is required). (Barrington Moore, Jr., rightly observes that secretive treatment of body parts and processes is central to both personhood and resultant privacy. [30]) Contents of secrets are important at times, but rarely as important as the fact that they serve as bases of social conventions or observances attached to them. [31] These reticences and articulations define groups, times, and places in their many different socially appropriate ways. [32] Great social secrets are not embodied in any sum of disparate artifacts of knowledge. Instead, they inhere in the structures and relations produced by persons observing the boundaries and proprieties that these secrets occasion. [33]

Secrecy, then, does not always involve a lack of knowledge but can comprise a commonly agreed-upon set of restrictions and silences about the proper time and place of discourse. [34] As David Freedberg aptly, and not cynically, notes, "Belief becomes belief because of the sheer force of convention." [35] The secret may even, as with masquerades, serve simply as a device for "dramatic distance." [36] In most of the world, what constitutes proper adults, initiates, cognoscenti, elites, or other respectable and responsible persons is the possession of good sense and sociability in recognizing what must not be said, done, or revealed on particular occasions. At other times, true adult skill is manifest in the finesse of knowing how to suggest the hidden artfully. Thus Azande employ opaque, oblique, ambiguous speech and gestures (sanza) that hold both manifest and hidden meanings, thereby preserving personal boundaries (respect) while at the same time transgressing boundaries (insult) in ways that the listener can never be sure about. [37] Finally, and far more powerful, is a classic Greek example of secreted words and thoughts. In Sophocles's Oedipus Tyrannus, a great deal of the frisson of horror experienced by the Athenian audience lay in the author's repeatedly skittering close to the brink (but never over it) of uttering the three unspeakable (arrita) realities of Oedipus's life: murder, parricide, and incest. Uttering the first on the street, or in a theater (and indeed anywhere outside making an accusation in an assembly of law), constituted a legal offense; uttering the second constituted a more horrible version of that offense while the third was so unspeakable that no generic Greek word existed for it. Sophocles can only allude to these secret crimes by sanza-like indirect phrases. [38]

One could easily argue that secrets are not simply the results of social conventions, or even that such conventions reinforce them, but that massive mutual collusion is required to maintain them. For example, John Picton describes how Ebira men and women may feign forms of ignorance and absent themselves from ceremonies about which they actually have some knowledge. They do so in order to maintain the differences of gender that are thought essential to their cosmos, a world in part expressed by male masquerades that women supply with food but should not witness. [39] In ancient Athens, similarly, Greek women took over the city during the annual fertility rites of Thesmophoria, where they spoke the unspeakable and exposed what should be sexually secret, while men laid low, or, if they ventured out, risked public abuse and humiliation by the women—this in a city where men ordinarily dominated public life, and women were secluded. [40] All these examples fit Stanton K. Tefft's notion of "a counterfeit secrecy," [41] or what Carol Warren and Barbara Laslett call "public-life secrecy." [42] A more aggressive but comparable case is the Igbo tradition of "allowing" outraged women to confront and denounce men in public, wearing a kind of inverted "drag" and behaving beyond the ordinary public propriety and restraint befitting Igbo women. [43]

Simmel noted that the secret offers the possibility of another world. [44] Personal secrets may end when they are exposed, but when complex, arcane lore is revealed, such as knowledge about the nature of the cosmos, that information continues to perplex. Such secrets are perhaps better termed "mysteries." [45] The kinds of puzzles, riddles, and other expressions proffered at initiations, whether these involve transformations into adulthood or transformations into secret groups, often remain perplexing in their ambiguity and profundity. Similarly, Christ's sexuality, essential to his humanity yet at odds with his godhead, presents believers with a central enigma essential to Christ's importance to Christian salvation. Leo Steinberg provides numerous examples of how medieval and Renaissance artists sought ingenuously (or disingenuously) to draw attention to Christ's potent genitals yet to conceal them from degrading, prurient examination. [46] This puzzling paradox of a sexual yet pure Christ was at the heart of the mystery of the Holy Trinity itself. Similarly, Mark C. Carnes describes how the deepest secret symbols of men's secret societies in nineteenth-century America both perplexed and attracted initiates, since they dealt with a view of males as implicitly bisexual, a conception apparently forbidden yet seductive, and also probably true, and therefore troubling. [47] It may be that African plastic arts convey comparable sexual puzzles of constrained revelation of a secret. After all, one is often struck by the prominence of genitals in some African carvings, yet I know of no African society, even those where little or no apparel is worn over sexual areas, where the body's sexual parts are ordinarily glorified by full exposure. Even the naked Nuer carefully regulate exposure and reference to these secret areas. [48]

Restrictions on the body and its processes could be termed forms of modesty and shame, but they invariably involve a problem about the body's secret powers and failings. [49] Unlike children, adults in all societies, including those in Africa, are expected to maintain their bodies' secrets. Yet more than children, most adults have a deep concern to present their bodies as meaningful to others, sometimes as seductive, sometimes as dignified, sometimes as harmless, sometimes as dangerous. Adults have profound concern about orchestrating both exposure and concealment of different bodily attributes. In the West, the rise of complex forms of etiquette, especially among the elite, is replete with examples of this, from the use of handkerchiefs, chamber pots, eating utensils, underclothes, and nightwear to the hierarchized access to a ruler's presence and bodily processes, culminating in the royal privy (literally) chamber. [50] In Africa as elsewhere, concealing the body, secluding it, veiling certain bodily functions, all play crucial parts in defining social persons. Muslim veiling of women in Africa and other places also constructs an entire social world of concealment and disclosure, implicating both genders; [51] likewise, Sotho women are preoccupied with blanketing as a means of both hiding and fostering their powers of creativity and transformation. [52] The Nuer are traditionally unclothed, yet dictate their proper modes of eating and drinking, and the sight of their genitals, in complex, mutually exclusive ways that communicate messages about ties of marriage, kinship, nurturance, and feud. [53]

Things and Kings

So far I have mainly considered secrecy in terms or ordinary persons. I conclude by considering two social extremes in the range of personhood: 1) secrecy as it relates to things rather than to actual persons, or as it relates to things that stand for persons; and 2) secrecy as it relates to exceptional persons who are so magnified socially that they transcend ordinary personhood to embody entire polities or systems of belief, so that they begin to resemble things more than persons due to their extraordinary immersion within public meanings and the objects of social life.

The first category involves relics, or fetishes, objects that hold some form of sacred, revered power or meaning. Both in the West and in much of Africa, the relic is concealed in some container, not so much to hide it as to enhance it and protect it, as with the reliquaries for saints' objects in the middle ages. Often such containers stabilized objects that previously had been readily movable, sometimes even stolen. These containers "clothed" a relic, giving it respect and identity. In the west, the container also facilitated the parading of a relic into various areas outside a shrine, so as to claim property for it, or to take oaths or bear witness before it. [54] As with all such sacred objects, continued exposure to public gaze tended to diminish a relic's impact, so that concealment and display alternated with one another in promoting a relic's value and power. Relics, then, were subject to a program of "suppression and surprise." [55] At other times, a relic could even be humiliated by unseemly exposure, so as to coerce or shame it into greater effective actions. [56] Relics, like fetishes, had a kind of personhood. Their hidden powers were promoted and manipulated by the elaborate adornment of the containers that concealed them, hindering public access yet also providing them with an informative, protective shell of symbolic decorations proclaiming their identities. Central and West African fetishes resemble Christian relics in their capacity to fix intensely special personal events and experiences into material substances. Both Christian relics and fetishes represent movements from an internal, secret self outward to an externalized object. [57] Similarly, Wyatt MacGaffey has nicely compared Kongo fetishes (minkisi) to objectified social persons, [58] with all the implications that I have already remarked on concerning how personhood both conceals and displays.

At the other analytic extreme are rulers, priests, and prophets, social persons with considerable supernatural as well as political powers whose very strengths objectify them, so that in some ways their offices or functions rule them, swallow them up. At times, such persons are much like relics—hidden from view, sequestered, so as to emphasize their powerful natures, and also paraded out at regular intervals for public appreciation and veneration. To this day the British monarch and her family serve as living icons for a clamoring public. [59] She is an individual human but also the manifestation of a crown and throne (which also manifest her), and she is herself provided with an assembly of representative regalia and ceremonies that endure before, during, and after her individual reign. So great has been the objectification of European royalty at times that even a ruler's death and bodily dissolution have been systematically manipulated to the point of temporary denial, as through the use of funeral effigies that have received courtly attendance and were even fed. [60] Similarly, objects could also replace a living ruler who was absent, and they were expected to receive comparable homage. Louis XIV's periodic absences from Versailles were denied when Rigaud's famous portrait of him replaced him in the throne room and received the courtesies due the absent ruler, as though he were present. [61]

Secrecy and mysteries also surround African rulers and their kin, whose royal presence permeates the etiquette and proprieties of everyday speech. For example, a Swazi king should never be referred to as dying (kinship is immortal, and so is he who occupies it), nor should he himself be said to marry his ritual wives, who are said to be married by the nation as a whole. The king's sons, although patently his, are often referred to as those of the nation or of others, preserving a public secret that the king has an heir and hence is recognized as mortal. For such rulers, Western and African, the public "feigned secrecy" operates on a totalized, national scale. The multifarious nature of the symbols that such rulers encompass, by embodying an entire nation and people and their world, both secretes rulers, separating them from all others, and at the same time sucks away a ruler's very individuality. This is denied either by hiding his physiological functions, such as eating and speaking (recall Yoruba and Tutsi royal headgear in which beaded strands conceal the faces of the wearers), or, as in the case of certain French and British monarchs, by making even eating and defecation into public ceremonies rather than private and homely bodily processes. Courtiers vied for access to such kings' privy chambers and tables. For such rulers, then, both secrecy and public display reach strikingly deviant levels.

Even in noncentralied polities such as the Lugbara, ritual leaders such as rainmakers, prophets, and great diviners embody powers encompassing both the known and the secret worlds, which they link. These leaders appear so transcendentally opaque and mysterious that their funerals deviate from those of all other humans in their secret darkness and silence. [62] In the case of the Swazi king and his queens, the range of royal embodiments manifests a wide repertoire of objects, occasions, and experiences. These are so inclusive and global that at times they make rulers both above and beneath humankind, something like Rilke's god, whom he could as well descend to as seek above.

A ruler is a person who, like the cosmic, mysterious lore I mentioned earlier, remains enigmatic and awesome even after he is revealed through the royal presence at great national public rites. [63] As with all rulers, African and elsewhere, each revelation of a ruler's public presence, so long as it adheres to the cultural rules, increases a sense of what is hidden along with what is seen. We should also recall how difficult it has been through history to kill kingship, even with beheadings and public assassinations of particular rulers. Even the famed ritual killing of African kings, so dear to Sir James Frazer, may be seen as a denial of the secret that kings might die ordinary deaths from mortal sickness and old age. Such killing might also punish rulers for failing to exercise their superhuman powers properly. Thus they die because of their superhumanity, not in spite of it. They die, but in a sense their slaughter allows the secret of their ordinary mortality to remain concealed. [64]


This discussion should demonstrate that secrets are of deep concern everywhere, but we should understand that for traditional African societies what is meant by "secret" is rarely what we in America mean by the term. The secrets that we encounter in African artistic expressions—in plastic and oral arts, in architecture, in drama and masquerades—are not secrets in the common sense that Europeans and Americans today speak of defense secrets, or business secrets, or scandalous private information. [65] Instead, the secrets expressed in African arts are of two very different orders. Sometimes they are simply social conventions, acknowledging the areas of silence and absence that create and maintain social differences and relations such as those between women and men, elders and the young, different kin, different craftsmen, or between members of cults or other social groups integral to society. Sometimes they imply something nearer to mystery, to the dense, opaque, polysemous complexities of the universe, which reverent persons should fear and respect. These kinds of secrets epitomize life's totalities as manifest in leaders such as rulers, priests, or prophets, or even ordinary household heads, and as manifest in communal rites, ceremonies, and cosmic knowledge at both state and homestead levels. They are not so much hidden out of social convention as they are recognized to be inevitably unknown in their inexpressibility and inchoate complexity. These mysteries recall Paul's famous words about seeing "through a glass darkly" before securing divine enlightenment. [66] In New Testament Greek, this phrase refers not to a murky mirror and a blurred reflection but to an enigma (ainigma) that is insoluble by any and all everyday means. In such cases the solution turns out to be as much of a mystery as the puzzle that it addresses. All societies employ artifice to embody some elusive sense of being and meaning. Something is always hidden, always a secret; if we expect a society to work, nothing should ever be utterly and entirely known, anymore than Goethe's Faust could bear to confront the horror of the true visage of the Earth-Spirit. (Mephistopheles shrewdly sent him only a faint simulacrum, and even that frightened Faust senseless.) Obviously utter knowing is unattainable anyway, but even efforts toward such thorough unmasking of some secrets are probably a grave mistake.

1. First published in Mary H. Nooter, ed., Secrecy: African Art That Conceals and Reveals (New York: Museum for African Art, 1993).

2. Berdyl L. Bellman, "The Paradox of Secrecy," Human Studies 4(1981):1-24.

3. Georg Simmel, "Secrecy" and "Secret Societies" in K. H. Wolff, tr., The Sociology of Georg Simmel (New York, 1950).

4. Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus (Boston, 1896), p. 199.

5. Sally Falk Moore, "The Secret of the Men: Fiction of Chagga Initiation and the Relation of the Logic of Chagga Symbolism," Africa 46(1976):368.

6. Kees W. Bolle, "Secrecy in Religion," in K. W. Bolle, ed., Secrecy in Religion (Leiden, 1987).

7. See Marcel Mauss, "A Category of the Human Mind: A Notion of Person, the Notion of Self," in B. Brewster, tr., Sociology and Psychology (London, 1979).

8. Emile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss, Primitive Classification (London, 1963), p. 88; and Claude Levi-Strauss, Totemism (Boston, 1963), pp. 69, 71.

9. Simmel, p. 330, and B. Bellman, The Language of Secrecy: Symbols and Metaphors in Poro Ritual (New Brunswick, 1984), p. 76.

10. Frederick William Butt-Thompson, West African Secret Societies (New York, 1969).

11. Hutton Webster, Primitive Secret Societies (New York, 1932).

12. Simmel, p. 322.

13. T. O. Beidelman, The Cool Knife: Imagery of Gender, Sexuality and Moral Education in Kaguru Ritual (Washington, D.C., forthcoming).

14. Bellman, pp. 86-88.

15. Beidelman, forthcoming.

16. Webster, p. 60.

17. Erwin Panofsky, Studies in Iconology (New York, 1939; rpt. 1962).

18. Victor W. Turner, "Three Symbols of Passage in Ndembu Circumcision Ritual," in M. Gluckman, ed., Essays in the Ritual of Social Relations (Manchester, England, 1962); also Turner, The Forest of Symbols (Ithaca, 1967).

19. Beidelman, forthcoming; also Beidelman, "Containing Time: Rites of Passage and Moral Space or Bachelard Among the Kaguru," Anthropos 86(1991):443-461.

20. Victor Turner, The Drums of Affliction (Oxford, 1968).

21. Simmel, p. 323.

22. Simmel, pp. 373-375.

23. 23 Simmel, p. 194.

24. M. C. Jedrej, "A Comparison of Some Masks from North America, Africa, and Melanesia," Journal of Anthropological Research 36(1980):225-226.

25. Simmel, p. 345.

26. Seth Schein, The Mortal Hero (Berkeley, 1984), p. 77.

27. T. O. Beidelman, "Agnostic Exchange: Homeric Reciprocity and the Heritage of Simmel and Mauss," Cultural Anthropology 4(1989):26-59.

28. Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (London, 1958; rpt. 1962), p. 166.

29. Achebe, p. 139.

30. Barrington Moore, Jr., Privacy: Studies in Social and Cultural History (Armonk, 1984), pp. 9-11.

31. 31 William P. Murphy, "Secret Knowledge as Property and Power in Kpelle Society," Africa 50(1980):203.

32. Beidelman, 1991 and forthcoming.

33. M. C. Jedrej, "Medicine, Fetish and Secret Society in West African Culture," Africa 46(1976):254-255.

34. John Picton, "What's in a Mask," African Languages and Cultures 3(1990):193.

35. David Freedberg, The Power of Images: Studies in the History and Theory of Response (Chicago, 1989), p. 112.

36. Picton, p. 193.

37. E. E. Evans-Pritchard, "Sanza, A Characteristic Feature of Zande Language and Thought," in Essays in Social Anthropology (London, 1956; rpt. 1962).

38. Diskin Clay, "Unspeakable Words in Greek Tragedy," American Journal of Philology, 103(3)(1982):278-298.

39. Picton, p. 196.

40. From I. Zeitlin, "Travesties of Gender and Genre in Aristophanes' Thesmophoriazousa," in H. P. Foley, ed., Reflections of Women in Antiquity (New York, 1981); F. I. Zeitlin, "Cultic Models of the Female: Rites of Dionysus and Demeter," Arethusa 15(1982):129-157.

41. Stanton K. Tefft, Secrecy: A Cross-Cultural Perspective (New York, 1980), p. 39.

42. Carol Warren and Barbara Laslett, "Privacy and Secrecy," in S. K. Tefft, ed., Secrecy: A Cross-Cultural Perspective (New York, 1980), p. 29.

43. Judith Van Allen, "'Sitting on a Man:' Colonialism and the Lost Political Institution of Igbo Women," Canadian Journal of African Studies 6(1972):165-181.

44. Simmel, p. 330.

45. Bolle, p. 3.

46. Leo Steinberg, "The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion," October 25(1983).

47. Mark C. Carnes, Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America (New Haven, 1989), pp. 149-150.

48. T. O. Beidelman, "Some Nuer Notions of Nakedness, Nudity and Sexuality," Africa 38(1968):113-132; for references to African eroticism, see African Arts 15(2), 1982.

49. See B. Moore, pp. 9-11.

50. David Starkey, "Representation through Intimacy," in I. Lewis, ed., Symbols and Sentiments (London, 1977); Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process (New York, 1929; rpt. 1978), pp. 134-143.

51. Jon W. Anderson, "Social Structure and the Veil: Comportment and the Composition of Interaction in Afghanistan," Anthropos 77(1982):397-420.

52. Dan Bosko, "Why Basotho Wear Blankets," African Studies 40(1981):23-32.

53. Beidelman, 1968.

54. Kathleen Ashley and Pamela Sheingorn, "An Unsentimental View of Ritual in the Middle Ages or Sainte Foy Was No Snow White," Journal of Ritual Studies 61(2)(1992):63-68.

55. Freedberg, p. 110.

56. Patrick Geary, "Humiliation of Saints," in S. Wilson, ed., Saints and Their Cults (Cambridge, 1983).

57. W. Pietz, "The Problem of the Fetish: I," Res 9(1985):11.

58. Wyatt MacGaffey, "The Personhood of Ritual Objects: Kongo Minkisi," Etnofoor 3(1990):45-61.

59. Ilse Hayden, Symbol and Privilege: The Ritual Context of British Royalty (Tucson, 1987).

60. Ralph Giesey, The Royal Funeral Ceremony in Renaissance France (Geneva, 1960).

61. Peter Burke, The Fabrication of Louis XIV (New Haven, 1992).

62. John Middleton, "Secrecy in Lugbara Religion," History of Religions 12(1973):299-316.

63. T. O. Beidelman, "Swazi Royal Ritual," Africa 36(1966):372-405.

64. Compare Simon Simonse, Kings of Disaster: Dualism, Centralism and the Scapegoat King in Southeastern Sudan (Leiden, 1992), pp. 319-397.

65. Sissela Bok, Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation (New York, 1982).

66. I Corinthians 13:12.

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