Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Dogon live primarily in the districts of Bandiagara and Douentza in the western African country of Mali. Some Dogon reside in Burkina Faso. The Dogon languages are classified within the Volta-Congo group of the Niger-Congo Language Family. The Dogon settled along the Bandiagara escarpment in the fifteenth or sixteenth century after the breakup of the Mali Empire and for protection against slave raiders. They live in compact, occasionally walled villages built up the sides of the escarpment. The Dogon are primarily agriculturalists, supplemented by gathering.


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Africa --Western Africa



Burkina Faso

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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

There are a total of 30 documents in the Dogon file. Ten works are in-house translations from the French (nine) and German (one), and two are in the original French. General ethnographic information on the Dogon can be found in Paulme (1940, no. 20) and Griaule (1938, no. 8) for the 1930s, Paulu Marti (1957, no. 1) up to the mid-1950s, and Bouju (1984, no. 24), circa 1980s. The latter is a village study. Van Beek gives good historical overview of changes in Dogon production and settlement patterns (Van Beek 1990, no. 29; 1993, no. 30).

Nearly half of the works (14) focus on Dogon religion and art. Griaule (1965, no. 3; 1986, no. 25) wrote the classic works on Dogon religious thought and myth, which have been critiqued (Douglas 1968, no. 5; Van Beek 1991, no. 31) and defended (Calame-Griaule 1991, no. 32). Griaule and Dieterlen also carried out a sociological analysis of Dogon religion (Griaule and Dieterlen 1954, no. 4). More specific religious studies are Dieterlen's studies of the Dogon concept of the soul (Dieterlen 1941, no. 11) and the symbolism of Dogon sacrifices (Dieterlen 1985, no. 37). Van Beek has written on witchcraft (Van Beek 1994, no. 26), religious statues (Van Beek 1988, no. 27) and religious ceremonies (Van Beek 1992, no. 28). Imperato (1971, no. 18) writes on masked dances, as does Griaule in his general ethnography (Griaule 1938, no. 8). Analyses of Dogon art are found in Laude (1973, no. 12), Flam (1976, no. 22), and Segy (1975, no. 19). Verboven (1991, no. 35) provides a sophisticated analysis of Dogon ritual movement and dance. Culture and personality studies are found in Parin et al. (1963, no. 9) and Ganay (1941, no. 14). Other topics included in the file are games (Griaule 1938, no. 13), ethnolinguistics (Calame-Griaule 1986, no. 10), ethnobotany (Dieterlen 1952, no. 6), food patterns (Dieterlen and Calame-Griaule 1960, no. 7), and marriage patterns (Cazes 1981, no. 34; 1990, no. 36).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in the file, see the abstract in the citation preceding each document.

This culture summary is based on the article, "Dogon," by John M. Beierle, in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 9, Africa and the Middle East. 1995. John Middleton and Amal Rassam, eds. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co. The demography and synopsis sections were updated by Ian Skoggard in December 1999.

AMMA QIINU-house of god-772

AWA-society of masks-575; as cult-794


BUMMO-'trace,' sign-5311

DAMA-end of mourning period-765

DUGE-sacred object-778

DYABU-wandering souls-775

GINNA-'great house,' lineage-613

GINNA BANNA-head of extended family of lineage-613

HOGONS-chiefs with priestly function-622, 793

KIKINU SAY-the soul-774

LEBE and BINU cults

MANQU-group alliances-571, 608

MULONO-elders in the awa society-575, 888

NAMA-mythical beings-776


NOMMO-water spirit-776

NYAMA-a deathless force within living and inanimate things-774, 775, 778

OLUBARU-members of the awa society-575

PO-seeds-824, 773

SIGI (SIGUI)-religious festival held once every 60 years-796


TIGE-mottoes, titles-186, 538, 554, 782

TONU-figure, diagram-5311

TOGU-kinship unit comparable to French 'family'-619, 613, 614

TUMO-age brotherhoods-561


YASIQINE-females members of the awa society-575, 794


YEBENE-totemic priests-793

YONA-ritual thieves-571, 685

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