GISU (Uganda)


IndexAfricaUganda → Gisu


Featured: Ik, Gisu, Acholi, Sebei, Bahima/Bahuma [Hima, Bahuma Bajoro], Bachiga, Lango, Nkole, Ganda, Kiziba, Lugbara, Jie, Iteso, Bwamba, Baamba, So, Guang

“The sexual activities of members of proximate generations, particularly kin and affines, must not be brought into contact. Household arrangements bring this out clearly; there is no extended domestic group. No Gisu may sleep in the paternal hut after puberty”[1].

Heald (1999)[2] provides a psychoanalytic perspective on Gisu initiation. As excerpted:


“At circumcision, the boys first ‘spoils’ the millet before himself becoming ‘spoilt’ and both acts carry the implications of sexuality. Indeed, the act of making beer is directly linked to sexuality and circumcision is the first time in which a boy participates in the task. Thereafter, when he marries, he will help his wife with the making of beer and when they do this they must abstain from sexual intercourse for the three days of the final fermentation lest the beer become ‘too strong’. Beer-brewing and sexuality are thus seen to positively interact as processes” (p57). “Of the ‘spoiling’ at circumcision it may thus be said that the boy has been made useless and will not be able to engage in sexual intercourse or indeed in any normal life until he is finally cured” (p56). “Boys […] differentiate and achieve autonomy in a three-stage move: weaning, extrusion from the parental home and lastly circumcision” (p61) “After circumcision, when the boy is in a contrasting ritual phase, devoid of lirima, both sexual intercourse and pregnancy alike are believed to pose a direct danger to him. Then he must be protected from any such excitation in his immediate environment lest his curing be retarded” (p169n23).



Further references:


§         Heald, Suzette (1994) "Every Man a Hero: Oedipal Themes in Gisu Circumcision." In S. Heald and A. Deluz, eds., Anthropology and Psychoanalysis, Routledge, p184-209.

§         Heald, Suzette (2000) Celebrations of Masculinity - Circumcision and Male Gender Ideology in an East African Context. In: Verschuur, C. (Ed.) Quel genre d'homme? Construction sociale de la masculinité, relations de genre et développement, Genève: Institut universitaire d'études du développement, p45-61 []




Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. Volume I. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: May 2005


[1] La Fontaine, J. S. (1967) Parricide in Bugisu: A Study in Inter-Generational Conflict, Man, N. S. 2, 2:249-59, at p251

[2] Heald, S. (1999) Manhood and Morality: Sex, Violence and Ritual in Gisu Society. London & New York: Routledge