Female circumcision is widely practiced on the African continent; however, published reports describing genital operations on women in non-Islamic, sub-Saharan societies are scarce. This paper examines female circumcision as it is practiced by the Sara, one of Chad's largest ethnic groups. For the Sara, circumcision is an integral part of the female initiation ceremony, the rite of passage marking the transition from childhood to adulthood. Through in-depth interviews and archival research, we trace the origins of female circumcision among this group and examine its role and function in the context of contemporary Sara culture. Urban women's attitudes and practices regarding circumcision are also examined via household surveys. The data indicate that female circumcision has been recently incorporated into the Sara's cultural repertoire, and suggest strategies to reduce its incidence in this setting.