Ethnicity and the Making of History in Northern Ghana by Carola Lentz

By Carola Lentz

Drawing on 20 years of analysis, this social and political background of North-Western Ghana explores the production and redefinition of ethnic differences and commonalities by way of Africans and Europeans. It exhibits how ethnicity's energy eventually derives from a contradiction: whereas ethnic identities purport to be non-negotiable, and safety, the limits of the groups created and the linked qualities and practices are malleable and adaptable to precise pursuits and contexts. (1/1/10)

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30 However, individual men managed to acquire a certain surplus, mostly in the form of cattle, through crafts, local trade and above all successful agriculture. Such powerful, influential men, referred to as k≥‡rb¶-nàà (‘rich farmer’, ‘chief of farmers’), tuor-naa (‘chief of the mortar’) or tuor-kp∞π (‘great mortar’), possessed large herds of cattle that enabled them to afford bridewealth for several women and therefore have more children. With many sons, they could in turn expand their agricultural activities, while through the bridewealth payments for their daughters they could further increase their herds.

Certainly practice does not always follow kinship ideology. In central fields of action such as agriculture, marriage, the raising of children and inheritance, the concept of the yir as a locally bounded kinship group continues to be relevant, with ancestors who can be named and who have the power to impose sanctions. On the other hand, in many practical affairs each member of the yir also resorts to networks that are not derived from the principle of patrilineal descent. 3 The mother’s patrilineage may be approached for aid, married women maintain close contact with their house of origin, while friendships also constitute an important element of one’s personal networks.

4 Resistance to labour conscription, refusals to provide information, and armed feuds between neighbouring villages made this increasingly clear. The pacification of the North-West was to last at least a decade, especially in the area of what would become Lawra District, through which the British only mounted a tour of inspection in 1903. The maintenance-tax experiment In February 1899, Northcott undertook an extended tour of inspection through the southern part of the North-West in order to show the local population that they were now under ‘British protection’.

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