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Land, Mobility, and Belonging in West Africa

Natives and Strangers

Carola Lentz

Publication Year: 2013

Focusing on an area of the savannah in northern Ghana and southwestern Burkina Faso, Land, Mobility, and Belonging in West Africa explores how rural populations have secured, contested, and negotiated access to land and how they have organized their communities despite being constantly on the move as farmers or migrant laborers. Carola Lentz seeks to understand how those who claim native status hold sway over others who are perceived to have come later. As conflicts over land, agriculture, and labor have multiplied in Africa, Lentz shows how politics and power play decisive roles in determining access to scarce resources and in changing notions of who belongs and who is a stranger.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Parts of this book were written, or rather rewritten, after I had become increasingly critical of earlier drafts, during a sabbatical year at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University in 2008−9. While struggling to reconceptualize the book’s central narrative, and how I could make the very rich, ...

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pp. 1-27

“Do you see that hill, right behind our house? It was once a very dangerous place, and that is why this village is called Tantuo, bitter hill,” Charles Tantuoyir told me when I visited him in his home village in 1989. I had met Charles a year earlier in Obuasi, at Ashanti Goldfields Corporation, Ghana’s largest gold mine, ...

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1. Pushing Frontiers: The Social Organization of Mobility

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pp. 28-81

“Mobility in its ubiquity is fundamental to any understanding of African social life,” write Mirjam de Bruijn, Rijk van Dijk, and Dick Foeken in their introduction to a volume aptly entitled Mobile Africa.1 They prefer to speak of mobility rather than migration because, they argue, the latter usually implies notions of linear and unidirectional movement, ...

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2. Staking Claims: Earth Shrines, Ritual Power, and Property Rights

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pp. 82-126

Creating a peaceful order on the frontier can be a bloody affair. In their attempt to establish new settlements, Dagara frontiersmen often resorted to violence toward previous inhabitants or competing immigrants. However, if their newly founded homes were to endure, prosper, and attract more settlers, they also needed to create a peaceful social order that ensured, ...

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3. Setting Boundaries, Negotiating Entitlements: Contested Borders and Bundles of Rights

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pp. 127-165

Property rights over land involve not only arguments about time, usually stated in the form of claims of first possession and its legitimate transfer, but also about their spatial scope. In the Black Volta region, as in many other areas of the West African savanna, the original definition of spatial boundaries of landed property was, and continues to be, closely tied to a mental map of spiritual territories ...

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4. Ethnicity, Autochthony, and the Politics of Belonging

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pp. 166-211

Property is “not about things . . . but about relationships between and among persons with regard to things,” as Sally Falk Moore once succinctly observed.1 Property rights over, and access to, land are mediated by membership in specific communities, ranging from the nuclear or extended family, the clan, first-comers, or the ethnic group, to, in modern property regimes, the nation-state. ...

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5. History versus history: Contemporary Land Conflicts in a Context of Legal and Institutional Pluralism

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pp. 212-250

Land is a special substance: immobile, nonincreasable, and nonrenewable. In the Black Volta region, it is central to material livelihoods and spiritual well-being as well as to the politics of belonging and citizenship. With increasing pressure on land and rising economic, social, and political stakes, debates over property rights have multiplied ...


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pp. 251-298


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pp. 299-320


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pp. 321-332

E-ISBN-13: 9780253009616
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253009531

Page Count: 348
Illustrations: 17 maps
Publication Year: 2013