Chiefs, Priests, and Praise-Singers
History, Politics, and Land Ownership in Northern Ghana
Publication Year: 2013
In his new book, the eminent anthropologist Wyatt MacGaffey provides an ethnographically enriched history of Dagbon from the fifteenth century to the present, setting that history in the context of the regional resources and political culture of northern Ghana. Chiefs, Priests, and Praise-Singers shows how the history commonly assumed by scholars has been shaped by the prejudices of colonial anthropology, the needs of British indirect rule, and local political agency. The book demonstrates, too, how political agency has shaped the kinship system. MacGaffey traces the evolution of chieftaincy as the sources of power changed and as land ceased to be simply the living space of the dependents of a chief and became a commodity and a resource for development. The internal violence in Dagbon that has been a topic of national and international concern since 2002 is shown to be a product of the interwoven values of tradition, modern Ghanaian politics, modern education, and economic opportunism.
Published by: University of Virginia Press
Title Page, Copyright
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From 1996 to 2012 I visited Tamale, in northern Ghana, for about two months each year. Because my wife, Dr. Susan Herlin, who was given the chiefly title, or “skin,” Tamale Zo-Simli Na in 1995, is from Texas by way of Kentucky, and because she decided to take her title seriously rather than to treat it as the equivalent of an honorary degree, we needed and ...
A Note on Dagbani Orthography
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I have used both Ibrahim Mahama’s Dagbani-English Dictionary and the “provisional” Dagbani Dictionary prepared by Roger Blench. The first was written and published in Tamale by a native speaker; the second is the product of a progressive collaboration begun by H. A. Blair and E. F. Tamakloe in 1940 and continued since then by scholars and profes-...
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The primary source of the received history of the founding of the king-dom of Dagbon in the fifteenth century and its subsequent development After the enstoolment of Na Nyagse, his father Sitobu remained in Bagale as chief of that place; he died and was buried there. His tomb was encircled by a compound and a house was built on it. Into this house all the departed ...
Colonial Anthropologyand Historical Reconstruction
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The assumptions upon which the colonial practice of government was based are built into the political discourse of the north, in association with ongoing conflicts that threaten at times to engulf in warfare all three administrative regions into which the north is now divided.¹ One of those assumptions is that there is a radical difference between the North-...
Drum Chant and thePolitical Uses of Tradition
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This chapter traces the role of tradition in the politics of succession to the Nam of Yendi, the kingship of Dagbon. It necessarily focuses on chiefs, but the issue of nam, the essential quality of chieftaincy conferred by ritual, obtrudes from time to time. The ritual administration of nam is The First Kingdom, from the mid-fifteenth to the late seventeenth ...
Tindanas and ChiefsEthnography
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The ritual administration of nam to create chieftaincy is conducted by tindanas, who are also responsible for the conduct of sacrifices at territo-rial shrines. One of the arguments of this book is that the chief-tindana couple is fundamental to northern culture and its historical develop-ment. The ethnography of Dagbon, largely based on the assumption of ...
Chiefs and TindanasMaking Nam
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The data are scanty, the rituals not exactly the same, but the correspon-dences among rituals undergone by chiefs in Nanun, Mamprugu, Dag-bon, and even Taleland are so close that we must assume a common origin and therefore reconsider the history of Dagbon. So far from be-ing the product of alien intrusion, the kingdoms, like the stateless socie- ...
TamaleThe Dakpema, the Gulkpe’Na,the Bugulana, and the Law of the Land
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The history of Tamale in the twentieth century, especially the story of the Dakpemas, is particularly revealing concerning the relationship between tindanas and chiefs in the context of colonial and postcolonial govern-ment and the tangle of political opportunities opened in the north by co-lonial rule. In the mid-seventeenth century Dagbon was occupied by the ...
Chiefs in the National Arena
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In the 1960s scholars generally agreed with the nationalist government of Kwame Nkrumah that chieftaincy would and should fade away in mod-ern, rational and democratic times.¹ Many Ghanaian intellectuals still think so, but the facts and the weight of public opinion are against them.² All over the country fierce passions and actual violence related to succes-...
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This book revises the early history of Dagbon, using a regional rather than a dynastic perspective, questioning but at the same time expand-ing the corpus of data. It restores the tindanas, including the Original Elders, to their proper place in the constitution, history, and current af-fairs of Dagbon, at the same time establishing correspondences among ...
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Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2013