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Chiefs, Priests, and Praise-Singers: History, Politics, and Land Ownership in Northern Ghana

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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.

ISBN-13: 9780813933863

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: University of Virginia Press

Publication Date: 03-13-2013

Pages: 248

Product Dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

Age Range: 18 Years

Wyatt MacGaffey is Professor of Anthropology Emeritus at Haverford College and the author most recently of Kongo Political Culture.

Table of Contents

Preface vii

A Note on Dagbani Orthography xi

Introduction 1

1 Colonial Anthropology and Historical Reconstruction 11

2 Drum Chant and the Political Uses of Tradition 35

3 Tindanas and Chiefs: Ethnography 69

4 Chiefs and Tindanas: Making Nam 109

5 Tamale: The Dakpema, the Gulkpe' Na, the Bugulana, and the Law of the Land 134

6 Chiefs in the National Arena 159

Conclusion 177

Appendix: Outline of Ritual Practice in Dagbon 183

Notes 189

Glossary 205

Bibliography 207

Index 221