The politics of succession to chiefly offices in West African societies over the past two centuries often provides extremely interesting hints about the history of personal dependency in general, and of slavery and its end in particular. When we look at chieftaincy dynamics through the lens of slavery and other forms of bondage, we realize that the common assumptions that scholars often make are highly questionable on the basis of data provided by historical analysis. Colonial anthropology was convinced that personal status and the politico-economic hierarchy tended to be the same thing. Full-fledged “free status” was a prerequisite for succession to office. However, analysis of concrete cases suggests a more complex picture. Based on a historical and anthropological inquiry conducted in the Paramountcy of Beyin, in southwest Ghana, this chapter argues that partially unfree origins are often a preferential condition in the politics of succession: the social taint turns out to be a valuable asset in real power games.

“My Dearest Child Is My Slave’s Child:” Personal Status and the Politics of Succession in South- West Ghana (Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries)

Pierluigi Valsecchi
2017

Abstract

The politics of succession to chiefly offices in West African societies over the past two centuries often provides extremely interesting hints about the history of personal dependency in general, and of slavery and its end in particular. When we look at chieftaincy dynamics through the lens of slavery and other forms of bondage, we realize that the common assumptions that scholars often make are highly questionable on the basis of data provided by historical analysis. Colonial anthropology was convinced that personal status and the politico-economic hierarchy tended to be the same thing. Full-fledged “free status” was a prerequisite for succession to office. However, analysis of concrete cases suggests a more complex picture. Based on a historical and anthropological inquiry conducted in the Paramountcy of Beyin, in southwest Ghana, this chapter argues that partially unfree origins are often a preferential condition in the politics of succession: the social taint turns out to be a valuable asset in real power games.
10:156902443X
9781569024430
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11571/1206270
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