Far-reaching political, social, and cultural transformations have taken place since the end of the nineteenth century in North-Western Ghana, a region which in the pre-colonial period was neither politically centralised nor inhabited by distinct ‘tribes’. One of the most momentous innovations was the colonial introduction of chieftaincy which gradually re-ordered, or at least overlaid, older local concepts of belonging and authority. This book provides a social and political history of North-Western Ghana, paying particular attention to the creation of new ethnic and territorial boundaries, ethnic categories, and forms of self-understanding. It explores how, and in which contexts, ethnic distinctions and commonalities were created and continually re-defined by colonial officials, missionaries, anthropologists, chiefs, migrant workers, catechists, peasants, and educated elites. It also addresses the tensions between territorial, linguistic, and cultural criteria for drawing ethnic boundaries, and discusses the links between ethnic and other collective identifications. In the remainder of this introduction, three major themes are considered: the colonial encounter, the construction of ethnicity, and the production of history.
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