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Ethnicity and the Making of History in Northern Ghana$
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Carola Lentz

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780748624010

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748624010.001.0001

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The Cultural Work of Ethnicity

The Cultural Work of Ethnicity

(p.252) 10 The Cultural Work of Ethnicity
Ethnicity and the Making of History in Northern Ghana

Lentz Carola

Edinburgh University Press

In the summer of 1989, a ‘Dagara family meeting’ was held for two days to celebrate and to reflect on Dagara culture and history. Topics ranged from traditional religion to initiation rituals, patriclans and matriclans, and Dagara historical origins. Also addressed were the relationship between territoriality, political organisation and ethnicity. The cultural work of ethnicity, which provided the impetus for the meeting, is also the focal point of cultural festivals, which have developed since the 1970s in North-Western Ghana. Virtually everybody indulges in discussions of ethnic stereotypes and characteristic ‘customs’ — that is, in defining the ‘contents’ of ethnic identity. This chapter examines the cultural work required for ethnicity to become effective and the activities that associations and their members initiate — activities that have a lasting impact on how people in the region think about this concept. It looks particularly at the writings of and debates among Dagara intellectuals who re-evaluate the ethnic constructs produced by outsiders and discuss what ‘Dagara culture’ was and what it should be in the future.

Keywords:   North-Western Ghana, cultural work, ethnicity, Dagara, territoriality, political organisation, Dagara culture, ethnic identity, ethnic stereotypes, customs

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