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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 North-West in the Nineteenth Century

The North-West in the Nineteenth Century

(p.14) 1 The North-West in the Nineteenth Century
Ethnicity and the Making of History in Northern Ghana

Lentz Carola

Edinburgh University Press

In the pre-colonial period, the dominant reality of the Black Volta region was the existence of small, relatively mobile groups of relatives, overlapping networks, and flexible boundaries. Because the region was never isolated from the greater political developments of the Niger Bend, there were also other types of social boundaries that extended beyond local community ideologies and began to resemble an ‘ethnic’ map. It is in this context that, for instance, the difference between Wala and Dagaba/Dagara must be understood. This chapter discusses the multilayered, ambiguous and locally varied nature of political organisation in North-Western Ghana on the eve of colonisation, which was characterised not only by earth-shrine ‘parishes’ and geographically dispersed patriclans, but also by networks of power, developed by local ‘strongmen’ in alliance with, or in opposition to, Muslim warlords and slave traders. It is out of these networks, as well as upon the central principles of social belonging (the patriclan and the earth shrine) and the dynamic relationship between first-comers and late-comers that the colonial constructions of chieftaincy and ethnicity were later fashioned.

Keywords:   North-Western Ghana, Black Volta, political organisation, colonisation, earth-shrine parishes, patriclans, power, social belonging, chieftaincy, ethnicity

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