The Discursive Creation of Ethnicity

Lentz Carola

in Ethnicity and the Making of History in Northern Ghana

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2006 | ISBN: 9780748624010
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652969 | DOI:
The Discursive Creation of Ethnicity

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This chapter focuses on the British creation of ethnicity in North-Western Ghana and the colonial ‘invention’ of ethnic names, stereotypes, and tribal histories. Discussing the changing conditions under which colonial knowledge was produced, it looks at the influence of African informants, interpreters, and employees on British perceptions, as well as ‘tribal laws and customs’. From the start, Britain's intellectual colonisation of the North-West was a process of communication marked by many misunderstandings and mutual manipulations. In the course of time, a growing number of Africans began more forcefully to make themselves heard, and it became increasingly obvious that neither they nor the British spoke with one voice. Colonial ethnography and historiography were not a monolithic block of ‘invented traditions’ that had successfully, and irreversibly, reified what had once been flexible, authentic African ‘customs’, but were rather the result of ‘creative negotiation between agents of both discursive communities, the British and the African’, marked by unexpected and often also undiscerned moments of mutual instrumentalisation.

Keywords: Britain; North-Western Ghana; ethnic names; stereotypes; tribal histories; tribal laws; tribal customs; colonisation; ethnicity

Chapter.  13687 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: African Studies

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