Labour Migration, Home-Ties and 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:
Labour Migration, Home-Ties and Ethnicity

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For Britain, ‘nakedness’ was an indicator of native primitiveness; and if, as was almost always the case, men carried bows and arrows, it was a sign of dangerous aggressiveness. By as early as the 1920s, this nakedness was largely covered up and the aggressiveness disciplined, a development that the Lawra District Commissioner Eyre-Smith attributed to the impact of labour migration. Labour migration linked virtually every compound in the Lawra District with the wider world of the Gold Coast and the Ashanti Protectorate, ensuring the tangible economic integration of the Lawra District into the colony and into the empire. For labour migrants, ethnicity became an idiom of solidarity and of the organisation of home-ties. Ethnicity was therefore constructed not only from ‘above’, by colonial officials and chiefs, but also from below, by labour migrants themselves. The returning migrants and their families saw themselves as Dagarti, not Lobi, and were in the long run responsible for the ‘Dagabafication’ of the ethnic map.

Keywords: Britain; labour migration; Lawra District; Gold Coast; Ashanti Protectorate; labour migrants; ethnicity; home-ties; Dagarti; Dagabafication

Chapter.  6874 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: African Studies

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