The Cultural Work 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 Cultural Work of Ethnicity

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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

Chapter.  9826 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: African Studies

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