«Timo Kallinen SOME CHIEFS ARE “MORE UNDER” THAN OTHERS Kinship, ritual, and the concept of political hierarchy among the Asante Academic ...»
SOME CHIEFS ARE “MORE UNDER” THAN OTHERS
Kinship, ritual, and the concept of political hierarchy among the Asante
Academic dissertation to be publicly discussed, by due permission of the
Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki, in Auditorium XII
on the 11th of December, 2004, at 10
SOME CHIEFS ARE “MORE UNDER” THAN OTHERS
Kinship, ritual, and the concept of political hierarchy among the Asante Research Series in Anthropology University of Helsinki Academic Dissertation Research Series in Anthropology University of Helsinki, Finland Distributed by Helsinki University Press PO Box 4 (Vuorikatu 3 A) 00014 University of Helsinki Finland fax +358 9 7010 2374 www. yliopistopaino.fi Copyright © 2004 Timo Kallinen ISSN 1458-3186 ISBN 952-10-2150-0 (paperback) ISBN 952-10-2151-9 (PDF), http://ethesis.helsinki.fi Helsinki University Printing House Helsinki 2004 CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ix 1 INTRODUCTION 1
1.1 Collecting data 2
1.2 Outline of the problem 4
2 POLITICS OF KINSHIP AND MARRIAGE 7
2.1 Structural domains 8
2.2 Political blood and familial spirit 11
2.3 Marriages of men, women, and offices 17 2.3.1 Marriage as a process 17 2.3.2 Keeping the great names 22 2.3.3 Distributing the great names 29 3 IS THE STATE A GROUP OF GROUPS? 41
3.1 Do rules make the group? 43
3.2 Descent and territory 46
3.3 Descent and chieftaincy 49
3.4 Two passages in the dynastic history of Amakom 53 3.4.1 Brother afar 54 3.4.2 Resident aliens 58
3.5 Knots and boxes 63
3.6 Groups on the ground, groups in the mind 65 4 CHIEFS AND THEIR CLANS:
DESCENT AND HIERARCHY 69
4.1 Hierarchy as a chain of command 70
4.2 What is a clan? 74
4.3 Seniority 77 4.3.1 The brothers 79 4.3.2 The uncle and his nephews 90
4.4 Status, power, and authority 93
5 FORGIVEN AND UNFORGIVEN SINS:
NEGOTIATING SENIORITY 97
5.1 Taboo and collective responsibility 97 5.2 “Act of treason” 102
FIGURE 6. Alleged dynastic relations between the chiefdoms of Amakom, Nkoransa, and Dompoase 64 FIGURE 7.
An Asante chiefdom and its component parts described in a diagrammatical form by Rattray 74
FIGURE 9. Kwawu administrative structure showing the position of the Asenehene as the head of all sub-divisional chiefs from the Asene matriclan 94 FIGURE 10.
Reconstruction of the relationship between the ruling lineages of Kumase, Amakon, and Nkoransa 107 FIGURE 11. The exchange economy of human sacrifices in the victory insurance rites preceding the Denkyira war 154 PHOTOGRAPH 1. A village chief and his elders sacrifice a fowl to the blackened ancestral stool 52
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThis dissertation is part of the Kingship and Kinship project based at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki.
The project has been directed by Professor Karen Armstrong and funded by the Academy of Finland. Additional funding has been provided by the Finnish Cultural Foundation (2000) and the Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (1999). In 2004 I was also awarded a grant for finishing the dissertation by the University of Helsinki.
I want to thank my supervisor Professor Karen Armstrong who has facilitated my research by inviting me to her project. She has read all drafts of this dissertation with insight, empathy, and exemplary patience. Her feedback kept the writing process on a steady course and also in many ways deepened my understanding of anthropology. Professor Jukka Siikala has closely followed the progress of my thesis from day one and read most of the draft versions. His role has also been crucial in securing funding for my research. I am especially grateful to Professor Siikala for turning my attention to some relevant comparative material from the Pacific. I was fortunate to have two prominent regional specialists, Professor Charles Piot and Dr. Jane Parish, as the preliminary examiners of my dissertation. Their understanding and encouraging observations and suggestions are much appreciated. Professor Lina Fruzzetti has also read the final version of the manuscript and given some valuable comments. I thank the other members of the Kingship and Kinship project, Reea Hinkkanen and Perpetual Crentsil, with whom I have shared similar concerns and experiences during both fieldwork and writing. I also wish to thank the other teachers, researchers, and graduate students of the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Helsinki for their input in several seminars and workshops, but, most of all, for being first-rate colleagues and friends.
Outside the academic circles, I wish to thank my parents, Eino and Maija-Liisa Kallinen, and my many friends who have had to put up with the eccentric ways of the anthropologist. Still, I have been able to count on their unconditioned support for which I am, of course, forever grateful. My interest in Ghanaian society and culture began when I got to know some members of the Ghanaian community in Finland. I would especially like to mention Edmond Armar, Owusu Kwame Atta, and Dr. Richard Owusu who have helped me a great deal in getting to and settling in Ghana. I also thank Dr. Kim David, a veteran medical doctor of the civil wars of Liberia and Sierra Leone whose remarkably broad experience in West Africa has been an inspiration and a rich source of information.
x When I set out to write a book about chiefs I already knew that without the co-operation of the traditional rulers I would get nowhere. In retrospect, I am proud to say that I was never turned down. Particularly, I wish to thank Nkoransahene Okatakyie Agyeman Kudom IV and Amakomhene Akosa Yiadom II for their positive attitude towards my research and for the interviews they granted me. Akyempemhene Oheneba Adusei Poku kindly replied to my inquiries concerning a research permit. My correspondence with Akomforehene Boakye Atonsa II has been very clarifying on several interesting issues. I am indebted to Nana Kwabena Tia II, the Asenehene of Kwawu, who not only candidly discussed the history of the Asene people with me but also honoured me by adopting me into the Asene clan. I also want to thank Domaahene Agyeman Badu II for an illuminating discussion about Akan clanship. I am grateful to Yejihene Yaw Kagbrese V, Cherepohene Twumasi Ankrah VIII, and Konkomahene Yiadom Boachie II for their overwhelming hospitality, particularly during the annual Kajuji festival in Yeji. Heartfelt thanks belong also to Opanin Kwame Tawiah, Dendwahemaa Yaa Fosuaa, Dendwahene Baffuor Asare, Nana Bredihene, and Nana Sesemanhene in Nkoransa, Nana Aberasohene and Nana Oseawuohene in Kyebi, Nana Aduanahene in Abetifi, the queen mother and elders of Asantemanso, and Nana Kwame and many other royals of Kumase. Finally, I wish to thank Nana Afua Kobi Serwah Ampem II, the queen mother of Asante, for welcoming me to Kumase.
Several traditional priests and priestesses generously shared a part of their vast knowledge of the Akan spirit world with me. Special thanks go to Nana Anobea of Abetifi, Nana Yaw Effah and Nana Duodu of Akuma, Nana Akwasi Ankomako of Seseman, and Nana Ankomah Adjei of Bredi.
The staff of the Public Records and Archives Administration Department in Kumase always did their very best to assist me as I went through their extensive holdings. Thanks also to the staff of Manhyia Archives and, in particular, to the Director of the Archives, Mr. T. K.
Aning, who kindly helped me with my search for data even after my departure from Ghana. I am grateful to Mr. Barima Kusi Ankrah, the Registrar of the National House of Chiefs, for patiently explaining to me the complexity of rights, relations, and histories connected to the modern chieftaincy bodies.
I am indebted to Mr. John Owusu, Antie Nyanta, and Owusu Adu Boahene who graciously gave me a place to stay and food to eat in Kumase.
I could not have asked for a better host family. I would also like to thank Kofi Berkoh, Akwasi Frimpon, Abigail Berkoh and the rest of the family for all their help. During our “tours” outside Kumase we were always able to rely on the unreserved hospitality of a number of good friends. I should xi especially mention Taller, Steve, and Sharon Cox in Nkoransa and Mr.
Kwabena Boakye Prempeh, Doris, and the Manager in Yeji.
I owe many thanks to Abraham Donyinah. This book simply could not have been written without him. His contribution to this work is best described as a myriad of different roles: research assistant, language teacher, interpreter, negotiator, guide, cook, etc. I do not know (and probably never will) how such resourcefulness is achieved, but, more importantly, I do know that I have a lifelong friend in him. I also want to thank Abraham’s wife, Naa, who wholeheartedly supported our project even though it often kept her husband away from home when we were “touring” the villages.
This work is dedicated to the memory of Nana Barima Akwasi Prempeh, a full brother to Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the Asantehene. I met Nana by coincidence when I was looking for a place to stay in Kumase and during the year that I spent in Ghana we became close friends. Nana always took a keen interest in my research and in many ways he was the person who put the wheels in motion in the field. Soon after my return to Finland I heard that Nana had suddenly taken ill and been rushed to hospital in critical condition. As the months went by, we all prayed that his condition would take a turn for the better. Finally, in May 2003, I received the sad news of Nana’s departure. Nana’s persona was a rare combination of a dignified royal of the Golden Stool and a man of the people who always had a moment to spare for anyone who approached him. He will be greatly missed by many.
Anybody who has had any dealings with Asante chiefs has probably met, or most certainly heard of, a chief who is described as the “highest “, “most important”, or “most powerful” chief in Ghana right after the king of Asante. Most likely, one is also told that this same chief used to own “all the lands” in that particular town or district, but for some reason or another he does not own them anymore. Not surprisingly, the “highest” are countless in numbers, while it is extremely difficult to meet a chief who says that he is among the “lowest”. Even a chief of a very small village will declare that among all the village headmen in the area, he is the senior. However, in most cases, these people are not just showing off to an ignorant and naive outsider. On the contrary, when asked, they are able to produce flawless evidence in support of their assertion. The problem is that there are so many, sometimes even conflicting, grounds on which one is able to build his claim for precedence. Some chief is of high rank because his ancestor conquered all the other chiefs in the area, someone because his office is the oldest, and some because his ancestors were closely related to the king, and so forth.
How is one able to determine who is higher and who is lower? And how does political authority relate to these various assertions?
This is a study of how political hierarchy is constructed among the Asante. It explores the principles that legitimate chieftaincy and hierarchies among chiefly offices. Furthermore, it shows how the institution of chieftaincy is connected to certain aspects of social structure and cosmology and how it is precisely because of this connectedness that chieftaincy continues to be viable despite major changes in Asante (or Ghanaian) society. The Asante belong to a larger ethnic and language group called the Akan. The Akan people live in the coastal and forest areas of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. The Akan language and its dialects are classified under the Tano language family, including Asante (Twi), Fante, and Akuapem, which also have their own distinctive written forms. The social and political organization of all Akan groups is more or less uniform. It is often said that the Akan political order provides a classic example of a chiefdom or segmentary state (cf., Southall 1956, 229-263). The best known of the Akan polities is the kingdom of Asante (Ashanti), which is a union of a number of autonomous chiefdoms under one king, the Asantehene. Every Asante chiefdom is a distinct territorial unit centred on the chief's capital town or village. The chief is elected from a group of candidates eligible by right of membership in a matrilineal descent group in which the office has been vested. He is accompanied by a queen mother and is guided by a council of divisional chiefs or elders who are the representatives of the resident matrilineages of the chiefdom. Together they form a legislative and executive body, and most importantly function as a judicial court. Each chiefdom is composed of several matrilineages that are established on the basis of common matrilineal descent from a known female ancestor. The anthropologists have usually viewed the lineage as a fundamental corporate group with important religious, political, social and economic functions.
Today the Asante kingdom, with its chiefdoms and lineages, coexists with the republic of Ghana. This coexistence has sometimes proved to be problematic mainly because the Asante kingdom and the modern nation state are organized according to an entirely different logic with the result that their relationship to the Ghanaian society is also fundamentally different.
In terms of modern anthropology, the classical definition of Asante social and political structure is by Meyer Fortes. His theory on Asante as a hierarchical, centralized polity, which coexists with a segmentary lineage system, is the starting point of my study. Fortes published several articles on the Asante and his views were elaborated in his book Kinship and Social Order (1969a). Through a rethinking of some of his key concepts I will introduce a model of the Asante polity that gives, I think, a more comprehensive picture of the relationship between social and political structures in Asante.
1.1 Collecting data