Spirits in Circulation : Long-Distance Trade and Religious Innovation in Southern Ghana

  • ISHII Miho

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Other Title
  • 精霊の流通 : ガーナ南部における宗教祭祀の刷新と遠隔地交易
  • セイレイ ノ リュウツウ ガーナ ナンブ ニ オケル シュウキョウサイシ ノ サッシン ト エンカクチ コウエキ

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<p>This article investigates the correlation between religious innovations and trans-regional communications in West Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Most of the recent studies on religious movements in Sub-Saharan Africa have explained these movements as responses to, or symbolic resistance against, the pressure of colonialism and modernization. The main problem with these arguments is that they often assume that local communities were in a harmonious or static state in pre-colonial Africa so that the invasion by Western colonial forces can be set as the "zero point" of socio-religious change for these local communities. But in order to understand the more active or innovative aspects of African religion, it is essential to consider the historical movements and communications of people that crossed borders, which stimulated the continual transformation of indigenous religion. From this point of view, this article investigates the expansion and circulation of savanna-originated spirits or suman shrines in Southern Ghana in relation to the cola trade between Northern and Southern Ghana. The fieldwork for this study was conducted mainly in the Akan based migrant society in the Eastern region and the Northern region of the Republic of Ghana. In Chapter 2, I analyze the contrastive characters of the traditional goddess or obosombaa called Akonodi among Guan and Akan societies in the Eastern region and of one of new spirits or suman called Tigare that originated in the Northern region. Here I note that Akonodi and other traditional gods are basically connected to Southern local communities, their political systems and their ancestor worship, and I contrast that savanna-originated spirits have more independent and mobile characters. Moreover, these new spirits often include North-originated, Islamic characters which are distinguishable especially by the instruments, clothes and languages people use during spirit possession. Also I point out that although there are distinctive differences between these traditional gods and new spirits, they have many similarities in the form of worship and use of symbols. Then, why are these traditional gods and new spirits so different in their origins and basic characters and, at the same time, similar in ritualistic or symbolic aspects? In Chapter 3, I examine the history of wide-ranged enterprises which flourished from the nineteenth century to the twentieth century in Ghana. I focus mainly on the long distance trade between Akan and Hausa traders, the warfare and expansion of the Ashanti Empire, and the migration of cocoa farmers from the Akwapim ridge westward. In order to examine the relation between these political and economic enterprises and the religious movements beyond ethnic and regional boundaries, I first investigate the expansion of new suman or magical elements like Islamic charms and medicines among Akan societies through the markets of long-distance traders and new migrant societies. This process of introduction and expansion of the Islamic magical elements throughout the area was stimulated mainly by the merchants and entrepreneurs who were very active in the periphery of the regional political realm. Second, I investigate the transformation process of suman from savanna-originated magical elements into new forms of personalized Islamic spirits like Tigare or Tongo. This creative transformation of suman was accomplished not only by the scarcity value and the advantage of these new mobile magical elements in comparison to the stable traditional gods, but by assimilation to the authorized symbols and traditional forms of worship in Southern societies. In other words, the process shows the way in which these suman established an original status as new objects of worship in Southern societies through a bonding together with and, yet, differentiation from the traditional gods and ancestor worship. From the</p><p>(View PDF for the rest of the abstract.)</p>



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