The divine kingship and chiefship of the Asante people of central Ghana have been undergoing a shift towards secularization since the start of the colonial era. Timo Kallinen maintains that a close examination of this transformation provides us with a better understanding of secularization processes in Ghana more broadly, and in other post-colonial societies whose historical development likewise differs from that of the modern West, and which have largely confronted secular modernity through encounters with European colonialism. Throughout the volume secularization is understood as a process in modern society whereby divinity is separated from the ways in which both human society is regulated and physical nature is understood to function.
Divine Rulers in a Secular State has been divided into three thematic parts, each with a short theoretical introduction. In the first two, analysis is primarily inspired by the work of Louis Dumont, while in the third the theoretical ideas of Webb Keane and Bruno Latour are of central importance. The undifferentiated order of the pre-colonial Asante kingdom, in which the chiefly and priestly functions of the rulers were not separated, comprises the initial focus. Sacrifices and marriage exchanges, both of which were directed at establishing and perpetuating relations between the living and the spirits of the dead ancestors, are posited as the most important responsibilities of the chief. Also explored are perceptions that the founding of the kingdom and its authority structure are the results of sacrifices offered to various gods by the Asante king and his chiefs.
The second part examines the dissolution of the traditional order since the onset of British colonial occupation. The secularization process was initiated by the aspirations of colonial administrators and missionary bodies who aimed to maintain Christian converts under the ‘political’ authority of their non-Christian chiefs, who were still important ritual leaders. Consequently, it was necessary to start dividing society along ‘political’ and ‘religious’ lines so that only the former was a mandatory concern for all. The kernel of modern citizenship was planted at the same time as the ‘religious’ conscience of individuals started to shape their rights and duties towards their ‘political’ rulers. Furthermore, theories about Asante as a state based on contract and representation were proposed and developed. In the post-colonial era chiefship has been put into the service of the independent nation state – both as an instrument of administration and a nationalistic symbol, while, most recently, chiefs have been depicted as leaders in civil society, even receiving support from global developmental organizations. Yet traditional chieftaincy is strongly criticized by certain Christian groups belonging to the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement, which still see it as integrally linked to traditional cosmologies.
The third part of the book takes the discussion beyond the separation of the categories of religion and politics. Secularization has also has also entailed the dematerialization of religion, establishing it as something that ought to be understood primarily as mental or spiritual; in a secular society ‘things’ like deities, witchcraft, or sacrifices should not be recognized as proper agents and actions at the level of immanent relations. In Ghana such views are effectively contradicted by religious groups which see spiritual forces as the most powerful agents in social relations. The cases discussed deal with attempted state control of anti-witchcraft activities, the efficiency of protective magic during political upheavals, and Pentecostal notions of demonic influences in secular politics. The Conclusions section brings the themes of the book together by discussing the large-scale effects of the secular project in contemporary Ghanaian society.
Research is based on anthropological fieldwork conducted in Ghana in 2000–2001 and 2005–2006, data drawn from several archival sources located in Ghana and the United Kingdom, and the anthropological and historical literature on Ghana and the Asante.
This book is part of the Studia Fennica Anthropologica series.Book Details
Identities in Practice draws a nuanced picture of how the experience of migration affects the process through which Sikhs in Finland and California negotiate their identities. What makes this study innovative with regard to the larger context of migration studies is the contrast it provides between experiences at two Sikh migration destinations. By using an ethnographic approach, Hirvi reveals how practices carried out in relation to work, dress, the life-cycle, as well as religious and cultural sites, constitute important moments in which Sikhs engage in the often transnational art of negotiating identities.
Laura Hirvi's rich ethnographic account brings to the fore how the construction of identities is a creative process that is conditioned and infiltrated by questions of power. Identities in Practice will appeal to scholars who are interested in the study of cultures, identities, migration, religion, and transnationalism.
This book is part of the Studia Fennica Ethnologica series.Book Details
In the mid-19th century, letters to newspapers in Finland began to condemn a practice known as home thievery, in which farm mistresses pilfered goods from their farms to sell behind the farm master’s back. Why did farm mistresses engage home thievery and why were writers so harsh in their disapproval of it? Why did many men in their letters nonetheless sympathize with women’s pilfering? What opinions did farm daughters express?
This book explores theoretical concepts of agency and power applied to the 19th-century context and takes a closer look at the family patriarch, resistance to patriarchal power by farm mistresses and their daughters, and the identities of those Finnish men who already in the 1850s and 1860s sought to defend the rights of rural farm women.
This book is part of the Studia Fennica Ethnologica series.Book Details
Lying on the border between eastern and western Christendom, Orthodox Karelia preserved its unique religious culture into the 19th and 20th centuries, when it was described and recorded by Finnish and Karelian folklore collectors. This colorful array of ritulas and beliefs involving nature spirits, saints, the dead, and pilgrimage to monasteries represented a unigue fusion of official Church ritual and doctrine and pre-Christian ethnic folk belief. This book undertakes a fascinating exploration into many aspects of Orthodox Karelian ritual life: beliefs in supernatural forces, folk models of illness, body concepts, divination, holy icons, the role of the ritual specialist and healer, the divide between nature and culture, images of forest, the cult of the dead, and the popular image of monasteries and holy hermits. It will appeal to anyone interested in popular religion, the cognitive study of religion, ritual studies, medical anthropology, and the folk traditions and symbolism of the Balto-Finnic peoples.
This book is part of the Studia Fennica Folkloristica series.Book Details