Africa

By Maria Groz-Ngaté; John H. Hansan et al. | Go to book overview

3
Social Relations
Family, Kinship, and Community

Maria Grosz-Ngaté

News accounts of violent conflict in Africa frequently make reference to “tribe” and “tribalism” as potent ingredients of discord. The use of “tribe” in the African context is a legacy of colonialism and the research of early anthropologists. Anthropologists wanted to know how African societies without centralized leadership maintained order and stability, while colonial officials demarcated African societies for the purpose of rule, ignoring complexities, interactions between groups, and the fluidity of boundaries. The per sis tent characterization of African populations as “tribes” gives the appearance of timelessness and glosses over the different forms of political organization that existed in the past. It implicitly suggests that tribe (or ethnic group) is the primary source of identity and mode of sociopolitical organization on the continent. It also obscures the existence of more important forms of identification, relatedness, and belonging that may play a role in, counteract, or facilitate the resolution of conflict. Like people in other parts of the world, Africans are enmeshed in a range of institutions and identify with multiple collectivities. An individual may be a mother, wife, sister, and daughter; a cultivator, cloth dyer, or teacher; a member of an age group, a participant in a local or national women’s association, and a member of an ethnic group as well as a citizen of a nation-state. These social positions and identities overlap and cross-cut each other; which of them takes precedence at any given time depends on the context.

This chapter focuses on social relations as lived and constructed through kinship, marriage, and forms of association beyond the family. It illuminates the diverse ways in which individuals negotiate these institutions and the changes taking place as a result of the day-to-day actions of African women and men in the context of historical, political, and economic pro cesses that impinge on their lives. Social relations are dynamic and change is not new; yet transformations are often subtle before they become visible or acknowledged as a result of an event that brings them to the fore. Africans may highlight continuity when asked about specific practices. At the same time, older people contending that young people act very differently than

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Africa
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Africa a Geographic Frame 7
  • 2 - Legacies of the Past Themes in African History 32
  • 3 - Social Relations Family, Kinship, and Community 56
  • 4 - Making a Living African Livelihoods 83
  • 5 - Religions in Africa 103
  • 6 - Urban Africa Lives and Projects 123
  • 7 - Health, Illness, and Healing in African Societies 140
  • 8 - Visual Arts in Africa 161
  • 9 - African Music Flows 187
  • 10 - Literature in Africa 209
  • 11 - African Film 233
  • 12 - African Politics and the Future of Democracy 250
  • 13 - Development in Africa Tempered Hope 275
  • 14 - Human Rights in Africa 293
  • 15 - Print and Electronic Resources 315
  • Contributors 349
  • Index 353
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