Erdmute Alber: Im Gewand von Herrschaft – Modalitäten der Macht im Borgou (Nord-Bénin) 1900–1995 [PDF]


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SzK Studien zur Kulturkunde Volume 116

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325 pp.
4 maps, 6 photos, 3 graphs, 4 facsimile reproductions, 2 tables

Text language: German

This ethno-historical study analyses the concepts of power and dominance within the apparent forms encountered and the historical processes involved. The basis used to exemplify the wider implications is the development of the institution of chieftain among the Baatombu of Bénin from precolonial times in the late 19th century, through the transformations during the French colonial era and up to its present form. The Baatombu of Bénin number approximately 425,000 people. Most of them live in the département Borgou in northern Bénin, where they constitute the dominant ethnic group with about 45% of the population.

The first part of the book deals with types of power in pre-colonial Borgou. The warlords of the Baatombu monopolised military power and profited by extorting bribes from and raiding trade on the long distance trade routes. Their dominance was dependent on their effective military control in the region as well as their ability to redistribute the spoils of their raids.

The second part details the manifestation of rule in colonial Borgou, where the pre-colonial warlords were slowly integrated into a territorially structured administrative system as subordinate chieftains. It was this integrative process which brought about the establishment of rule based on territory. Rule in this context is defined as a specialised form of power governed by specific criteria of institutionalisation (depersonalisation, formalisation and territorialisation).

The last part uses the specific situation in the Baatombu village of Tebo to illustrate the impact of national political and administrative transformation processes on local society and local understanding of power.

Under these links you will find descriptions of further Beninese cultures and languages and publications by the author:

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