An account of the life of a Ghanaian village during a century of tumultuous change, this study is also a richly textured microhistory and an exploration of the meanings of history and modernity in an African context. The years 1850-1950 witnessed several momentous and transformative developments in Asante history, including British annexation and colonial overrule. In Asante Identities,
T. C. McCaskie provides a nuanced study of this era 'from below,' focusing on the everyday lives of commoners in Adeebeba, an independent village that was engulfed by the expansion of the city of Kumase in the 20th century. He tells this story through the words of the villagers themselves, drawing on life histories collected by the Ashanti Social Survey in the 1940s.
McCaskie provides a deep cultural reading that ranges over issues of selfhood and community and their impact on the colonial experience. His discussion touches on questions of identity, belief, power, money, rights, obligations, gender, sexuality, and much more. The result is a book compelling in both its historical detail and its analytic sophistication.
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T. C. McCaskie holds the only established university
post in Asante Studies, as Reader in Asante History at the Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham. He is author of State and Society in Precolonial Asante and of numerous papers on Asante.
"Using dozens of boxes of leftover data from the monumental 1940s Cambridge West Africa Institute's Ashanti Social Survey, McCaskie (West African Studies, Univ. of Birmingham) has written a microhistory of the little village of Adiebeba from its beginnings in the Asante Kingdom through its incorporation into the city of Kumase in 1954 just before the end of British rule in the Gold Coast Colony. Adiebeba changed drastically. Village endogamy gave way to stranger marriages. The desire for the sweet things of life―kerosene lighting, cooking oil, metal pots and pans, clothing (especially underwear), soap, cosmetics, and tinned food―gave rise to an unrestrained pursuit of money and the destruction of lives and families. Still, traditional belief in fetishes (witchcraft), the power of juju, and ancestor worship persisted, notwithstanding the determination of Christian missionaries. Adherence continued also to the idea that the ancient antecedents of the Asante, the Koa people, were part of the lost tribe of Israel and that the name was transmuted first to Koana, then to Gwana, and finally to contemporary Ghana. With photographs, maps, and bibliography, the monograph is highly recommended as a significant contribution to the International African Library series. All levels. ―W. W. Reinhardt, Randolp" ―Macon College, Choice, January 2002
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