Writing and Colonialism in Northern Ghana: The Encounter Between the Lodagaa and the 'World on Paper'

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9780802048721: Writing and Colonialism in Northern Ghana: The Encounter Between the Lodagaa and the 'World on Paper'
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This book presents a new perspective on colonialism in Africa. Drawing on work from a variety of subjects and disciplines – from the ancient Mediterranean to colonial Spain, and from anthropology to psychology – the author argues that colonialism in Africa needs to be understood through the medium of writing and the particular world it belonged to. Focusing on the LoDagaa of northern Ghana and their relationship with British colonialism, Hawkins describes colonialism as an encounter between a world of experience – a world of knowledge, practice, and speech – and "the world on paper" – a world of writing, rules, and a linear concept of history. The various ways in which "the world on paper" affected the LoDagaa are examined thematically. The first four chapters explore how writing imposed a form of historical consciousness on different aspects of LoDagaa culture – identity, politics, and religion – that was alien to them. The second half of the book examines how both the British colonial state and its postcolonial successor, the Ghanian state, attempted to regulate indigenous forms of knowledge, gender relations, and social reckoning through courts. This ambitious and richly detailed book will appeal to scholars and general readers interested in African history, British colonialism, and cultural and postcolonial studies.

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'This is not colonial history in the usual sense. Through careful, innnovative readings of colonial texts, Hawkins uncovers stories of African historical subjectivity in between the lines and outside the margins of the colonial archive. Writing and Colonialism demonstrates not only how 'the world on paper' invented African societies, but how African intellectuals, chiefs, and subalterns, in turn, negotiated their way through this written world - appropriating concepts at one point, rejecting some at another, and reconfiguring at yet another. It is a brilliantly original contribution to African colonial history.'

'The theoretical framework is sophisticated and new for African history. While drawing on comparative studies of the impact of writing ... this study not only takes the analysis further, but also incorporates literature from fields of social psychology, anthropology, and philosophy in ways that will benefit historians ... What emerges is a book which will be of value to specialists in Ghana's history and society as well as those interested in the cultural history of colonialism in Africa.'

About the Author:

Sean Hawkins is an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of Toronto.

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