This article deals with witchcraft, missionisation, domestic slavery and social life on the emerging colonial ‘frontier’ of Onitsha, Nigeria, during the last years of the nineteenth century. The analysis centres on the confession of an accused witch and former domestic slave in the Waterside area of the town. It uses the document as a springboard for a larger discussion of the intersecting lives of Africans and Europeans in this marginal location at a moment when social relations there were undergoing radical transformation. By addressing such a text, taken down verbatim at the time of the confession, the author argues, we can gain a privileged insight into women's unofficial (and even prohibited) religious practice as well as the everyday lives of persons—notably female domestic slaves—who ordinarily receive little notice in the African colonial record. From Okuwan's confession we also learn something about how the increasing flows of commodities and new forms of colonial authority along this mercantile border were changing (and possibly devaluing) African women's labour as well as their religious power.
This article reconsiders the relationship between ancestors and colonial power through a comparative analysis of the mortuary rituals of two Malagasy peoples, the Betsimisaraka of the east coast and the Karembola of the deep south. In contrast to analyses which emphasise an opposition between ancestors and colonial power, it argues that mortuary rituals construct striking analogies between the two. These analogies rest on similar conceptualisations of power as both enabling and enslaving, and are enacted in contemporary mortuary ritual through the incorporation of colonial goods and labour practices. By playing on similarities and differences between ancestral and colonial power, Betsimisaraka and Karembola mortuary rituals parody and critique mimetically appropriate colonial power, even as their appropriation of colonial symbols endows ritual practices around ancestors with the power to pull against the centralising power of the national sphere. Bakhtin's conception of heteroglossic language provides a useful way of conceptualising the multiple dimensions of ritual practices around ancestors.
The Nyakyusa were the subject of a classic series of ethnographies. This article suggests that these works took insufficient account of struggles over authority in the colonial period. Consequently they overstated the formalisation of chiefly power and understated the complex relationship between generational tensions and political authority in the pre-colonial period. Following discursive and practical changes in the use of alcohol, the article identifies a shift in the nature of power among the Nyakyusa over the twentieth century and develops the idea that drinking talk, and drinking practice, are central fields for the creation and recreation of the assumptions of power which underpin authority.
The article explores the nature and development of commercial food farming during the 1990s around Sokoto, and its reliance on a floating labour force, something which is not unique to that city but is part of Nigeria's nationwide farming boom, focused on urban and regional markets. The evidence collected from the Sokoto hinterland suggests a new buoyancy in commercial agriculture and an inflow of investment, as under the present economic and political conditions the elites and managerial classes have moved into farming as private and state contracting has proved less rewarding. Large-scale grain and fadama farming and food trading have a long history, but now they are embedded in new analytical categories which indicate a strengthening of capitalist relations of production, and there are signs that a wide spectrum of interests believe capital accumulation can be achieved in the agricultural sector. There are big profits in food fanning provided the farmer has sufficient capital to invest and can meet recurrent labour costs. In the 1990s medium-size farms, especially on irrigated lowland represent a significant shift towards capitalist agriculture, at least in the short term. The introduction of motorised pumps via the World Bank's Agricultural Development Projects marks a substantial innovation in irrigated farming, which also has a long history and has yielded food surpluses traded over a wide area. It is plain that the farmers who have benefited most from partial mechanisation and the surge in food prices are the better-off small commodity producers in the villages, often linked by descent or clientage with traditional rulers and/or politicians, together with the new urban managerial classes.
This article takes a historical approach to argue that communal lands in Zimbabwe are a construct inherited from colonial days (prior to 1980) which governments in post-colonial Zimbabwe have found convenient to maintain rather than dismantle. The construct is not only a convenient framework for the delivery of collective consumption goods but in turn it enables the government to subtly use communal lands as a framework for social control, especially in terms of urban management. The continued existence of communal land areas and land rights also sustains processes of social control at the household level. However, these are issues that will not receive attention in land debates as long as the larger problem of redistribution of large-scale commercial farms remains unresolved.
Egypt is faced with many economic difficultires, e.g., acutely limited land and water resources already stretched to their limits, an increasing dependence on imported food and raw materials, and a large and rapidly growing population which makes ever greater demands on all available resources. For many years, Egypt focussed, understandably but obsessively, on political matters. Only in 1978, with a peace initiative with Israel ongoing, could Egypt concentrate on economic possibilities. The positive economic element that entered the scene at that time was the 1st balance of payments surplus in recent Egyptian history, due to growing tourism, increased oil earnings, resumed revenues from Suez Canal traffic, and high remittances from Egyptians working abroad. There is no guarantee that any or all of these favorable factors will continue. Agriculture in Egypt is inefficient. There are steady pressures of population on the land, sluggishness in land reclamation programs, and a continual loss of cultivated land to industry and urbanization. Water creation projects have not achieved their goals. The increase in agricultural production in 1980 was estimated at 2.7%, but the increase in population in the same year was 2.9%. It is with population growth that Egypt must meet the challenge.
Wherever belief in witchcraft permeated an African society, fear prevailed and people demanded protection and control. Even though the degree of African concern about witchcraft was not always appreciated by outsiders, it was possible, at least in centralized societies, for such outsiders to discern the processes that were involved in its control. A king or a priest who failed to control the spread of witchcraft and to alleviate the fear was unlikely to maintain his authority for long. In non-centralized societies, the problem of witchcraft and the means of control were less clear-cut. Solutions were rarely obvious and easy.
This article arose out of an attempt to quantify the risk of transmitting blood-borne diseases, in particular Hepatitis B and HIV, through the practice of making incisions (umgcabo) and punctures (ukutshobha) in the skin for the purpose of introducing medication (muthi) into the human body. The intention was to examine means of containing the risk. It soon became apparent that the practice of these therapies was inextricably bound up with legal and economic issues arising out of the impact of colonialism on Zulu medicine. Any endeavour to contain them would first have to address these fundamental issues. The article takes a step in that direction by (1) examining in detail some of the practices of diviners and herbalists in their historical context and (2) showing how colonial and post-colonial legislation has affected traditional healers and their clients in rural KwaZulu/Natal.
This is a study of rural society and struggle in the Transvaal during the watershed period of the early twentieth century. Though much has been written about the South African War and `Reconstruction' period, this is the first scholarly and comprehensive analysis of their impact on the agrarian Transvaal. Jeremy Krikler analyses the `Revolution from Above' unleashed by British imperialism as it wrought changes of immense significance for the countryside. He explores the relationships between landowners and peasants, traces the struggle between them, and examines the agrarian changes attempted by the British after the war. It is an original, thoroughly researched, and lucidly written account, which illuminates our understanding of the South African War and its aftermath. It also offers new insights into peasant struggles, and into the nature of private property and the colonial state in the Transvaal. Available in OSO: http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/oso/public/content/history/9780198203803/toc.html
East African rangelands have a long history of population mobility linked to competition over key resources, negotiated access, and outright conflict. Both in the literature and in local discourse, in-migration is presented as leading to increased competition, driving poverty and social exclusion on the one hand and conflict and violence on the other. Current analyses in developing countries identify economic differences, ethnic fault lines, ecological stresses and a breakdown in State provision of human and constitutional rights as factors in driving conflict. The present paper explores this interaction of in-migration and conflict with respect to Kenyan and Tanzanian pastoralist areas and populations. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, patterns of resource access and control in Kenya and Tanzania Maasailand are explored in terms of the ways land and livestock are associated with migration status, ethnicity and wealth or political class. Contrasts and similarities between the two national contexts are used to develop a better understanding of the ways these factors operate under different systems of tenure and access. The conclusion briefly considers implications of these patterns, their potential for exacerbating poverty, and policies for minimising social exclusion and conflict in East African rangelands.
In the rural Adja region of south-west Bénin there is a labour problem. People who want to expand their businesses need cheap and reliable labour, but such labour is difficult to find and to manage. The sort of ‘big men’ known as alo-su amè dji —those mainly interested in investing in and dominating people—would like to keep up the appearance of being a ‘big man’ with many people under their control, but they cannot avoid the modern temptation of aspiring to personal wealth. Their style of management is to use mainly domestic labour, yet they face problems as the young begin to distrust the intentions of their household heads: the latter are suspected of looking after their own interests, while their followers doubt whether they will get a fair share of the assets when there are so many of them in a large family. Furthermore, sons and dependants find a long, very low-paid ‘apprenticeship’ increasingly unacceptable.
There is growing awareness of the difficulties of working with domestic labour and of the splintering effect of redistributing assets between a great many people. A small but growing number want accumulation for themselves and a limited number of descendants. This new style is associated with the sort of accumulators called eho wu amè , people who try to maximise financial gain. They work with much less family than hired labour (and prefer a much lower rate of polygyny). But hired labour at economic rates is not easy to find and there are organisational problems.
"Widespread assumptions about the extractive and self-serving nature of African elites have resulted in the relative neglect of questions concerning their personal ethics and morality. Using life-history interviews undertaken with a range of Ghanaian development workers, this article explores some of the different personal aspirations, ideologies and beliefs that such narratives express. The self-identification of many of those interviewed as activists is examined in terms of the related concepts of ideology, commitment and sacrifice. Much recent work within history and anthropology uses the life-history as a way of introducing agency that is purported to be missing in accounts focusing on larger social abstractions. Yet it is the very opposition between abstractions such as history and society and their own more personal lives that such narratives themselves enact. The article thus interrogates the various ways in which development workers variously imagine their lives in relation to broader social and historical processes."
In the new South Africa, the promise of land restitution raised millennial-style expectations amongst dispossessed and dispersed former landholders. Partly prompted by emerging policy discourses, iconic tropes of localised cultural experience such as grave sites, initiation lodges and cattle byres have acquired new significance: they became verifiable evidence of effective possession of – because proving what the Land Claims Commission calls ‘informal rights’ in – land. They thus became grounds on the basis of which to claim the restoration of such land. The meaning of land, the nature of ownership, and the legitimacy of its restoration, were all matters contested between claimants and policy makers/human rights lawyers. They were also contested by those at different levels in the hierarchical social order of the new South Africa. Members of the African nationalist political elite, in dialogue with lawyers, cherished one set of understandings while ordinary migrant/country-dwellers tended to hold to another. Both, however, were mediated through the new discourse on informal rights. It is neither purely through the activities of cosmopolitan elites with their ‘political demand for land’ nor through the unmediated localist experience of less sophisticated country-dwellers with more practical orientations that the significance of land becomes evident, but in the interaction between the two. Based on local understandings, transformed in the course of thirty years of ‘land back’ struggles, and finally negotiated over the course of the last ten years, a new diasporic consensus on what ‘the land’ signifies has been established.
THE CONCEPT Biodiversity means, in its broadest sense, the variety of life. More specifically it can refer to the number of species, genetic diversity or the variety of environments in which species or genes are to be found. The concept is in some ways an odd one, since biodiversity is quantitative without necessarily being quantifiable. As an object of study biodiversity is a bit like an iceberg-most of it is hidden from view, and (like the underwater portion of an iceberg) indefinite in shape and extent. The notion of global species biodiversity is often expressed in the form (estimates vary): 1.5 million species known to science, 5 million (or 30 million) yet remaining to be discovered (Primack, 1993). The rider to this surprising formulation is that most of the unknown species are probably insects in the tropical rain forest. To talk about the unknown portion of the iceberg of biodiversity in this way is not entirely ludicrous. The eighteenth-century German philosopher Kant argued that the significance of advancing from the concept of the earth's surface as a 'plain, indefinitely extended' to that of a globe was that it put bounds on human ignorance (Richards, 1974). Adding to the idea that the earth was a sphere of a certain size, information on the known (landward) portions of the globe meant that the extent of the unknown oceans could be estimated. Columbus had the arithmetic wrong, which is why he arrived in the Americas and not (as he supposed) the Indies, but the right geometrical idea. Biologists make use of an extended version of this argument when they talk, in quantitative terms, about the biodiversity yet to be discovered, since
Pentecostal studies has been one of the most vibrant areas of research in Africa for over twenty years, but is it time we started to look past Pentecostalism? Using some of the most important work in this tradition as a point of departure, this article offers both a critique of and supplement to the Pentecostal literature. It focuses in particular on how we should understand the relationship between Pentecostalism and African Independency by pushing the debates on how to frame their oft-shared desire to ‘break with the past’. Every rupture is also a realignment and how each is conceptualized and understood is a matter not only of discourse but decisions and dilemmas faced in everyday life.
post-print version This article explores the reasons for, and the repercussions of, a virulent and protracted crisis in the South West Province of anglophone Cameroon during the 1990s caused by the emergence of a Pentecostalism-inspired revival movement within the Roman Catholic Church. The so-called Maranatha movement and main-line Catholicism were viewed by both parties as incompatible, almost leading to a schism within the Church. The originally internal Church dispute gradually became a particularly explosive issue in the region when the politics of belonging, fuelled by the government and the regional elite during political liberalization, became pervasive. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]
This article is a revision and expansion of a paper read at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting at Toronto, November 1972. It was later republished in: Newell, Wm., ed., Ancestors . Chicago: Aldine, 1976, pp. 297-304.
Among the Gouro masks, Zamble, a composite animal figure, and Gù, a fine-featured woman's face, are known to art lovers around the world. Today their profane avatars, Flali and Zaouli, are at the heart of masquerades that are much enjoyed by audiences. But this appreciation concerns only the ‘pretty' aspects, that is to say the civilized and orderly side of an ensemble that also has a reverse side: the disease masks, sprung from disorder, avatars of the more powerful Zàùlì, described as the wild brother or husband of Zamble in the genealogical idiom employed by the Gouro when referring to the masks. These masks are created by each generation of young people and are central figures in rituals of inversion that express the upheavals of the times. At the same time as they establish their creators' reputations, they serve as a record of these events for the Gouro. Descended from the initial trio of masks (Zàùlì, Zamble, Gù), they prolong the trend to secularization of this family of masks from the sacred wood. In tracking this tradition over twenty years we can see a process of resacralization. When the youths' comments are analysed in the light of encyclopaedic knowledge acquired in the course of anthropological research on health, we can understand the necessity of the mask figure, and going further can understand what an ugly profane mask is, what it presents and the role it plays. In return the Zamble mask and its associates take on another dimension, a dimension that opens up exploration of the unknown via their intrinsic ambiguity and the transgressive behaviour they allow during the time of the ritual.
To those outside the anthropological disciplines, the Zulu are probably the best known chiefdom of southern Africa. Zulu military prowess acted as a sharp break on the process of colonial expansion in the nineteenth century and led to a series of battles which have been immortalized on celluloid and in the more popular historical accounts of the era. Despite this, the Zulu have prompted a comparatively sparse ethnography that is based largely on the work of nineteenth-century observers and is less comprehensive than the literature on some other southern African communities.
Contrary to neo-Malthusian assumptions population increase may not necessarily mean less biodiversity. More people may mean more care of the environment. Much depends on the circumstances through which local populations develop an awareness of, and practical involvement in, biodiversity management. This article considers two instances. In the first, an apparently pristine rain forest turns out on closer inspection to be heavy with the marks of past human occupance. This may have been quite good for some classes of biodiversity—the birds, for instance. In a second case, attention is paid to crop genetic resources in a densely populated agrarian landscape. Here genetic biodiversity may have been conserved through the activities of farmers selecting planting materials adapted to harsh physical conditions. Case-study material of this kind provides a basis for conservationists and community groups to develop mutual understanding.
In this article I discuss the incorporation of the people of two Bamileke chiefdoms into wider economic and political systems. In doing this I will concentrate on the interactions and strategies of individuals. A number of issues will concern us: the types of relations of dependency within the chiefdoms and the possibilities for manipulating them to further individual economic, political and social mobility; the effects of the commercialisation of agriculture during both colonial and post-colonial periods; the opening up of areas outside the chiefdoms for trade and migration; the erosion of the chiefdom structure and its consequences for interpersonal relations and the possibilities for furthering individual and family interests. I will approach these problems mainly from the point of view of the changing patterns of authority and power relations.
La langue véhiculaire dite sango commercial, ou tout simplement sango, est parlée principalement sur le territoire de la République Centrafricaine, ne débordant que légèrement sur la rive gauche du fleuve Oubangui et sur la République du Congo dans la région comprise entre la Sangha et l'Oubangui. Elle est dérivée du parler des Sango de Mobaye, sur le Haut Oubangui, qui appartient d'après Tucker à un agrégat de dialectes qu'il désigne par le nom du principal, ngbandi.
The article introduces a themed section in the journal on hometown associations in Cameroon. It outlines the impact of ten years’ work in this field and argues that notions of autochthony remain central in understanding Cameroonian politics. However the three articles go on to argue that some of the claims about home, belonging and politics are difficult to reconcile with the hazier reality observed on the ground. The articles aim to disturb any universal, inevitable or overly tidy segue between questions of belonging and claims of political segmentation. Too often the existing literature moves too quickly to an analysis that foregrounds only the worrisome dimensions of a politics of belonging, thus leaving little space for other interpretations. To explore this dilemma the article continues by exploring a land dispute in Bali Nyonga, north-west Cameroon. It shows (1) how ideas of belonging remain central to the practice of politics; (2) how the politics of belonging has changed over time; and (3) how it is possible to foreground an alternative ‘politics of conviviality’, which would otherwise be shaded out by the dominance of the politics of belonging within the literature.
This article restudies assumptions about the nature of nationalism in Africa on the basis of the brief moment when African nationalism emerged in the mountain area of Uluguru, in eastern Tanzania. It suggests that our understanding of the emergence of the concept of nationality was far too narrowly focused on the idea of the state and of the unity of the public existing within that state. By exploring a multiplicity of coexisting colonial and indigenous political discourses in terms of ‘creolisation’, and setting this multiplicity of public discourses against the background of the secret politics that determined their interaction, the article suggests directions for the rethinking of African politics in modernity.
One of the most important ethnomusicologists of the century, John Blacking achieved international recognition for his book, How Musical Is Man? Known for his interest in the relationship of music to biology, psychology, dance, and politics, Blacking was deeply committed to the idea that music-making is a fundamental and universal attribute of the human species. He attempted to document the ways in which music-making expresses the human condition, how it transcends social divisions, and how it can be used to improve the quality of human life. This volume brings together in one convenient source eight of Blacking's most important theoretical papers along with an extensive introduction by the editor. Drawing heavily on his fieldwork among the Venda people of South Africa, these essays reveal his most important theoretical themes such as the innateness of musical ability, the properties of music as a symbolic or quasi-linguistic system, the complex relation between music and social institutions, and the relation between scientific musical analysis and cultural understanding.
The immigration of food-producing groups into areas occupied by hunters and gatherers must have been a common occurrence in prehistory. How were the hunter-gatherers affected by this? I describe here two groups of Kalahari Basarwa (‘Bushmen’), one living along the flood plain of the lower Botletli river, the other occupying the savanna a short distance away from the river. These two groups differed in subsistence and social organisation and were affected by immigrant herders and farmers in strikingly different ways. Today the Basarwa of the flood plain are wealthy cattle owners, whereas those of the savanna are poor and have few or no cattle. How and why did the two groups respond so differently to the same competitive threat?
Simple observation in many high-potential agricultural areas of Kenya informs the casual observer that protected, cultivated and managed trees have assumed an important place as one of many smallholder land-use options. The observation poses a number of contradictions to conventional views of smallholder agriculture. Population pressures in many areas of Kenya have become extreme, but it is in precisely these areas, where pressures on agricultural land are greatest, that the area of land used for growing trees (rather than for other crops or land uses) can be quite substantial. The rural afforestation efforts of government, aid agencies and local organisations in Kenya have seldom taken account of the extent of existing tree-growing activities. Even when they have, the assumption is usually that tree planting on farms is a recent outcome of externally developed initiatives. There is little thought given to the possibility that farmers could have undertaken these initiatives on their own, independently of any external assistance. We seek to show in this article that a number of tree-planting practices, particularly the planting of trees on field boundaries, antedate contemporary 'social forestry' interventions, and indeed, antedate colonial settlement. We seek further to explore the origins of these practices as they were related to customary land tenure.
From 1986 to 1993 the Teso region of eastern Uganda experienced a violent insurgency. The insurgency was remembered as a time of brutality, when norms of respect and reciprocity were broken down. Younger men targeted and killed older men, and life retreated inwards. In the years since the insurgency a number of institutional developments have reflected on this experience. A growing number of Pentecostal churches have been established in the region, while charismatic forms of worship have been introduced in Anglican and Catholic churches. Burial societies have been set up and in the local courts the presentation of cases has undergone a change of emphasis. In all these different institutions there has been an attempt to draw a line under the violence of the recent past. A growing emphasis on notions of propriety and respectability – whether in church, in court, or at a burial – was a common theme in the life of Teso villages. In emphasizing new forms of sociality and obligation, churches and burial societies promoted a sense of fortunes restored; a belief that the past could be divorced from the present. At the same time, however, the attempt to draw a line under the past made the insurgency, or rather the memory of the insurgency, a powerful catalyst for change. The article examines the continuing influence the insurgency has over processes of social and political change in Teso.
De l'histoire de Mokolo, ville située au coeur du pays des Mafa (dans le nord du Cameroun), il se dégage un modele spécifique d’ urbanisation qui semble caractéristique des zones frontaliéres islamiques d'Afrique. Cette ville fondée vers la fin du dix-neuvième siècle par les chefs Foulbés, auteurs de nombreuses razzias dans la région, était la terre d'accueil des esclaves convertis. Depuis lors, l'urbanisation est souvent allée de pair avec l'islamisation. C'est pourquoi elle s'est accompagné d'un changement identitaire marqué dans la ville au sein des convertis Mafa et de conséquences radicales quant aux rapports qu'ils entretenaient avec leur région d'origine dans les montagnes. L'article souligne par ailleurs que les implications de l'islamisation et de l'urbanisation sont différentes pour les hommes et pour les femmes. Bien que la communauté musulmane urbaine ait offert des formes spécifiques de sécurité sociale aux hommes comme aux femmes, les raisons qui ont poussé les individus à migrer et le mode d'intégration des hommes et des femmes dans la communauté urbaine variaient nettement. Dans les années 80, en raison des changements politiques qui se sont opérés au niveau national, la pression exercée sur les individus pour qu'ils se convertissent à l'Islam a faibli dans tout le nord du Cameroun. Depuis lors, le nombre de personnes ayant migré vers la ville sans se convertir a augmenté rapidement. Mokolo était une ville musulmane. Dans les années 90, elle est progressivement devenue une ville Mafa symbole du renouveau de l'ethnicité Mafa en tant que véritable force régionale.
Les études de cas ont été effectuées par les auteurs de cet article en pays malinke, guro, gbã (ou gagu) et bete à l'ouest du Bandama, baule à l'est. Ces études ne sont pas toujours exhaustives et homogènes eu égard au sujet du présent article, et, de plus, elles concernent essentiellement les parties forestière et préforestière de la vallée du Bandama.
Pour les pasteurs nomades sud-sahariens, l'insuffisance ou l'irrégularité des pluies se traduit par une réduction des ressources fourragères annuelles et, par voie de conséquence, par un déficit alimentaire. Les calendriers historiques touaregs, qui privilégient pour chaque année l'événement majeur, resté vivant dans toutes les mémoires, voient périodiquement s'inscrire des années mauvaises, dénommees awetay wa n iba n allamoz , l'année de manque d'herbe—ou awetay wa n laz , l'année de la faim, ou encore, awetay wa n manna , l'année de la famine. Ces trois définitions font référence à un même phénomène, à une même catastrophe, en mettant l'accent, soit sur les troupeaux privés de pâturage, soit sur les hommes accablés par le manque de nourriture. En tamasheq, laz signifie la faim, alors que manna , associe la notion de famine à celle de sécheresse; c'est ainsi que Foucauld (1925/30: II 56) traduit dans un poème le terme de manna par la périphrase: ‘ La famine provenant de la sécheresse , les tourmentait, je pense’. Si la sécheresse impose des modifications dans le régime alimentaire, il faut préciser que chaque cycle annuel apporte normalement une variation saisonnière de l'alimentation. Aussi insuffisantes en quantité qu'irrégulières dans leur répartition que soient les pluies, elles sont cependant concentrées en zone sahélienne durant la période estivale; c'est pourquoi chaque année voit se renouveler une saison bienfaisante où les pluies régénèrent les pâturages, remplissent les mares, réalimentent les nappes. Pendant deux ou trois mois, où le lait abonde, se joue pour toute l'année, le développement de la végétation et la constitution du stock de fourrage qui va permettre d'attendre le retour des prochaines pluies.
This article explores specific oral histories and chiefship debates in the aftermath of the SPLA war in two Southern Sudanese chiefdoms. It argues that these local histories reveal much about the historical relationship between state and society – and in particular the mediation with external violence – which is central to understanding the legitimacy of local authority. Rather than being the strong arm of the state, chiefs have ideally mediated and deflected state (and rebel) violence. Unlike other African examples, they have been marginal both in landowning and patrician structures, so that chiefship has offered a more inclusive and pragmatic definition of community than have patrilineal discourses. As elsewhere in Southern Sudan, the early chiefs were often proxy mediators with marginal or outside origins and their access to government force has been balanced by the continuing authority of rain chiefs, elders, senior lineages and ‘maternal uncles’. Current governance interventions which treat chiefs as sole custodians of community land and customs may not be compatible with local understandings of the role of the chief. Oral histories of chiefship origins reflect a symbolic bargain made with government and with chiefs, whereby the latter use their ‘good speech’ to mediate violence, and if necessary sacrifice themselves to ‘bail’ people from external/government force.