Originally published in 1971 this book argues that certain aspects of traditional African social systems have been misunderstood because of a failure to appreciate what is implied by important differences between the technologies of the major traditional African states and those of Europe and Asia. Differences in the modes of agricultural production were connected with differences in other aspects of the social system such as the relations between subjects and chiefs. This means that comparisons with the feudal systems of Western Europe or the monarchies of Asiatic states have definite limitations. Differences in technology not only affected not only the means of production but also of destruction. The importance of differential access to the means of domination is stressed as a critical factor in African political systems. This is an aspect which has been obscured in many studies that have relied largely on material gathered after the establishment of colonial rule.
1. Feudalism in Africa? 2. Polity and the Means of Production 3. Polity and the Means of Destruction 4. Polity and Ritual: The Opposition of Horse and Earth 5. Conclusions
Routledge is delighted to be re-issuing 79 volumes originally published between 1931 and 1988 in association with the International African Institute. Unavailable outside a few key libraries, many of these republished volumes were at the cutting edge of a fieldwork and ethnographic revolution in African anthropology in the decades after 1930. It involved the production of a wide body of fieldwork-based ethnographic documentation about the cultures of the different societies in Africa. Secondly, it saw a methodological turn to intense, localized investigations of cultural tradition and social change in a rapidly modernizing context. These investigations involved a more sustained and systematic, more professional and ‘scientific’ form of immersion and participant observation, than anything that had gone before. The sites of engagement were urban as well as rural; the pioneering researchers were female as well as male. No longer was the journal essay the repository of the latest research in the discipline, but rich ethnographies running into hundreds of pages.
The volumes are supplemented with maps, which will be available to view on https://www.routledge.com/ or available as pdfs from the publishers.