The Dynamics of Clanship Among the Tallensi: Being the First Part of an Analysis of the Social Structure of a Trans-Volta Tribe, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Dynamics of Clanship Among the Tallensi

Being the First Part of an Analysis of the Social Structure of a Trans-Volta Tribe, 1st Edition

By Meyer Fortes


306 pages

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Originally published in 1945, this book analyses Tale social structure at the level of corporate group organization. Tale culture is discussed primarily as the content of social relations and not in its own right. Customs, beliefs, conventional usages, religious values are examined as indices of social relations. Although not a comparative study, it is clear that many features of Tale social organization are typical of patrilineal societies in West Africa and some Tale institutions have parallels in South, East, and Central Africa. Field work showed that every significant social activity among the Tallensi is tied up with the lineage system and the book therefore investigates the function of lineage in Tale social organization.

Table of Contents

1. Introductory

2. The Meaning of 'Tallensi'

3. Paradigm of the Lineage System

4. Clanship: The Namoos

5. The Distribution of the Namoos

6. The Structural Relations of the Talis

7. Clanship and Ritual Collaboration

8. Totemism Among the Talis and Other non-Namoos

9. The Place of Women in the Clan Organization

10. The Social Structure of a Settlement

11. Land, Locality and the Earth

12. The Lineage in the Local Community

13. The Form of Tale Society

About the Author

Meyer Fortes was a South African-born anthropologist, best known for his work among the Tallensi and Ashanti in Ghana. Originally trained in psychology, Fortes employed the notion of the "person" into his structural-functional analyses of kinship, the family, and ancestor worship setting a standard for studies on African social organization. His famous book, Oedipus and Job in West African Religion (1959), fused his two interests and set a standard for comparative ethnology. He also wrote extensively on issues of the first born, kingship, and divination.

About the Series

African Ethnographic Studies of the 20th Century

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 or available as pdfs from the publishers.


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies