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Ethnicity and the Making of History in Northern Ghana

Carola Lentz

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Drawing on two decades of research this social and political history of North-Western Ghana traces the creation of new ethnic and territorial boundaries, categories and forms of self-understanding, and represents a major contribution to debates on ethnicity, colonialism and the ‘production of history’. It explores the creation and redefinition of ethnic distinctions and commonalities by African and European actors, showing that ethnicity’s power derives from a contradiction: while ethnic identities purport to be non-negotiable, creating permanent bonds, stability and security, the boundaries of the communities created and the associated traits and practices are malleable and adaptable to specific interests and contexts.


List of maps and plates
1. The North-West in the nineteenth century
2. The introduction of chieftaincy
3. The discursive creation of ethnicity
4. The Lawra Confederacy Native Authority
5. Labour migration, home-ties and ethnicity
6. 'Light over the Volta': the mission of the White Fathers
7. Decolonisation and local government reform
8. 'The time when politics came': party politics and local conflict
9. Ethnic movements and special-interest politics
10. The cultural work of ethnicity
List of abbreviations
List of Divisional Chiefs of Lawra District

About the Author

Carola Lentz is Professor of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology and African Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz (Germany).


This is a detailed and comprehensive historical study of local politics in north-west Ghana during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, focusing on Nandom... it is a very thorough and convincing case study [which] is of great importance to scholars interested in northern Ghana.
- African Affairs
An important addition to the history of northern Ghana.
- Susan Drucker-Brown, Africa

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