National aspirations, local commitments: elite funerals in Northern Ghana
Carola Lentz (University of Mainz)
Paper short abstract:
Examining elite funerals, this paper explores how a particular Ghanaian elite balances local and regional commitments with national aspirations. Funerals constitute crucial occasions for validating social belonging, re-negotiating relations with rural kin, and performing elite status.
Paper long abstract:
Based on fieldwork conducted in Ghana and amongst the Dagara in particular this paper ex-plores the history of a particular group of elite men and women from Northern Ghana and asks how this elite balances local and regional commitments with national aspirations. How do these urbanised elite men and women, who come from an economically marginalised re-gion and now work in high-level positions in public administration, education, the free pro-fessions (lawyers, doctors, etc.), the army, and the Catholic church, perceive their roles with regard to their rural 'home' communities to which Ghanaians generally feel deeply con-nected? I will pursue these questions by looking at elite funerals − a personal, emotionally highly charged ritual which is, at the same time, of great social, and sometimes even of politi-cal, importance. In Ghanaian society in general, and for the Dagara elite in particular, funerals constitute the crucial moment when belonging must be ultimately validated. They are an oc-casion during which the deceased's 'home ties' are re-evaluated and the relations of his survi-vors with their rural kin re-negotiated. But funerals are also an arena in which elite status is performed vis-à-vis both one's home constituency and Ghanaian fellow elites.
Elite strategies of distinction and mutuality