Accepted Paper:

Obligation, care, and struggle for personal freedom: siblings within the matrilineal Akan  


Astrid Bochow (Goerg-August Universität Göttingen)

Paper short abstract:

My paper deals with siblings among the matrilineal Akan in Kumasi and Endwa in the 21st century. In an actor centred approach modes of relatedness are explored. The paper will show how care, obligations and struggle for personal freedom are negotiated in everyday praxis

Paper long abstract:

In the "classic" ethnographic accounts of the matrilineal Akan in Ghana Rattray (1927) and Meyer Fortes (1963, 1975) state that siblings play a crucial role in kin relation in these societies. Especially mother brothers who are responsible for care, upbringing and housing of their sisters and their children and from whom people are supposed to inherit are said to be of utter importance for a person's life. Are Rattray's and Fortes' accounts in Ghanaian society of the 21st century still valid? Which role do sisters and brothers play in these societies today? Even though since the implementation of the new Intestate Succession Law in 1985 fathers are de jure supposed to support their biological children (rather then their nephews and nieces) bothers and sisters still play an important role in housing, feeding and financing school fees of their (younger) brothers and sisters.

Approaching kinship by exploring modes of relatedness (Carsten 2000) I want to describe sibling's relations between obligation and rivalry, care and struggle for personal freedom in the intimate sphere of household affairs and advice giving in "love affairs". The data derive from an ethnological fieldwork in Endwa and Kumasi in 2004, 2005 and 2006 in the framework of my phD thesis about "intimacy and sexuality before marriage in Kumasi and Endwa".

Panel W067
Brother- and sisterhood in anthropological perspective