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Mortgaging the AncestorsIdeologies of Attachment in Africa$
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Parker Shipton

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780300116021

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300116021.001.0001

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An Earthly Anchorage

An Earthly Anchorage

Graves and the Grounding of Belonging

(p.85) Chapter 4 An Earthly Anchorage
Mortgaging the Ancestors

Parker Shipton

Yale University Press

This chapter explores the historical background surrounding the origins and evolution of human society within the context of Africa. The earliest, most sparsely settled human societies, for example, showed organization that was based on kinship and descent. It would only be later on, under dense population settlements, that forms or organization based on territorially defined polity emerged. In Africa, however, most societies combined the principles of kinship and territorial polity somehow in organizing loyalties and authority. For instance, in places like Nuer in East Africa, or Tallensi in West Africa, some indigenous political groupings are based more on location of residence than biological affiliation. Some Euro-American commentators—such as Evans-Pritchard, for instance—have been attempting to play up kinship and play down territorial polities as if to say that they are primitive. The chapter thus proposes the argument that segmentary lineages are not less modern forms of civilized than territorial polities with a centralized bureaucracy.

Keywords:   sparsely settled human societies, kinship, descent, dense population settlements, territorially defined polity, Nuer, Tallensi, Evans-Pritchard, territorial polities, segmentary lineages

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