An original, rigorously researched volume that questions long-accepted paradigms concerning land ownership and its use in Africa.Islam, Power and Dependency in the Gambia River Basin draws on new sources to offer an original approach to the study of land in African history. By documenting the impact of Islamization, the development of peanut production, and the institution of colonial rule on people living along the middle and lower Gambia River, the book shows how these waves of changes sweeping the region after 1850 altered local political and social arrangements, with important implications for the ability of elites to control land.
The book's comprehensive analysis calls upon Africanists to move away from broad, simplistic assumptions about land-labor ratios and to think more carefully about land and its historic value and uses. Land and its acquisition acted as significant variables in the relationships among elites and commoners, as well as among people from different ethnic groups. This analysis does not simply recognize that land's value lay in its materiality; rather, it also discerns land's cultural and social worth, pointing out the spiritual associations the land generated, and the way that certain people gained privileged access to those spiritual powers. By emphasizing that the land around the Gambia River both inspired and gave form to a cosmology of ritual and belief, the book points to what might be considered an indigenous tradition of ecological preservation and protection.
Assan Sarr is assistant professor of history at Ohio University.
2 black and white, 3 line illustrations
Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora
University of Rochester Press
BIC HBJH, 1HFDG, 2AB
BISAC HIS001050, REL037000
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