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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Rethinking Ancestors in Africa
Author:McCall, John C.
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Geographic term:Nigeria
Subjects:social structure
ancestor worship
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Abstract:Analyses of ancestor-related practices were a crucial component of structural-functional models of social organization in Africa. In the 1970s the theories of lineage and segmentary social organization upon which these studies depended were called into question. Ethnographic and historical research indicated a preponderance of migratory activities and a high degree of discontinuity and reorganization in kin relations. As a result most anthropologists turned from lineage-based functional theory to historical models of social organization, and studies of ancestors became a marginal issue. Ancestor-related practices, however, continued to be important in the lives of many African people. On the basis of research conducted in Ohafia, a group of twenty-five villages in the Igbo-speaking region of Nigeria, the author suggests that the structural-functional model of social structure and the historical model of social dynamics both have parallels in indigenous representations of the ancestral past. These apparently contradictory representations unite as an irreducible whole in the lived experience of the people of Ohafia. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French.