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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Money and Death: The Funeral Business in Asantem Ghana
Author:De Witte, Marleen
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Geographic term:Ghana
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Religion and Witchcraft
Economics and Trade
Abstract:This article examines the current commercialization and expansion of Asante funeral celebrations in Ghana. Funerals have always been the main public social events in Asante, but the growing funeral business significantly alters the way death is celebrated. The article takes as a point of departure a view of death as a field of strategic interaction, providing the ritual context for the creation of remembrance and identities, the elaboration of differences, the competition for status and power, and the negotiation of culture and social bonds and values. Within the framing narrative of respect for the dead and guiding the spirit to the next world, funerals are much about life. The article describes how, in shaping death, people deal with money to negotiate values of life and relations between the living, and shows that, contrary to both popular belief and critique on global commercialization, in Asante the money economy and the social significance of the funeral tradition do not contravene, but rather reinforce each other. Indeed, it is exactly through money and commodification that funeral celebrations are expanding, social ties forged, and cultural performances stimulated, albeit in new ways. In Asante funerals, people appropriate practices of consumption and commercial enterprise as well as indigenous traditions and exchange patterns in a process of 'cultural bricolage', and develop new, local styles of celebrating death, in which money has come to play a central role as an expression of lifestyles, cultural values and ideals. It is argued that 'traditional ritual' cannot be understood unless we move beyond the rather rigid opposition between tradition and modernity still prevalent in ritual studies to acknowledge the open, flexible nature of tradition that makes it so vibrant in modern African life. Bibliogr., notes, sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]