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Title:The mutual assimilation of elites: the development of secret societies in twentieth century Liberian politics
Author:Ellis, StephenISNI
Book title:The powerful presence of the past: integration and conflict along the upper Guinea coast
Geographic term:Liberia
Subjects:secret societies
ritual objects
Abstract:The territory that became internationally recognized as the Republic of Liberia from 1847 appears to have a long history of initiation societies that predates the modern State. The most famous such society is the men's society, Poro, that has been widespread in the north of the country since before the republican period. Initiation societies were used by politicians and officials of the Republic of Liberia during the twentieth century as part of the apparatus of indirect rule, both formally and informally, and had a demonstrable effect on both the style and the institutional development of the Republic. This chapter focuses on the use of what are termed 'imaginary weapons', objects or actions that have a physical existence and which may therefore be observed and recorded, and that are intended to enhance the military effectiveness of those who employ them, but that are incapable of inflicting any injury that is empirically verifiable. Such weapons, especially in the form of protective amulets and bulletproof medicine, were widely used in the Liberian conflict that began in the 1980s and that resumed from 1998-99 to 2003. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [ASC Leiden abstract]