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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The dynamics of fieldwork among the Talensi: Meyer Fortes in northern Ghana, 1934-7
Author:Parker, JohnISNI
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute (ISSN 0001-9720)
Geographic term:Ghana
social life
anthropological research
culture contact
About persons:Meyer Fortes (1906-1983)ISNI
Sonia Fortes
Abstract:This article examines the encounter between the social anthropologist Meyer Fortes and his wife Sonia, on the one hand, and the Talensi people of northern Ghana, on the other, in the years 1934-1937. Based in large part on the Forteses' extensive corpus of recently archived field notes, diaries and other papers, it argues that the quotidian dynamics of that encounter were in many ways quite different from those of Talensi social life as enshrined in Meyer's famous published monographs. Far from entering a timeless world of enduring clanship and kinship, the Forteses grappled with a society struggling to come to terms with the forces of colonial change. The focus is on the couple's shifting relationship with two dominant figures in the local political landscape in the 1930s: Tongrana Nambiong, the leading Talensi chief and their host in the settlement of Tongo, and Golibdaana Tengol, a wealthy ritual entrepreneur who dominated access on the part of 'stranger' pilgrims to the principal oracular shrine in the adjacent Tong Hills. These two bitter rivals were, by local standards, commanding figures - yet both emerge as psychologically complex characters riddled with anxiety, unease and self-doubt. The ethnographic archive is thereby shown to offer the possibility of a more intimate history of the interior lives of non-literate African peoples on remote colonial frontiers who often passed under the radar of the state and its documentary regime. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]