image of the book cover of Shrines in Africa: History, Politics, and Society

Shrines in Africa: History, Politics, and Society

Edited by Allan C. Dawson

$39.95 CAD / $39.95 USD

228 pages, 50 illustrations

6 x 9 inches

Hardback: 155238246X

Paperback: 978-1-55238-246-2

Library PDF: 978-1-55238-486-2

February 2009

Buy Now

African Shrines are more than just spiritual vessels or places of worship. They are cultural signposts, markers of identity, powerful symbols of solidarity and cohesion, physical manifestations of presence and ownership, and more.

In the African context, shrines are cultural signposts that help one understand and read the ethnic, territorial, and social lay of the land. The contributions gathered here by Allan Charles Dawson demonstrate how African shrines help to define ethnic boundaries, shape group identity, and symbolically articulate a society’s connection with the land it occupies.

Shrines are physical manifestations of a group’s claim to a particular piece of land and are thus markers of identity—they represent, both figuratively and literally, a community’s ‘roots’ in the land it works and lives on. The shrine is representative of a connection with the land at the cosmological and supernatural level and, in terms of a community’s or ethnic group’s claim to cultivable territory, serves as a reminder to outsiders of ownership.

Shrines in Africa explores how African shrines, in all their variable and diverse forms, are more than just spiritual vessels or points of worship—they are powerful symbols of ethnic solidarity, group cohesion, and knowledge about the landscape. Moreover, in ways subtle and nuanced, shrines represent ideas about legitimacy and authenticity in the context of the post-colonial African state.

About the Editor

Allan Charles Dawson is assistant professor of Anthropology at Drew University. He has conducted ethnographic research in Africa and Latin America. His work focuses on issues of chieftaincy and ethnic identity in Ghana and on the complexities of the African diaspora along the coast of West Africa and in Brazil.

Praise for Shrines in Africa

Scholars of African religion, land tenure, ethnoarchaeology, and identity will find this book useful.

—Michael Sheridan, African Studies Review

A good source of material for the archaeology of religion in Africa. Generally, the book is rich in ethnogaphic data on the forms, structures, and functions of shrines.

—C.A. Folorunso, African Archaeological Review 

Table of Contents

Allan Dawson

Pots, Stones, and Potsherds: Shrines in the Mandara Mountains (North Cameroon and Northeastern Nigeria)
Judith Sterner and Nicholas David

The Archaeology of Shrines among the Tallensi of Northern Ghana: Materiality and Interpretive Relevance
Timothy Insoll, Benjamin Kakpeyeng, and Rachel MacLean

Earth Shrines and Autochthony among the Konkomba of Northern Ghana
Allan Charles Dawson

Shrines and Compound Abandonment: Ethnoarchaeological Observations in Northern Ghana
Charles Mather

Constructing Ritual Protection on an Expanding Settlement Frontier: Earth Shrines in the Black Volta Region
Carola Lentz

Moroccan Saint’s Shrines as Systems of Disputed Knowledge
Doyle Hatt