Being and Becoming Hausa

Interdisciplinary Perspectives


Hausa society in West Africa has attracted researchers’ attention for decades, and has featured in the historical record for at least 500 years. Yet, no clear picture is available of the historical trajectories that underpin Hausa ethnogenesis. This book addresses this gap, deploying interdisciplinary approaches to revisit questions to which single disciplines have given partial answers, often due to the paucity of written sources for early periods of Hausa history. Contributors draw from the disciplines of anthropology, linguistics, economic history, and archaeology to enquire into how a ‘Hausa’ identity took shape and what have been its changing material and cultural manifestations. The result is a compelling overview of one of the most iconic groups of modern West Africa.

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Anne Haour is a Lecturer in the Arts & Archaeology of Africa at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom. An archaeologist, she has written on the West African past and developed theoretical questions in several publications, including Rulers, warriors, traders, clerics: the central Sahel and the North Sea, AD 800-1500 (Oxford, 2007).

Benedetta Rossi is RCUK Fellow at the School of History of the University of Liverpool. Her work focuses on the historical anthropology of Hausa and Tuareg societies in Niger and Northern Nigeria. She has published on development, migration, and slavery, and is the editor of Reconfiguring Slavery: West African Trajectories (Liverpool, 2009).
'Precisely what it means to be Hausa and whether Hausa speakers compose a specific ethnic group has long been a vexed question. The editors of this volume on Hausa identity and social life in West Africa conceptualize ethnicity as a "category of practice," situated within a particular historical context. They have brought together essays that critically examine what being Hausa means from linguistic, archaeological, sociocultural, and historical perspectives. Following a thoughtful introduction, the volume's 12 chapters focus on several themes: language, archaeology, material culture, and religion, mainly in areas associated with present-day Nigeria and Niger. Contributors use historical and comparative linguistic evidence, place-names, and proverbs to present reconstructions of early histories of Hausaland, while archaeological studies provide material evidence of social organization and economic production in emergent Hausa societies. Others consider Hausa precolonial textile industries and museum dress collections. Two chapters on religious practice, both Islamic and Christian, among contemporary Hausa-speaking societies in Niger underscore the ways that past social dynamics inform the present. A final chapter returns to the question of studying the "Hausaisation process." Essential reading for those concerned with Hausa identity, language, and historical and regional studies.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above'.

E. P. Renne, University of Michigan - Reviewed in 2011may CHOICE.

'This book shows that gone are the days when one could use the European or missionary archives as the only source for studying African ethnicities, as if such historical records can be applied beyond the time of their production. No wonder this anachronistic tendency, as especially shown in some recent studies described as historical anthropology, is always eventually reductionist. The broad multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary agendas and the longitudinal views, as well as the expansive theoretical frameworks, that Haour and Rossi and their collaborators have persued in this book provide useful templates for the future study of cultural and ethnolinguistic identities in Africa'.

Akinwumi Ogundiran, University of North Carolina - Reviewed in March 2012 Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa
All those interested in African studies, notions of ethnicity and religious belief, and approaches to the African past; as well as historians, anthropologists, archaeologists and linguists of the Hausa area, and West Africa more generally.