Child Fostering in West Africa

New Perspectives on Theory and Practices


Child fostering is an age-old and also modern phenomenon whose importance stretches much further than the boundaries of so-called ‘traditional’ African societies. As a mobile and creative kinship practice, child fostering is of growing importance in the global world as it goes along with other forms of mobility such as migration and transnationalism. The book aims to revitalize the study of fostering by situating the issue in more recent theoretical approaches to kinship. It also examines what functionalist and structuralist theory may still contribute to the understanding of child fostering. Historical and recent child fostering practices in several West African countries are discussed from the angles of Anthropology, History and Law.
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Biographical Note

Erdmute Alber holds the chair of Social Anthropology at Bayreuth University. Her empirical and theoretical interests are in kinship, inter-generational relations, childhood and parenting, as well as in political anthropology. She has realized long term fieldwork in Latin America and West Africa. Jeannett Martin is a postdoctoral research fellow in Social Anthropology at Bayreuth University. She has done research on educational migration between southern Ghana and Germany and on child fostering and inter-ethnic relations in northern Benin. Catrien Notermans is an anthropologist and senior researcher at Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands. She has been doing long-term fieldwork in West Africa, Europe and Asia, concentrating on kinship, gender, and religion.

Table of contents

CONTENTS List of figures Acknowledgments List of contributors Child fostering in West Africa: introduction Erdmute Alber, Jeannett Martin and Catrien Notermans PART I PERSPECTIVES ON THEORIES 1. A framework for the analysis of parent roles Esther Goody 2. Adoption, fosterage and marriage Suzanne Lallemand 3. The transfer of belonging: theories on child fostering in West Africa reviewed Erdmute Alber PART II NEGOTIATING STRUCTURE: PERSPECTIVES FROM ANTHROPOLOGY, HISTORY AND LAW 4. Experiencing father’s kin and mother’s kin: kinship norms and practices from the perspective of foster children in northern Benin Jeannett Martin 5. Relating affiliation and descent: brothers’ daughters as co-wives among the Bulsa in northern Ghana Barbara Meier 6. Children coming and going: fostering and lifetime mobility in East Cameroon Catrien Notermans 7. The promises of shared motherhood and the perils of detachment: a comparison of local and transnational child fostering in Cape Verde Heike Drotbohm 8. Disputes over transfers of belonging in the Gold Coast in the 1870s: fosterage or debt pawning? Cati Coe 9. Child adoption and foster care in the context of legal pluralism: case studies from Ghana Ulrike Wanitzek Index


All interested in anthropology, kinship, childhood, mobility, and West Africa.