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Inga Merkyte, Søren Albek and Klavs Randsborg

Abstract

Until recently archaeological evidence predating the historically known Kingdom of Dahomey in southern Bénin has been next to non-existent. The situation changed when deep and long drainage channels were dug into the fertile soils at the modern town of Bohicon. In the sides of these channels, rich cultural remains appeared, confirming the assumption that high rates of soil accumulation have caused low archaeological visibility in the forest/former forest belt of West Africa. Geophysical mapping and extensive excavations have revealed two large settlements of 500-600 hectares each, partly overlapping but separated by 2000 years. This paper presents both sites – Sodohomé 1, the earliest site encountered so far in southern Bénin, and Sodohomé 2 (or Sodohomé-Bohicon) which dates to AD 900-1150/1220. Although the first has produced some remarkable results, for instance, an iron spearhead that is the oldest securely dated non-meteoritic iron object in Africa known so far, the focus is on the latter site where evidence demonstrates the existence of a true town with craft specialisation, industrial-scale iron production, long-distance trade and wide communication networks.

Edwin N. Wilmsen, Anne Griffiths, David Killick and Phenyo Thebe

Abstract

Current potters in Manaledi village in the Tswapong Hills of Botswana aver that they and their ancestors for five generations have made pottery exclusively with clay from nearby sources. We begin with an examination of Manaledi and its clay mine to uncover current dialectics between village, landscape, clay, potters, and ancestors. Archaeological sherds found around the village and clay sources document occupation by makers of Early Iron Age (ca. AD 500-750), Middle Iron Age (ca. AD 750-1050), Late Iron Age (ca. AD 1420-1800), and 18th-20th century wares related to current Manaledi pottery. The proximity of archaeological deposits, clay sources, and village made it possible to conduct simultaneously what might otherwise be considered three separate projects. As a consequence, we are able to document that Manaledi clays have been used to make pottery for some 1500 years and to consider long-standing constraints on potting this implies.

Intellectual Captivity

Literary Theory, World Literature, and the Ethics of Interpretation

Chen Bar-Itzhak

Abstract

This essay concerns the unequal distribution of epistemic capital in the academic field of World Literature and calls for an epistemic shift: a broadening of our theoretical canon and the epistemologies through which we read and interpret world literature. First, this epistemic inequality is discussed through a sociological examination of the “world republic of literary theory,” addressing the limits of circulation of literary epistemologies. The current situation, it is argued, creates an “intellectual captivity,” the ethical and political implications of which are demonstrated through a close reading of the acts of reading world literature performed by scholars at the center of the field. A few possible solutions are then suggested, drawing on recent developments in anthropology, allowing for a redistribution of epistemic capital within the discipline of World Literature: awareness of positionality, reflexivity as method, promotion of marginal scholarship, and a focus on “points of interaction.”

Timothy J. Stapleton

Abstract

In British colonial Nigeria, the military was more heterogeneous than previously thought and British ideas about “martial races” changed depending on local reactions to recruiting. In the early twentieth century British officers saw the northern Hausa and southwestern Yoruba, who dominated the ranks, as civilized “martial races.” The Yoruba stopped enlisting given new prospects and protest, and southeasterners like the Igbo rejected recruiting given language difficulties and resistance. The British then perceived all southern Nigerians as lacking martial qualities. Although Hausa enlistment also declined with opportunities and religious objections, the inter-war army developed a northern ethos through Hausa language and the northern location of military institutions. The rank-and-file became increasingly diverse including northern and Middle Belt minorities, seen by the British as primitive warriors and as insurance against Muslim revolt, enlisting because of poverty. From 1930, military identities in Nigeria polarized with uneducated northern/Middle Belt infantry and literate southern technicians.

The Rise and Demise of the Boys’ Company

From Coup Makers to a Footnote in Ghana’s Political History

Humphrey Asamoah Agyekum

Abstract

Graduates of Ghana's defunct Army Boys’ Company, a specialized military training institution for boys, participated to varying degrees in all five successful coups in the West African country. Most significantly, their prominent role in the coups of 1979 and 1981 catapulted them into the heart of the Ghanaian political arena. They thus became political actors; a position with far reaching consequences for the Boys’ Company. Coups in Ghana have received considerable academic attention. However, the focus of this body of literature tended to be on the coup leaders with rarely any attention for the soldiers who facilitate the power seizures by conducting the fighting. This article addresses this lacunae by assessing how the so-called “ex-Boys” radicalized politically, while bringing to the fore their experience at the Army Boys’ Company and in the military. Additionally, the article scrutinizes the conditions that led to demise of the Boys’ Company.