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How Societies Are Born: Governance in West Central Africa Before 1600
     

How Societies Are Born: Governance in West Central Africa Before 1600

by Jan Vansina
 

ISBN-10: 0813922801

ISBN-13: 9780813922805

Pub. Date: 07/28/2005

Publisher: University of Virginia Press

Like stars, societies are born, and this story deals with such a birth. It asks a fundamental and compelling question: How did societies first coalesce from the small foraging communities that had roamed in West Central Africa for many thousands of years?

Jan Vansina continues a career-long effort to reconstruct the history of African societies before

Overview

Like stars, societies are born, and this story deals with such a birth. It asks a fundamental and compelling question: How did societies first coalesce from the small foraging communities that had roamed in West Central Africa for many thousands of years?

Jan Vansina continues a career-long effort to reconstruct the history of African societies before European contact in How Societies Are Born. In this complement to his previous study Paths in the Rainforests, Vansina employs a provocative combination of archaeology and historical linguistics to turn his scholarly focus to governance, studying the creation of relatively large societies extending beyond the foraging groups that characterized west central Africa from the beginning of human habitation to around 500 BCE, and the institutions that bridged their constituent local communities and made large-scale cooperation possible.

The increasing reliance on cereal crops, iron tools, large herds of cattle, and overarching institutions such as corporate matrilineages and dispersed matriclans lead up to the developments treated in the second part of the book. From about 900 BCE until European contact, different societies chose different developmental paths. Interestingly, these proceeded well beyond environmental constraints and were characterized by "major differences in the subjects which enthralled people," whether these were cattle, initiations and social position, or "the splendors of sacralized leaders and the possibilities of participating in them."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813922805
Publisher:
University of Virginia Press
Publication date:
07/28/2005
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsix
Acknowledgmentsxi
Conventions on Spelling and Citing Datesxiii
Introduction1
Sources4
Constructing a History11
The Stage14
Part 123
1Preludes25
Late-Stone Age Foragers26
Of Pots, Fields, and Flocks33
Proto-Njila Speakers and Their Society41
The Dissemination of the Njila Languages and Its Consequences52
Metallurgy60
Toward the Formation of West Central Africa67
2Early Village Societies, 700-100069
Divuyu69
Agriculture74
Bovine Cattle81
Overarching Institutions: Corporate Matrilineages and Dispersed Matriclans88
Becoming Food Producers98
Part 2101
3Of Water, Cattle, and Kings107
Nqoma108
Cattle Nomads and Their Societies117
Agropastoralists132
Networks153
History, Environment, and Collective Imagination156
4Of Courts and Titleholders160
Feti: An Angolan Zimbabwe?170
Principalities on the Planalto174
An Inner African Frontier182
In and Around the Lower Cuanza Basin186
Jaga Marauders and Their Government196
Ladders of Power and the Dynamics of Centralization201
5Of Masks and Governance206
Villages, Vicinages, and Sodalities210
Collective Government226
Local Leaders, Chiefs, and Palavers234
From Vicinage to Dynastic Web244
The Rund Kingdom and the Lunda Commonwealth255
Environment and Collective Imagination259
6A Coming Together261
Collective Imagination, Tradition, and the Dynamics of History265
AppendixThe Njila Group of Languages273
I.The Njila Group of Languages273
II.Composition and Internal Structure275
III.Links to Other Units and Points of Origin278
IV.Later Language History279
V.Chronology279
References285
Index311

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