Money Matters: Instability, Values, and Social Payments in the Modern History of West African Communities

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As currency bills are issued in denominations of thousands or hundreds of thousands, as economies return to barter, and as soldiers riot over their paychecks, people throughout the world are becoming painfully aware of currency instability. But West Africa has been subject to changes and instabilities in currency systems for centuries, and West Africans have long been skilled at negotiating multiple-currency economies at the interface with Europe. Many indigenous African currencies were created at least partly in response to international trade. Some widely circulated African currency items were originally introduced from overseas to finance the slave trade. All colonial money was a European invention. Heavy experimentation on both sides meant that people had to improvise, adjust, and be prepared to suffer and recover from losses. Cultural and social innovation around money was exuberant. No other work has made this argument, and nowhere else has the evidence for currency innovation on the part of African communities been brought together. By examining currency and value in African communities over the past hundred years, this collection offers a social history of ordinary people's conceptions of money, their innovations in its use, and the interactions between indigenous monetary systems and those emanating from the international arena. The contributors to this volume include British, French, Ghanaian, Nigerian, and American scholars, all recognized specialists in the history, economics, and anthropology of African societies. Money Matters offers an essential complement to the new history of imperialism, suggests fresh ways of analyzing money in those vast areas of the globe outside the centers of financial power, and contributes to a new economic anthropology of West Africa.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This collection of essays explores one of the most striking ambiguities of money: its ability both to liberate and enslave.... This is an especially valuable enterprise....”–International Journal of African Historical Studies
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780435089573
  • Publisher: Heinemann
  • Publication date: 11/10/1994
  • Series: Social History of Africa Series
  • Pages: 331
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.92 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane I. Guyer is an economic anthropologist trained at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Rochester. She has carried out extensive field research in Nigeria and Cameroon and has published widely on changing rural economies, including Family and Farm in Southern Cameroon, Feeding African Cities (an edited collection), and numerous articles. Currently director of the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University, she has held regular faculty positions at Boston University and Harvard University and has also taught in Cameroon.
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Table of Contents

The Currency Interface and Its Dynamics, Jane


Precolonial Currency Dynamics

Raphia Monies Among the Teke, M.C. Dupre

Cowries, Gold, and Dollars in Dahomey, 18th 19th Centuries, R. Law

Currency Revolutions Redescribed

The History of a Monetary Object of the Kwele, G. Dupre

Monetization and the Asante State, K. Arhin

Colonial Situations in Long-Term Perspective

The Value of Beti Bridewealth, J.I. Guyer

Currency Instability and Social Payments Among the Igbo, F. Ekejiuba

Money and Informal Credit Institutions in Colonial Western Nigeria, T. Falola

Changes in Marriage and Funeral Exchanges in Asante, T. Manuh

Long-Term Themes in Present Situations

Money, Self-Realization, and the Person in Yoruba Texts, K. Barber

The State, the Courts, and "Value": Caught Between Matrilineages in Ghana, G. Mikell

How Gambians Save, P. Shipton

Community Banking in Nigeria, A.L. Mabogunje

Monetization and the Meaning of Transactions in West African Economies, S.S. Berry


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