Outsiders, incomers and migrants feature heavily in the oral and written historical record for West Africa. There is, for instance, a whole tradition of rulers coming from afar (‘stranger-kings’ in the words of Marshall Sahlins who looked at this in a wider context), with power-sharing arrangements set up between autochthonous and incoming peoples. Such is the case for example for the rulers of the Hausa, the Songhay, or Borgou. That is all very intriguing in its own right, and I think interpreting such traditions as the consequence of Islamisation, and as efforts at ‘genealogical parasitism’, might be oversimplifying the story.  I gave a talk about this at SOAS last year. Then and since then, I have been wondering (in a chapter I am currently writing for a book for OUP) how it fits in with the anthropologists’ notion of rights-in-persons. Today I am (in theory at least) finishing piecing all of this together.

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We are a team of archaeologists, historians and anthropologists studying the Niger Valley where it borders Niger and Bénin (West Africa). We are carrying out new excavations and research to shed more light on the people that inhabited the area in the past 1500 years.

This blog will tell you all about it.

This investigation is funded by the European Research Council as part of the Starting Independent Researcher Programme (Seventh Framework Programme – FP7); it is led by Dr Anne Haour of the University of East Anglia, UK. The opinions posted here are however her own!

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