Family History and Social Change in West Africa
The Focus Group explores the history of a Northern Ghanaian family that is paradigmatic of the multifaceted experiences of social and geographical mobility of many families in West Africa. Studying the trajectory of this extended family from the late nineteenth to the beginnings of the twenty-first century, the group asks how members of the family have mobilized their kin and wider networks to navigate their lives in times of dramatic economic, social, and political transformations. How have the norms and practices of intergenerational solidarity, patterns of inheritance, family decision-making processes, gender roles, marriage strategies, and definitions of the boundaries of the family changed? How have practices of remembering the family history altered, and how have new images of the family, propagated by the Catholic Church, schools, and globally circulating media, shaped family relations and individual aspirations? The family history will provide a window on larger processes of social change in colonial and post-colonial West Africa. At the same time, it contributes to broader debates on social stratification and on the complex connections between strategies, experiences and legitimation of social mobility, and the history of multi-generational families.
The Focus Group members, two African scholars and one German scholar, combine “internal” and “external” perspectives on the family under study, build on long-term experience and research in the family, and will experiment with new forms of cooperation, engaging in joint research instead of clear-cut separate researcher/informant roles. In addition to a co-authored scientific monograph, they also intend to produce an audiovisual documentation of the family history.
The members of the Focus Group are: Carola Lentz (Convener), Isidore Lobnibe, and Stanislas Meda Bemile.