Carola Lentz , Dr. phil.

Professor of Social Anthropology

Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

Born in 1954 in Braunschweig
Studied Sociology, Political Science, and German Literature at the University of Göttingen and at Freie Universität Berlin and Agricultural Sciences of the Tropics and Subtropics at the University of Göttingen

Foto: Thomas Hartmann, JGU Mainz


Familiengeschichte und sozialer Wandel in Westafrika


Yob Yir: the Social Biography of a West African Family

My project explores the history and contemporary situation of one extended family from Northern Ghana, Yob yir, "the house of Yob", as the more than four hundred living and deceased descendants of Yob, the founding ancestor, and their spouses often call it. How have this family's economic strategies, educational aspirations and occupations changed over the past five generations (ca. 1870 to ca. 2010)? I will examine how different members of the various generations of Yob's descendants have made different use of the new religious, educational, economic, and political opportunities brought about by the colonial regime and post-colonial developments. How have members of the family, in turn, shaped the new institutions in their capacity as labour migrants, teachers, civil servants, development workers, cultural entrepreneurs, artists, politicians, or active lay men and women or priests in the Catholic Church? How has the availability of formal education and new religious affiliations transformed internal and external relations? Clearly, the multiple processes of modernization in the wider society have not resulted in any clear-cut trend toward the nuclear family, but rather strengthened the importance of extended family networks. At the same time, the family members struggle to (re)define their own roles and negotiate their kin's expectations of solidarity. Remembering the family history, through rituals such as funerals and other family celebrations, narratives, proverbs, songs, photographs, films, gravesites, buildings, and other lieux de mémoire, has played an important role in dealing with these moral challenges. As family members have dispersed geographically, remembering the family origins and genealogy has become increasingly important for the continuation of a sense of belonging to one family. How such a living family "archive" has been constituted, and how it has changed over the generations, is one of the central themes that I will explore.

Recommended Reading

Lentz, Carola. "African Middle Classes: Lessons from Transnational Studies and a Research Agenda." In The Rise of Africa's Middle Class: Myths, Realities and Critical Engagements, edited by Henning Melber, 17-53. London: Zed Books, 2016.
-. Land, Mobility, and Belonging in West Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013.
-. "The 2010 Independence Jubilees: The Politics and Aesthetics of National Commemoration in Africa." Nations and Nationalism 19, 2 (2013): 217-237.

Publikationen aus der Fellowbibliothek

Lentz, Carola ( 2017)
Ghanaian "Monument Wars" : the contested history of the Nkrumah statues

Lentz, Carola ( 2017)
‚Kakube has come to stay’ : the making of a cultural festival in Northern Ghana, 1989-2015

Lentz, Carola ( 2016)
African middle classes : lessons from transnational studies and a research agenda

Lentz, Carola ( 2016)
Culture : the making, unmaking and remaking of an anthropological concept

Lentz, Carola ( 2016)
A lasting memory : the contested history of the Nkrumah statue

Lentz, Carola ( Mainz, 2015)
Elites or middle classes? : lessons from transnational research for the study of social stratification in Africa Arbeitspapiere ; Band 161

Lentz, Carola ( 2015)
Miszellen der Ethnologiegeschichte : die Deutsche Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde ; Geschichte und aktuelle Herausforderungen

Lentz, Carola ( 2014)
"I take an oath to the state, not the government" : career trajectories and professional ethics of Ghanaian public servants

Lentz, Carola ( 2013)
The 2010 independence jubilees : the politics and aesthetics of national commemoration in Africa

Lentz, Carola ( 2013)
Celebrating independence jubilees and the millennium: national days in Africa

Dienstagskolloquium - Arbeitsbericht13.03.2018

Dienstagskolloquium - Arbeitsbericht, Tuesday Colloquium - Work in Progress



(Re)Constructing belonging: upward mobility, family ties, and funerals in Ghana