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Remotely Global: Village Modernity in West Africa ePub download

by Charles Piot

  • Author: Charles Piot
  • ISBN: 0226669688
  • ISBN13: 978-0226669687
  • ePub: 1218 kb | FB2: 1157 kb
  • Language: English
  • Category: Humanities
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (October 15, 1999)
  • Pages: 238
  • Rating: 4.3/5
  • Votes: 641
  • Format: mbr lrf doc lrf
Remotely Global: Village Modernity in West Africa ePub download

Through analyses of everyday and ceremonial social practices, Piot illustrates the intertwining of modernity with tradition and of the local with the national and global. In a striking example of the appropriation of tradition by the state, Togo's Kabre president regularly flies to the region in his helicopter to witness male initiation ceremonies.

Remotely Global: Village Modernity in West Africa. Through analyses of everyday and ceremonial social practices, Piot illustrates the intertwining of modernity with tradition and of the local with the national and global.

Remotely Global: Village. has been added to your Basket. The diplomat, who had sampled his work on the Internet, wanted to have his take on Togo's ethnic politics, dominated by the rivalry between the Kabre and the Ewe, Togo's most powerful ethnic groups.

A Place That Matters Yet Sara Byala. At first glance, the remote villages of the Kabre people of northern Togo appear to have all the trappings of a classic "out of the way" African culture-subsistence farming, straw-roofed houses, and rituals to the spirits and ancestors.

Remotely Global book. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Start by marking Remotely Global: Village Modernity in West Africa as Want to Read: Want to Read savin. ant to Read.

In Remotely Global: Village Modernity in West Africa and Marcel Mauss, The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies I will be able to analyses and delve deeper into the mechanics of economy of the urban workers’ remittance. More about Remotely Global : Village West Africa By Charles Piot Essay. What Makes Gift Giving A Gift? 1619 Words 7 Pages.

Charles Piot revisits a remote West African village in postcolonial Togo; a site that has been treated by former .

Charles Piot revisits a remote West African village in postcolonial Togo; a site that has been treated by former anthropologists like Fortes and Goody as par excellence of traditional culture (178). Ethnographical details abound in the book as Piot remarkably covers a large spectrum of Kabre history and culture including their social relations, exchange system, rituals like initiations, gender ideologies, and house and homestead structures.

Next Exit-African Global Village. Remotely Global: Village Modernity in West Africa. LOCATING WEST AFRICA IN THE ATLANTIC NARRATIVE - Where the Negroes Are Masters: An African Port in the Era of the Slave Trade. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. Charles Piot, Remotely Global. Village Modernity in West Africa. January 2002 · L Homme. - Remotely Global : Village Modernity in West Africa Benjamin Nicholas Lawrance. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014.

At first glance, the remote villages of the Kabre people of northern Togo appear to have all the trappings of a classic "out of the way" African culture—subsistence farming, straw-roofed houses, and rituals to the spirits and ancestors. Arguing that village life is in fact an effect of the modern and the global, Charles Piot suggests that Kabre culture is shaped as much by colonial and postcolonial history as by anything "indigenous" or local. Through analyses of everyday and ceremonial social practices, Piot illustrates the intertwining of modernity with tradition and of the local with the national and global. In a striking example of the appropriation of tradition by the state, Togo's Kabre president regularly flies to the region in his helicopter to witness male initiation ceremonies.Confounding both anthropological theorizations and the State Department's stereotyped images of African village life, Remotely Global aims to rethink Euroamerican theories that fail to come to terms with the fluidity of everyday relations in a society where persons and things are forever in motion.
Tebei
Not bad, purchased it for school
Goltizuru
Charles Piot begins his ethnography of the Kabre society in northern Togo by recording a conversation he had with an official from the American embassy in Lomé, Togo's capital. The diplomat, who had sampled his work on the Internet, wanted to have his take on Togo's ethnic politics, dominated by the rivalry between the Kabre and the Ewe, Togo's most powerful ethnic groups. He also wanted to know how much support Togo's long-serving president Gnassingbé Eyadéma had in his home region in Kabre's heartland, and whether his grip on the army and police apparatus was solid. Finally, he wanted to raise the issue of a Togolese woman who was seeking asylum in the US to escape forced genital mutilation, a case that had sparked a campaign advocating sanctions against such human rights violations. While the US official was well-meaning, he reminded the ethnographer of the Quiet American of Graham Greene's novel: full of prejudice and preconceived notions about ethnicity, tribalism, cultural identity, local politics, and gender, while at the same time wielding tremendous power by his capacity to suspend or reorient aid flows. It is against such simplified visions and political agendas that Charles Piot is determined to write, for as he states, "the need is as pressing now as ever to write against power and against the images it deploys in legitimating imperialist agendas."

Although I don't have any stake in Togolese affairs, I feel very much like that Ugly American interviewing Charles Piot. Like him, I sample anthropology texts out of professional curiosity, and I don't have the firm commitment of a fieldworker to his research terrain. As far as anthropological theory or ethnographic methodology is concerned, I am an amateur, and I have never received formal training in a discipline for which I have developed a personal interest only belatedly. Whereas Piot presents himself as a card-carrying Marxist, I have no particular sympathy for a leftist political agenda that "writes against power", and I don't consider Western countries's diplomatic presence in Africa as part of an imperialist plot to plunder resources and pursue neo-colonialist ambitions. When it comes to Africa's cultures or politics, I certainly share many of the stereotypes pinpointed by the anthropologist. I tend to read Togolese politics in the light of other polarized African countries such as Côte d'Ivoire (but not Rwanda), I find echoes of African cultural obstacles to development in the way wealthy officials and businessmen are caught in a nest of familial or clanic obligations, and the logic of tribal rituals or sacred ceremonies falls flat on me. I read anthropology for my personal enlightenment and as part of a lifelong learning plan, but I don't practice it or "experience" it in any way.

This being said, I learned a lot from reading Remotely Global. In particular, I would recommend reading the first chapter on Togo's political history to any foreign expat or visitor to Lomé. Of course, the chapter needs an update: the book was published in 1999, and president Eyadema passed away in 2005 in a plane crash, only to be replaced by his son Faure Gnassingbé. This short chapter shows how the slave trade has shaped the region's morphology, generating the distinction between acephalous and centralized societies as two types of polities standing on opposite sides of the slave trade divide. Some groups, like the Kabre, took refuge in mountain areas, permanently caught between the coastal kingdoms living from entrepot trade and the warriors from the north who raided their villages mounted on horseback in order to snatch slaves and bring them to the coast. Like other societies of the Volta basin, the Kabre developed intensive agricultural systems--permanent cropping regimes on terraced, manured, continually weeded fields--that they were able to use on more fertile lands when some of them emigrated southwards to establish new settlements. Such agricultural skills and work ethics were highly prized by colonial administrators, first German and then French, who picked the Kabre to build the roads and railroads, and to work in the mines and cash crop plantations in the south.

The cramped conditions imposed upon Voltaic peoples during the slave trade era also produced enormous creativity in the social and symbolic areas, generating the extraordinarily complex cosmologies and kinship systems described in the works of famous anthropologists: Meyer Fortes among the Tallensi and Ashanti, Jack Goody also in northern Ghana, and Marcel Griaule with the Dogon. These classic ethnographies ascribed African ethnic groups to a timeless past, configuring their cultures as a textual museum in which customs are neatly boxed, catalogued, and displayed. Charles Piot shows that these descriptions were not only wrong, attributing to a distant past what had been the modern result of the slave trade and of colonial exploitation, they were also self-serving: by transforming northern communities into repositories of traditions, to which migrants would return regularly to perform rites, raise children, and take care of the elderly, the colonial rulers of Togo were in effect divesting the "social reproduction of labor", transferring its costs to the communities of origins.

Even now, it is obligatory that all Kabre--even second- and third-generation southerners--return to the north at death, to be buried and join the ranks of the ancestors. Similarly, northerners are trying to assert and maintain their authority over their wealthier "children" who have gone south by requesting their presence in the many rites, ceremonies, and gatherings that provide them the opportunity to pay respect to the ancestral spirits. These rituals are heavily codified, and are also sedimented with history while being open to contestation and change. Failing to attend one's ceremonial duties can have catastrophic consequences, not only for the individuals involved (the person who gave shelter to the Piot family and acted as the anthropologist's main informer suddenly died from a sorcery curse), but also for whole communities, who may be affected by drought or other cosmic disorders brought about by their negligence to pay their dues to spirits and ancestors. "Today, we do more rituals than in the past," the author heard repeatedly. As southern communities gained greater access to wealth, mountain communities came more and more to assert the importance of their rituals and the responsibility of southerners to family, clan, and homeland.

As a result, Kabre is a society in flux, and Kabre people are perpetually on the move. Southerners regularly move north to attend family rituals and shower their communities with displays of wealth: tin roofs, food and beer, sacrifice animals, money, and other marks of "respect". Northerners move south to trade goods and earn money working in cash crop fields and the urban informal sector. Information continuously flows between north and south, carried by word of mouth, truck drivers carrying goods and passengers, and radio programs that broadcast the names of deceased family members. Hailing from the Kabre heartland, president Eyadema exacerbated the north/south divide not only by appointing northerners to many key positions in the state apparatus, but also by pouring as many of the country's meager resources as he could into the north. He made a point of attending initiation ceremonies and other northern rituals to display the spectacle of power and recruit the best traditional wrestlers into the army.

This geographic polarization has recently degenerated into political violence, hardening ethnic lines and causing much resentment against Eyadema's rule among the southern Ewe people. Following a partial democratization attempt in the beginning of the 1990s, waves of urban riots in Lomé have sent southern Kabre people back into their home communities in the north, or across the borders to Ghana and Benin. As a result of the threatening chaos, Eyadema was able to consolidate his power, democracy got a bad name among many people who associated it with political chaos, and the Kabre got a clear sense that their survival depended on consolidating their identity through rituals and solidarity ties. Kabre people know that, "in some near future, the "return" of southern Kabre to the northern homeland may be more real than figurative."

Not only is Kabre society shaped by its constitutive outside--the south by the north and the performance of rituals, the north by the south and the accumulation of wealth--; identities are also in flux. According to Piot, analyses informed by classic social anthropology and modern notions of the self do not adequately capture the meaning or nature of social life among West African societies. The individual is best conceived as a "relational self", characterized by fluidity, instability, heterogeneity, and contradiction. Agency resides not within a singular identity, but in the relations people have with one another--and in the relations differences construct. Gender differences that structure everyday life into a series of oppositions--cultivating/cooking, raw/processed, contained/container, outside/inside, dry/wet, death/life--are also reversible and mutually constitutive: "female" boys are made into men, post-menopausal women become "men", men belonging to "female" groups are considered female, and women living in the south -a "female" space--may assume male roles. A male thus has multiple identities--male in one context, female in another, and male again in yet another.

Not only is the self in these societies constituted by relations and tied to other human beings; it is also diffusely spread into the nonhuman world of spirits and ancestors. While Kabre communities are borderless, fluid places in which people constantly come and go, any fixity that they possess comes less from the people than from the spirits, which, unlike their human counterparts, stay put. It is the spirits who insist on the perpetual "return" to the north of the people who have departed for the south. Similarly, it is the spirits, and the relationships they maintain, that demand gifts be returned and social relations reciprocated. If, for the capitalist, value and wealth reside in commodities, for Kabre value is also measured by relations. In a reversal of Marx's theory of value and exchange, Piot finds that "persons use things to gain access to persons rather than they use persons to gain access to things."

The author raises interesting paradoxes. Men who married polygynously have to work harder, not less, since Kabre women do not farm. When a woman makes beer for the market, she requires her husband to pay for it. In sacrifices, a cucumber may be substituted to an ox, a chicken to a goat, or mice for a cow, because they are considered as equivalent, while chicken and dogs aren't. Plastic dolls are used as headset decorations for boys in traditional ceremonies of initiation. Despite their wealth and authority, chiefs are relatively powerless, and Eyadema himself is the subject of frequent disrespect. Kabre credit colonialism for having built the roads, schools and hospitals, and see their modern rulers or traditional chiefs are more exploitative. As mentioned, they see democracy as a political regression. Whereas common assumptions often posit tradition and modernity as polar opposites, Piot argues that traditional societies are better conceptualized as existing within modernity. Everything one might consider most un-European and "traditionally African" about Kabre--their gift economy, their ritual system, their kinship structures--"is arguably the product of interactions between Kabre and various others (particularly Europeans) over the last 300 years."

Although Charles Piot writes with a specific readership in mind, addressing his academic peers and confining his presentation to issues relevant to anthropologists, he acknowledges that other readers may appropriate his text and put it to uses that are beyond his control. This is how this book worked for me. Descriptions and conceptual theorizing in Remotely Global shed new light on many discussions I had on so-called "cultural" impediments to development, such as the pressure on individuals who occupy positions of power to "share" perks and benefits with their family relatives or ethnic group. Similarly, the specifics of Togolese politics also informed my perception of other African societies divided between "north" and "south", and that veered toward conflict as a result of ethnic polarization. I wish Charles Piot would engage in informed discussions with development experts, political analysts, or indeed Western diplomats, instead of simply dismissing them with a sleight of hand.
post_name
Piot's book is a work of ethnographic mastery.

The author shows how we can think gift economies, translocalities, ritual, commodities, gender, etc. in terms of dynamic interplay in which traditional societies are not passive absorbers of colonial power, but rather inform their own cultural categories by appropriating the colonial.

Piot here exposes the error of seeing traditional societies as ahistorical, static societies, when they are actually as much modern as traditional; societies which dynamically communicate with the 'outside'.

Piot's reflexivity in writing is stimulating as it rejects the Western analytical gaze, informed by individualization, essentialization and all too often seeking for mechanical solidarity.
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