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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Ritual, Power and Outside Knowledge
Author:Barnes, Sandra T.
Periodical:Journal of Religion in Africa
Geographic term:Nigeria
social integration
Lagos polity
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
Religion and Witchcraft
Cultural Roles
Marital Relations and Nuptiality
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/1580886
Abstract:This essay focuses on the relationship between ritual, power, and outside knowledge in precolonial Lagos, Nigeria. It examines ways in which strangers brought and transmitted outside knowledge to new communities and the gains they made in the process. How did outsiders - people who were at the bottom of the status hierarchy of a new community - find their way to the top? How did their incorporation into an alien community take place? To illustrate this, the author uses the case of in-marrying women. She demonstrates that an in-marrying woman who effectively brokered relationships between two communities was, by virtue of that process, building a clientele among people of two places. A following was the 'sine qua non' of power. Closely related to attracting a commercial clientele was the attraction of a cult following. The mastery and control of the formal aspects of ritual meant that women leaders of functioning cult groups were automatically perceived as ritual authorities. Ritual was a significant political resource for political actors in precolonial Lagos. Thus, ritual authority brought an individual to a structurally defined threshold from which she could influence non-ritually circumscribed public affairs. Much of what can be written about in-marrying wives can be written about slaves, clients and refugees. The author concludes that competition for power involves people in competing for knowledge so as to become dominant. Outside knowledge has an advantage because it is easily mystified and easily controlled or coopted by those who aspire to prominence. Notes, ref.