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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Development of Caste Systems in West Africa
Author:Tamari, TalISNI
Periodical:The Journal of African History
Geographic term:West Africa
Subjects:caste systems
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/182616
Abstract:Castes or endogamous artisan and musician groups are characteristic of over 15 peoples in West Africa, including the Manding, Soninke, Wolof, Serer, Fulani, Tukulor, Songhay, Dogon, Senufo, Minianka, Moors, and Tuareg. Castes appeared among the Malinke no later than 1300, and were present among the Wolof and Soninke, as well as among some Songhay and Fulani groups, no later than 1500. All West African caste systems ultimately developed from three centres, located among the Manding, Soninke, and Wolof. The formation of blacksmith and bard castes among the Manding may be related to the Sosso-Malinke war, described in the Sunjata epic, which led to the founding of the Mali empire. As they evolved over time, castes acquired secondary specializations or changed occupations, and moved up or down in rank relative to other social groups. Although marriage alliances took place within a caste or among a limited number of castes, castes did not form demographic isolates. This article is based primarily on library research but also on a year and a half of fieldwork among the Bambara of Mali in 1979, 1985, 1986, and 1988. Notes, ref.