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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Good and Bad Death: Ritual Killing and Historical Transformation in a West African Kingdom
Author:Rowlands, MichaelISNI
Geographic terms:Nigeria
Great Britain
colonial conquest
Benin polity
ritual murder
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
Religion and Witchcraft
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/40341667
Abstract:This paper documents how the ritual elaboration of sacred kingship and ritual sacrifice in the West African kingdom of Benin (in present-day Nigeria) can be understood as the response by local power-holders to the threat of European expansion immediately prior to colonial rule. This is not to deny that sacred power in Benin was not an indigenous form of considerable antiquity but rather that it was ritually transformed during the 19th century as a means of averting what was correctly perceived as the hegemonic purpose of European powers. Following M. Sahlins' (1985) concept of mythopraxis, the author argues that the logic of sacred power in Benin was transformed from an earlier form more grounded in political and military conquest and control to a later form directed to ritual closure against external sources of dissolution and loss of control. The author also argues that, curiously enough, the rationale for accepting its inevitable failure and inability to resist forces for change was embedded in this ritual elaboration. In the historical fiction of the 'stranger king', the founder of the first dynasty of Obas of Benin, lay an acceptance of the inevitability of violent change coming from the outside and Benin's future under colonial rule. Bibliogr.