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58712-01 - Seminar: Gur-Speaking Peoples of the West African Savannah 3 KP

Semester Herbstsemester 2020
Angebotsmuster einmalig
Dozierende Till Förster (till.foerster@unibas.ch, BeurteilerIn)
Inhalt The river Niger has been an important West African trade route since early medieval times. Running through a crescent from Guinea through Mali, Niger and Nigeria, it links towns, cities, societies and cultures across the entire sub-continent. The Niger has been the gateway through which commodities from far away countries, ideas and many cultural traits have entered the vast savannahs. It was also the lifeline of mighty kingdoms; medieval Mali, Songhay and several Fulani Kingdoms. The influence of the great trade network extended further South of the middle Niger bend into an area where independent people lived. They spoke different but related languages and shared many cultural elements. Some of them, in particular the Mossi, built mighty states, but the majority were proud to live on their own and did not accept any domination. It was as-sumed that the distribution of their languages – and also the similarities and differences of their culture and social organisation – hinted at the settlement history of the region and its relation-ship to its neighbours, in particular the Mande speaking peoples further West and the Songhay in the North-East.
In colonial times, this region became known as a ‘Paleo-Nigritic’ area of retreat. It was as-sumed that the peoples living there were the first settlers who had inhabited the area since time immemorial. Later, they became known as ‘Voltaic Peoples’ since many of them lived in the French colony of Upper Volta, today Burkina Faso. Some also settled in Ghana, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire and Dahomey, now Benin, but always in the northern savannah regions on these coun-tries. Since they spoke about 70 related languages, the colonial name was replaced by the term Gur as a seemingly neutral name deduced from the root of Gurma, a sub-group of central and eastern Burkina Faso. Although the construction of Gur as a more or less coherent cultural area led into many inconsistencies and classificatory problems, the term is still widely used in an-thropology and its neighbouring disciplines.
This seminar traces the history of such constructions from the late 19th century through the present. It looks at major ethnographic publications that served as scaffolds to sustain the cultural coherence of the area and thus provides an ethnographic overview of the region. Including the neighbours with which the Gur speaking peoples interacted, it analyses the concept of ‘retreat’ from historical and contemporary perspectives. As many of these peoples had opted out of domination – pre-colonial, colonial as well as post-colonial –, their will to stay autonomous and their means to govern themselves but also their economies and religions will be explored in the context of wider configurations of power, domination and resistance. How their past experience of domination and the state plays into their current take on globalisation will be addressed in the final section of the seminar.

The seminar is organised in four sections:
• Objects of domination: Language and colonial constructions of ethnicity.
• Classics as riddles: the consolidation of ethnographic knowledge until independence.
• Domination and resistance: the articulation of political claims until the end of the 20th century.
• Autonomy and dependency: at the margins and the centre of a globalising world.
Literatur Reading material for the seminar is also made accessible on the seminar’s workspace on Adam in the folder “reading material”. Papers by MA and PhD students will be made accessible in a sepa-rate folder “papers”. This folder will also contain unpublished material. Students are expected to start with the excerpts on Adam, but are also expected to search themselves for further publica-tions in the field.


Teilnahmebedingungen The entire seminar will be organised as an online zoom meeting. All students are invited to join the meeting through this link:
Meeting-ID: 976 3804 8983
Password: 473854
If you have no internet access, you may join the seminar by phone. Further information on how to do so is provided on Adam, the online resources system of the University of Basel. Please open the file “online-zoom meeting – parameters and further information” in the root directory of the course (accessible as of September 1st). In order to have full access to Adam, you must either be enrolled as a student of the University of Basel or register for this workspace by sending an email to s.burri@unibas.ch.
Unterrichtssprache Englisch
Einsatz digitaler Medien kein spezifischer Einsatz


Intervall wöchentlich
Datum 21.09.2020 – 14.12.2020
Zeit Montag, 10.15-12.00 - Online Präsenz -
Datum Zeit Raum
Montag 21.09.2020 10.15-12.00 Uhr - Online Präsenz -, --
Montag 28.09.2020 10.15-12.00 Uhr - Online Präsenz -, --
Montag 05.10.2020 10.15-12.00 Uhr - Online Präsenz -, --
Montag 12.10.2020 10.15-12.00 Uhr - Online Präsenz -, --
Montag 19.10.2020 10.15-12.00 Uhr - Online Präsenz -, --
Montag 26.10.2020 10.15-12.00 Uhr - Online Präsenz -, --
Montag 02.11.2020 10.15-12.00 Uhr - Online Präsenz -, --
Montag 09.11.2020 10.15-12.00 Uhr - Online Präsenz -, --
Montag 16.11.2020 10.15-12.00 Uhr - Online Präsenz -, --
Montag 23.11.2020 10.15-12.00 Uhr - Online Präsenz -, --
Montag 30.11.2020 10.15-12.00 Uhr - Online Präsenz -, --
Montag 07.12.2020 10.15-12.00 Uhr - Online Präsenz -, --
Montag 14.12.2020 10.15-12.00 Uhr - Online Präsenz -, --
Module Modul: Basics: Social Anthropology (Master Studiengang African Studies)
Modul: Ethnographien (Bachelor Studienfach Ethnologie)
Modul: Theory and General Anthropology (Master Studienfach Anthropology)
Modul: Wissenschaftliche Vertiefung in der Ethnologie: Ethnographien (Bachelor Studienfach Ethnologie)
Leistungsüberprüfung Lehrveranst.-begleitend
An-/Abmeldung zur Leistungsüberprüfung Anmelden: Belegen; Abmelden: nicht erforderlich
Wiederholungsprüfung keine Wiederholungsprüfung
Skala Pass / Fail
Wiederholtes Belegen nicht wiederholbar
Zuständige Fakultät Philosophisch-Historische Fakultät, studadmin-philhist@unibas.ch
Anbietende Organisationseinheit Fachbereich Ethnologie