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The Serkawa of Yauri: Class, Status or Party?

  • Frank Salamone (a1)


The Serkawa, or Sarkawa, of Yauri Division, Northwestern State, Nigeria, provide an excellent opportunity for analyzing the interrelationships of the concepts of three major theoreticians: Frederik Barth, Ward Goodenough, and Max Weber. The Serkawa describe themselves as “Hausa who fish” and have moved into Yauri in increasing numbers since the late 1960s in order to fill an ecological niche created by the building of Kainji Dam, a major hydro-electric dam at New Bussa, Borgu Division, Kwara State. These professional fishermen, an offshoot of the Sorkawa from Songhai, have moved into the riverine environment which the Gungawa (Reshe) abandoned under governmental fiat. The Gungawa (literally, ‘island-dwellers’) were resettled on the mainland.

The major theoretical problem examined in this paper is that of the interrelationship of the concepts of class, status, and party and their relationship to that of ethnicity. Finally, ethnicity as a mode of identity is examined. The primary objectives of this study are: (1) to examine the consequences of ecology on identity and presentation of self; (2) to assess the interrelationship of Weber's concepts of class, status, and party in a situation of change; (3) to suggest that these are various modes of the same phenomenon; (4) to combine the insights of Barth's optative approach to ethnicity with that of Weber; (5) to analyze the political uses of ethnicity in a multi-ethnic situation; and (6) to apply Goodenough's reformulation of status and role theory to ethnic groups.

There are a number of benefits to be derived from using such an approach. Ethnic groups in this framework become social persona whose boundaries can be defined by their distribution of rights and duties vis-a-vis other similarly defined social persona. This approach has the further advantage of making the concepts operational without forfeiting their taxonomic clarity. It also succeeds in focusing on dynamic and relational aspects of stratification rather than on those that are static and descriptive.



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The Serkawa of Yauri: Class, Status or Party?

  • Frank Salamone (a1)


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