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Situational Identity and Ethnicity among Ghanaian University Students

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 November 2008

Joseph M. Kaufert
Affiliation:
Associate Professor, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, The University of Manitoba, Winnipeg1

Extract

A number of recent studies have challenged the concept of an ethnic grou as an absolute category and emphasised that ethnic identity is influenced by the context of the social situation in which the behaviour occurs.2 Analyst of migrant communities in both West Africa and the Copperbelt have documented the existence of situational ethnicity as a phenomenon in which individual or group identity is defined in terms of categories which vary in their level of inclusiveness. Situational factors have increasingly come to be viewed as influencing the individual's definition of his rôle as a member of more inclusive groups which allows him to relate to a more culturally heterogeneous community in terms of common elements of identity.3 Studies concentrating upon the political significance of ethnic identity in public interactions have also stressed that situational factors may play a more important role than cultural similarity in developing more inclusive identity groupings.4 Finally, analysts dealing with the problems of multiple ethnic loyalties have stressed that individuals and groups have an array of alternate identities from which to choose. They will adopt — or be perceived by others as maintaining — different ethnic identities in different situations.

Type
Africana
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1977

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References

Page 126 note 2 Barth, Frederick, Ethnic Groups and Boundaries (Boston, 1969), p. 19.Google Scholar

Page 126 note 3 Mitchell, J. Clyde, ‘Perceptions of Ethnicity and Ethnic Behaviour: an empirical exploration’, in Cohen, Abner (ed.), Urban Ethnicity (London, 1974), pp. 20–1.Google Scholar

Page 126 note 4 Abner Cohen, ‘Introduction’, in ibid. p. xiii.

Page 127 note 1 Mitchell, J. Clyde, ‘Theoretical Orientation in African Urban Studies’, in Banton, Michael (ed.), The Social Anthropology of Complex Societies (London, 1966), pp. 58–9.Google Scholar

Page 127 note 2 Anderson, Charles, von der Mehden, Fred, and Young, Crawford, Issues of Political Development (Englewood Cliffs, 1967), p. 60.Google Scholar

Page 127 note 3 Epstein, A. L., ‘Urban Communities in Africa’, in Gluckman, Max (ed.), Closed Systems and Open Minds (Edinburgh, 1964), pp. 83–4.Google Scholar

Page 127 note 4 Gluckman, Max, ‘An Analysis of Social Situation in Modern Zuland’, reprinted 1958 as Rhodes-Livingston Paper No. 28, pp. 130.Google Scholar

Page 127 note 5 Wallerstein, Immanuel, ‘Ethnicity and National Integration in West Africa’, in van den Berghe, Pierre (ed.), Africa: social problems of conflict and change (New York, 1964), p. 474.Google Scholar

Page 127 note 6 Mitchell, ‘Theoretical Orientation in African Urban Studies’, loc. cit. p. 52.

Page 129 note 1 The stratified random sample of students selected from the lists of the University Halls of Residence included 12 Asanţ, 10 Ewe, 6 Gã-Andangme, 10 Fante, 6 from other ‘Akan’ groups, and g from ethnic groups located in the Northern and Upper Regions.

Page 130 note 1 Responses from these semi-structured interviews provided a general inventory of situations and potential identities which were subsequently used to develop a more systematic index of situational variation in a national survey of students described in Kaufert, Joseph M., ‘Impact of Multiple Ethnic Loyalties and linkages upon Integration Potential Among Student Elites in Ghana’, Ph.D. dissertation, Northwestern University, 1973.Google Scholar

Page 130 note 2 Paul Mercier, ‘On the Meaning of “Tribalism” in Black Africa’, in van den Berghe (ed.), op. cit. p. 490.

Page 131 note 1 Situations specifically mentioned by the students who were interviewed included instances when they were asked to contribute to the school fees of a younger sibling or cousin, when their expertise as highly educated members of the family was required, or when their physical presence or financial resources were required in an emergency.

Page 131 note 2 An example of this stigma attached to membership in ‘tribal’ unions was observed among students at the University of Ghana who readily talked about linkages with their kin and town groups, but dc-emphasised the significance of connections with ethnically-based organisations.

Page 132 note 1 Mitchell, ‘Theoretical Orientation in African Studies’, loc. cit. p. 19.

Page 132 note 2 Another Asante pointed out the significance of regional identities in stating that he would be referred to as a Kotokumi because he came from the Kotaka district.

Page 132 note 3 Paden, John M., ‘Situal Ethnicity in Urban Africa, with Special Reference to the Hausa’, African Studies Association, 11 1967.Google Scholar

Page 133 note 1 Skinner, Elliott P., ‘Strangers in West African Society’, in Africa (London), XVIII, 4, 10 1963, p. 314.Google Scholar

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