Control and Power Relations The Interaction between Gender, Patriarchy and
ideology concerning social control and social hierarchy are embodied in power
relations, commoditization, individualism, patronage and royal sacredness.
Religion, chieftainship, market and patriarchy can be interpreted as
fundamental to systems of moral order, domination and social control of men and
legitimation was twofold. First, there was an indirect power based on the
ancestors who could send or withhold good fortune in childbirth, crops and
hunting and afflict those neglectful of familial and reciprocal
'gift' duties. Ancestral power legitimised an existing hierarchy
of positional succession that generated unequal access to marriageable women.
A legitimate use of ancestral power was the acquisition of wives as a means of
expanding the descent group and enhancing one's social standing.
Secondly, there was a direct power held by individuals to greater or lesser
degree which could express itself either in good magic or bad witchcraft,
depending on character and intention (Chilver 1990: 234). This power was
generally seen as a projectile, a transform or 'bush soul' (in high
Pidgin English) hidden in an individuals' inner organs. Its owners have
'four eyes', a human pair and that of the embodied projection,
which enable them to detect both dangers and opportunities. In envious persons
this power might tempt them to 'eat' the life-force of rivals or
even of their own kinsfolk. The world of witchcraft, at work at night, was
also a world of desirable wealth. A visit to it was full of dangers and might
involve capture and forcible induction into a witch-group. But since this
power was strong, it was harnessed in the palace societies. For example, the
night lodge of the regulatory society,
was credited with special powers of detection and could use good magic against
slave-trade, which informants described in terms of violence and illegitimacy,
distorted the reciprocities of marriage exchanges. It brought into households
persons alienated from kin and hence distanced from the sanction of affliction
from angered ancestors. The issue of slaves increased the powers of
bridegivers since, as legal fathers, they could threaten affliction on tardy
bride-price payers. The slave trade, often secret, offered a standing
temptation to regulatory associations to accuse persons of witchcraft and sell
them as penal slaves, or to allow unpopular persons to be denuded of their
wealth on some pretext or other.
great uneasiness surrounded the accumulation of wealth and men avoided
accusations of witch-wealth by redistributing it by investment in membership of
secret palace societies. This provided a means of acquiring good standing
which could also be obtained by gifts to the palace or by obtaining wives for
juniors. This provided a means of using the profits of trade to avoid
accusations and acquire prestige or 'symbolic capital', to use
Bourdieu's (1977) terms. Thus much wealth was recirculated in prestige
consumption within the existing upper levels of Bamunka society - councillors,
royals, important retainers, quarter heads, and heads of large compounds.
Wealth was also allowed to 'trickle down', for example, as on feast
days when the palace or a notable fed large numbers, or helped a son or client
to acquire a wife.
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