This article aims to analyse cultural characteristics of the stratification phenomenon in African peasant societies described as egaritalian, through a case study of the Bakumu community in Zaire. Even though the Bakumu community maintains the egalitarian African custom of a common meal twice a day, a stratification phenomenon exists in which villagers themselves clearly differentiate between the ‘rich’ and the ‘poor’ clearly using their own indigenous term. This stratification phenomenon is not the same as that of ‘advanced society’, which is structurally maintained through land ownership. Under the contemporary economic situation, linked with the world economy, in which a commercial economy flows into the ordinary life of the village, the Bakumu peasant keeps communal land ownership, even now. In this situation the villagers highly prize the goats as a form of social wealth (like bride price) rather than land ownership as means of production. This maintains the traditional life style of wealth in the Bakumu community. Furthermore, the rich peasants of this village seems to bear the burden of the cash economy instead of the poor through a mutual aid system in which the rich take care orphans or widows without financial compensation. In this situation, the goat continues to play a role as an index which distinguishes the rich from the poor villagers. Therefore the phenomenon in which a cash economy plays the role of an index for differentiating the peasants is not seen in the traditional Bakumu community. Through the above process, Bakumu society reduces the influence of a commercial economy which promotes differentiation among peasants. This helps to maintain a highly egaritalian society in the material level.
Approximately 40 percent of the entire population of Ethiopia is categorized under a nationality called ‘Oromo’. A loose integration in terms of common language and a sense of common historical origin became the basis for the constitution of the regional state of Oromiya, which was established only after the collapse of the Mengistu's Derg regime in May, 1991. This assumed integration can be attributed to the efforts of the Oromo nationalist groups and individuals, which emerged in the 1960s both inside Ethiopia and abroad. These Oromo nationalists sought for a common standing out of the now divergent national entity, and through these efforts, produced a number of publications on the subject of the Oromo culture and history. This paper attempts to re-examine the history of the Macha branch of Oromo as presented by historians with Oromo nationalist stance, and poses that an inquiry into the historicity of clans, senni, can relativize the lineal and integration-oriented style of conceptualizing the Oromo. The first part of this paper gives an outline of the development of historical and anthropological studies on various aspects of Oromo branch societies with comparison to the Oromo nationalist way of understanding the Oromo history. The discussion focuses on three points of arguement, namely, the origin of the Oromo, the investigation of the gada system, and the historical process of the Oromo migration embarked upon in the 16th century. Migration involved assimilation of other peoples with diverse cultural and linguistic origin, the process of which is analytically called ‘Oromization’. Secondly, contrasting views regarding the formation of the Gibe states out of a Macha Oromo branch and the Islamization of the states are presented. Through the process of ‘Oromization’, the assimilated peoples adopted the Oromo language and culture, and were incorperated in the gada system in a deliberate way that kept the assimilated distinct from the main stock of Oromo. This two-fold aspect of assimilation and discrimination is substantiated and recognized through the analysis of three clans now existent in one of the Gibe states, i. e. Gomma. As a conclusion, the research in the historicity of the Oromo clans cuts across the often politicized boundaries of Oromo branches and regions, and in effect, anticipates a more flexible and relativized perspective of understanding the Oromo history.
The Baka in southeastern Cameroon have the idea of spirits called “me”, which is supposed to be a spiritual entity living in the forest in a similar way to that of men or animals. The existence of these spirits is displayed in the performance of festive gathering called “be”, in which they dance with special costumes and masks, or utter the “voice of spirits” from a hiding place behind the camp. Among the Baka, such spirit performances differ from one residential group (band) to another, and show a great diversity throughout the study area. A total of 52 spirit names were collected among 227 bands in the research area. A comparison of these spirit performances showed that, in spite of the diversity of spirits' names, the variations in spirit performances derive from a limited set of styles, with each band modifying them in their own manner. The founders of spirit rituals (called “father of spirit” who has the right of organizing the rituals), often imitate the existing forms with more or less modifying them. This fact suggests that the idea of spirits “me” among the Baka is rather conservative, in spite of frequent modification and diversification in ritual performances. The distribution of the rituals to the 227 bands in the study area is also analyzed. Of the 52 rituals, only four were major ones possessed by more than 20 bands. The remaining 48 spirit rituals are observed only in a specific band, or in several bands at most. This difference in the distribution pattern reflects the different manners of propagation of these spirit rituals. Namely, while the “guardianships” (the rights to organize a spirit ritual) of “jengi”, the most important and widely distributed spirit among the Baka, are inherited through patrilinial line in each band, other major spirits are transmitted either through purchase or through gift-giving. Almost all the remaining spirit rituals are founded by individuals and practiced among limited bands. Thus, the diversity of spirit rituals among the bands is generated through the combination of several major rituals on one hand, and through individual creation on the other. Modification of existing forms is also common in these transmission and creation of spirit rituals, which suggests the flexibility and fluidity of the Baka ritual practices. It is concluded that the diversity in the Baka spirit rituals is generated and maintained through the social dynamics concerning the identity of the band, the most important autonomous social unit of the Baka.
This paper analyzes the economic differentiation in a cocoa-producing village in southwestern Ghana. The method of “wealth-ranking” developed by Grandin (1988) is used to identify the economic differences among households and individuals in the village, and the result is examined vis-à-vis various socioeconomic variables. The economic differentiation in the village is closely associated with the scale of cocoa production, land holdings, age, gender, and labor arrangement. Male farmers tend to enjoy larger landholdings and more cocoa harvest, thus higher economic status than female counterparts. In addition, women are likely to obtain their own land at their later age than men, contributing further disadvantage in cocoa production (which requires years before trees start bearing fruits). Rich farmers use more hired labor than poor counterparts, but poor farmers also employ farm laborers for certain tasks. This is especially true for poor female farmers who have no access to male labor in the household and whose reproductive duties prevent them from concentrating on farming. These disadvantages all contribute to the relatively lower economic status of women in the village. Other findings are: (1) Younger farmers tend to be classified as poor, but individual economic status may change considerably over one's life cycle as the result of land acquisition from relatives; (2) due to indigenous land tenure systems limiting the transfer of land, land accumulation in large scale by prosperous farmers (observed earlier by Hill (1963) in Southern Ghana) did not occur; (3) indigenous arrangements allow landless farmers and poor farmers to obtain or expand, with little capital, their own land, thus; (4) further differentiation between land accumulating class of rich farmers on the one hand, and the landless farm laborers on the other, is neither observed nor likely to occur in near future in the village.