The Journal of African History

Research Article

NETWORKS OF KNOWLEDGE: CLANSHIP AND COLLECTIVE WELL-BEING IN BUGANDA

NEIL KODESHa1

a1 University of Wisconsin-Madison

ABSTRACT

This article raises the question of how scholars might make sense of well-known components of social organization in Africa in the absence of the increasingly criticized evolutionary and lineage models that once gave them meaning. In an effort to understand why our earliest glimpses into the distant Ganda past appear in the form of clan histories, the article examines the relationship between clanship, public healing and transformations in agricultural practices. Beginning around the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Ganda expanded upon earlier knowledge of banana cultivation to develop a land-intensive banana farming system. This process coincided with the transformation of previously territorial spirits into portable spirits capable of ensuring the health of disconnected groups of people. At the heart of these undertakings stood the ideology and practices of clanship, which furnished the conceptual bridge connecting transformations in agriculture and public healing. The webs of shrines situated on discontiguous clan lands created therapeutic networks that drew together communities whose leaders possessed a variety of skills, thus forging a powerful connection between clanship, collective health and the composition of knowledge.

Key Words:

  • Uganda;
  • kinship;
  • lineages;
  • precolonial;
  • religion