- The Oxford Handbook of Modern African History
- List of Contributors
- Introduction African Histories: Past, Present, and Future
- Ecology and Environment
- Demography and Disease
- African Slave Trades in Global Perspective
- States and Statelessness
- Ethnicity and Identity
- Warfare and the Military
- The African Diaspora
- African Colonial States
- Law, Crime, and Punishment in Colonial Africa
- Work and Migration
- Between the Present and History: African Nationalism and Decolonization
- Indigenous African Religions
- New Religious Movements
- Education and Literacy
- Women and Gender
- Urbanization and Urban Cultures
- Health and Healing
- Economic Growth
- Visual Cultures
- Music in Modern African History
- African Literary Histories and History in African Literatures
- Communications and Media in African History
Abstract and Keywords
Across Africa, the term chief has been—and still is—used to describe individuals whose status and influence is extremely diverse; no single analytical model can explain the multiple phenomena of ‘chieftaincy’. But a broad pattern can be observed. Across much of the continent, individuals who possessed political authority in precolonial societies did so most effectively not by monopolizing a single kind of power, but by dealing in multiple forms of powerful knowledge. In the colonial period and subsequently, this brokering of knowledge has acquired a new productive potency, serving as a means to both mediate and reproduce a distinction between tradition on the one hand and the state on the other.
Justin Willis teaches history at Durham University. He has also worked for the British Institute in Eastern Africa based in Nairobi. His research is concerned with authority, ethnicity, and the nature of legitimacy in eastern Africa since the nineteenth century.
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