Working Paper 171

The Dialectics of Integration and Conflict: reciprocity and structural opposition in ngaanka inter-clan alliances among the Fulɓe Woɗaaɓe in Niger


Florian Köhler

Abteilung ‚Integration und Konflikt’

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 171

The Woɗaaɓe, a group of Fulɓe pastoralists in Niger, practice two contrasting forms of marriage. The first, called kooɓgal, is clan endogamous and based on betrothal arrangements between families; the second, called te’egal, is generally clan exogamous and based on elopement of already married women with men from other clans. The paper elaborates on the cultural rules of te’egal marriage and its socio-political dimension. Sanctioned in a ceremonial framework of inter-clan alliances (ngaanka), te’egal marriage is of significance for structuring the political relations between Woɗaaɓe clans, and as a culture-specific feature of distinction it is crucial in defining ethnic group membership. By interpreting the complex of ngaanka and te’egal with Mauss’ concept of ‘total prestation’ as a form of reciprocal exchange, the paper shows that these institutions, despite their inherent conflict potential, have an integrative function and play a central role for identity construction and cultural reproduction. Ngaanka partnership opposes clans as rivals about each other’s women, yet also ties them together through the kinship bonds resulting from te’egal inter-marriage.

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