Selling the Exotic to the Exotic: Islamic Talismans in Nineteenth-Century Asante, Ghana
Rachel Ama Asaa Engmann, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, Stanford University, and Cotsen Fellow, SAR
Colloquium, SAR Boardroom
Wednesday, August 1, 2012, 12:00–1:00 pm, Free
During the nineteenth century, Islamic talismans traveled the camel caravan trade routes across sub-Saharan Africa, circulating widely amongst the non-Muslim Asante. Highly mobile repositories of Islamic knowledge, Islamic talismans reflect a tradition illustrative of the movement of people, objects, and texts. Deemed highly efficacious and costing as much as thirty slaves (Bowdich, 1819), many British visitors noted, “Every Ashantee man has a Gregory [i.e., ‘grigri’], or fetish which is a little square cloth inclosing some sentences of the Alcoran; some have many” (Torrane, 1807). This presentation will discuss the exchange, commodification, and consumption of Islamic talismans in response to nineteenth-century British imperialism and capitalist expansion.