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

Rachel Ama Asaa EngmannRachel Ama Asaa Engmann2012 Cotsen Summer ScholarRachel Ama Asaa Engmann2012 Cotsen Summer Scholar

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.

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