​Chiefs in South Africa and Ghana: Comparative Perspectives

The Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS)

The Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) is a leading research and teaching centre with an international reputation for high quality applied research and critical scholarship. PLAAS was founded in 1995 as a specialist unit in the School of Government, in the Economic and Management Sciences Faculty, at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), Cape Town. Since then, PLAAS has developed a proven track record of undertaking high-quality research on land and agrarian reform, poverty, and natural resource management in South Africa and the southern African region.

Issues around chiefly power in modern African society are highly relevant in contemporary political economy debates about state policies that bolster the power of chiefs and other unelected traditional authorities, in the context of constitutional democracy. The effects of such policies on socio-economic development, production systems and rural governance more generally are also important.

Discourses on chiefly power are complicated by notions of ‘customary law’, to which the advocates of pro-chiefly policies often turn in their attempts to justify state alliances with traditional elites. A great deal of scholarship provides counter-narratives to ‘pro-chief’ interpretations of the ‘customary’ realm, tending to reflect, in varying ways, how understandings of customary law have been moulded to fit with prevailing ideologies of ruling classes. Contested interpretations of customary law and customary norms are thus also at stake.

The colloquium will host prominent scholars of land and governance in Ghana and South Africa, with the purpose of dissecting the nature of chiefly power in contemporary society in these two countries.

PLAAS is honoured to be hosting history Prof Sara Berry, Emeritus Professor at Johns Hopkins University, USA, whose long and distinguished scholarship on the history and political economy of agrarian relations in Ghana has inspired generations of students working in the field of land and agrarian studies in South Africa. Trained initially in economics, she has specialised in using micro-historical research to promote interdisciplinary analysis of social and economic transformations, and to bring comparative and historical perspectives to bear on under-standing contemporary African political economies.

From Ghana we are excited to be hosting Prof Kojo Amanor, Associate Professor at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Accra. His main research interests are in the land question, smallholder agriculture, agribusiness food chains, forestry policy, environment, and participatory methodologies for rural development. His current research is on the political economy of cereal crops in Ghana, farmer management of soils and agribusiness chains. He has published widely in these fields.

Other presenters are Dr Gavin Capps of the Society, Work and Development Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, and Dr Mbongiseni Buthelezi of the Public Affairs Research Institute.

Also present will be a prominent scholar of land and socio-political themes in Ghana, Prof Janine Ubink. South African scholars who will be involved in presentations or as discussants include Prof Lungisile Ntsebeza, Dr Maanda Malaudzi, Prof Ben Cousins, Dr Aninka Claassens, Prof Jeff Peires, Prof William Beinart and Prof
Peter Delius.

Date: 11 May 2016

Time: 9h00 to 16h30

Follow the event live on twitter: #Chiefs_Ghana_SA

For more information, refer to www.plaas.org.za/event/colloquium-chiefs-south-africa-and-ghana-comparative-perspectives.

For more about the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, refer to www.plaas.org.za.

Event Start Date: 
Wednesday, 11 May, 2016
Event End Date: 
Wednesday, 11 May, 2016
Event Venue: 
UWC Bellville, School of Public Health
Event Type: 
Workshop

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