Naam : political history as state idealogy
This thesis argues that the ideology of Naam (principle of power) is an essential and overlooked component in explaining both the logic of state formation, as well as the institutional continuities evident within the Mossi-Mamprusi-Dagomba states system.. With reference to Igor Kopytoff’s Internal African Frontier Thesis, it understands this logic as a single, continuous historical process whereby states were formed and dismantled, broken in autonomous entities and (re)created as clones of a constitutive Naam ‘model’. This model also was negatively responsible for the genesis of acephalous non-state formations, composed of frontier men and women who escaped the stifling grip of the state. Specifically, the thesis argues that the ideology of Naam was the overarching principle that not only informed the expansion of the Mossi-Mamprusi-Dagombasystem, but also enabled the construction of a Mossi identity. Naam was ‘proposed’ in some places, and ‘imposed’ in others, through rituals, family-like associations, and the integration of indigenous groups into the sphere of political rule. Naam ideology was confronted with a fundamental contradiction: the Mossi ruled (over) people but had no control over the territorial basis of their rule. This contradiction was partly resolved through the extension of the discourse of power to the realm of Tenga (the sphere of rituals and earth-custody), by uniting the Mossi divinity (Wende) to the earth divinity (Tenga) and by tapping into the possibilities of a common belief, in order to buttress state legitimacy but also to articulate ‘Mossi’ culture on the basis of a shared idiom that transcended the dichotomy Naam /Tenga. This contradiction cannot be explained with reference to the materiality of conquest alone, as most accounts of state formation, within and beyond Africa, have suggested. Yet the process was informed throughout by violence of a different kind. The deployment of Naam in the realm of rituals served to mediate the gap between power and legitimacy; but at the same time, state power as discourse and representation concealed the ontological violence inherent in the Mossi state. It also concealed the limits of discourse in making valid statements on historical experience. In the Mossi case, pânga (a form of travesty/violent version of Naam), intervenes in the disarticulation of power from kinship by isolating the Naaba (king) from all forms of loyalties. An extended analysis of the consolidation of the Mossi state in the eighteenth century demonstrates how centralisation centred on the twin conditions of the necessary separation between kinship and kingship, and the integration of the stranger-kin as mediating agent at the junction of this divorce. The thesis will contribute to a better understanding of the role of ideology in state formation and society-making in the Voltaic region and West Africa more generally.