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HOW DEBT BECAME CARE: CHILD PAWNING AND ITS TRANSFORMATIONS IN AKUAPEM, THE GOLD COAST, 1874–1929

  • Cati Coe
Abstract

Studies of slavery in Africa have noted the persistence of those relations in different forms, such as pawning, that allow social changes in power, status and wealth to be weathered more gradually. As pawning itself became less frequent, did other kinds of relationship take its place? Some scholars have argued that pawning was folded into marriage and fatherhood; others that there are continuities with fosterage and domestic servant arrangements today. This article examines the question of pawning's transformations in Akuapem, a region in south-eastern Ghana involved in forms of commercial agriculture that were heavily dependent on slave labour and the capital raised by pawning. Ultimately, it argues that debt became key to fatherhood and fosterage relations between children and adults, changing from a short-term exchange to more lifelong reciprocal relations of care.

Des études sur l'esclavage en Afrique ont noté la persistance de ces relations sous des formes diverses, comme la mise en gage d’êtres humains, qui permettent une absorption plus progressive de l’évolution sociale du pouvoir, du statut et de la richesse. À mesure que la mise en gage devenait moins fréquente, d'autres formes de relations prenaient-elles sa place ? Des savants ont affirmé que la mise en gage était incorporée dans le mariage et la paternité; d'autres qu'elle persiste aujourd'hui à travers le fosterage et le travail domestique. Cet article examine la question des transformations de la mise en gage dans la région d'Akuapem, dans le Sud-Est du Ghana, où se pratiquent des formes d'agriculture commerciale fortement tributaires d'une main-d’œuvre esclave et de capitaux issus de la mise en gage. Enfin, l'article affirme que la dette est devenue un élément clé des relations de parentalité et de fosterage entre enfants et adultes, passant d'un simple échange à court terme à une relation de soin réciproque s'inscrivant davantage sur la durée de vie.

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Africa
  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
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