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Chiefs Know Their Boundaries

Chiefs Know Their Boundaries

Using a series of local episodes and case histories, the essays in this volume explore changes and continuities in the ways people have made and exercised claims on land in Asante, Ghana, during the colonial and postcolonial periods. Convinced that customary rules and rulers provided a stable foundation for colonial rule, British officials decided early on that ownership of the land was vested in Asante chiefs. As land values rose, due to urban expansion and the growth of commercial agriculture, mining, and timber, struggles intensified not only over land and land-based income, but also over the meaning of “custom” and its relevance to the colonial order. As claims on land multiplied, so too did debates over the scope of chiefly authority and jurisdiction, and the meaning of historical precedents for contemporary claims to land and office. Although postcolonial Ghanaian governments have legislated sweeping reductions in the scope of chiefly authority and customary law, most land in Asante remains subject to multiple, overlapping claims and continued debate.