By Eugenia W. Herbert

"[Herbert] has built a version of energy relationships based upon gender and age, and derived from male transformative strategies, and in so doing has written a impressive, and most delightful, book." -- African History"Herbert examines with nice care and thoroughness the relationships among gender and tool and the rationales that provide them social form.... [Her] analytical skill is outstanding." -- Patrick McNaughton"This booklet is a well-written and crucial learn of where of trust in African fabric culture." -- overseas magazine of African ancient stories Herbert relates the ideals and practices linked to iron operating in African cultures to different transformative actions -- mainly investiture, looking, and pottery making -- to suggest a gender/age-based concept of strength.

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Extra resources for Iron, Gender, and Power (African Systems of Thought)

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Page 1 INTRODUCTION Techniques and Cosmology [Iron] stains the great earth wheresoever you can see it, far and wideit is the colouring sub- stance appointed to colour the globe for the sight, as well as subdue it for the service of man. " Henrietta Moore (1988) This is, ultimately, a book about the cosmologies of sub-Saharan Africa as they are invoked to explain and control technologies of transformation. Because it is about cosmologies, it is about power: where it resides; who may invoke it, by what means and for what ends; and how to protect against it since power is always double-edged.

In Babungo in the Cameroon Grassfields there is, in fact, an "ideological separation of smith and smelter": not only is what they do different, it is also conceptualized and organized differently (Fowler 1990:287). Indeed, the belief that smelting provides the primary arena in which ideas of transformation are played out has determined the emphasis in this book. In practice, however, the distinction is impossible to adhere to strictly, above all because of the changes in the past century and the ambiguities of the sources.

Both axes define social identity, offering a model based on human experience that can then be projected onto a range of creative enterprises. Most fundamentally, both revolve around complex and inseparable notions of power and fertility. The formulation of these concepts will differ contextually within a culture as well as from culture to culture. If there is any validity to my hypothesis, however, the underlying paradigm will emerge precisely because it is so basic to human existence, at least as it has been lived for most of the world's history.

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