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Friendship, Descent and Alliance in Africa: Anthropological Perspectives

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Volume 10

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Friendship, Descent and Alliance in Africa

Anthropological Perspectives

Edited by Martine Guichard, Tilo Grätz, and Youssouf Diallo
Foreword by Günther Schlee
Afterword by Stephen P. Reyna

220 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-286-7 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (May 2014)

eISBN 978-1-78238-287-4 eBook

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“By illustrating the variety of ways in which kinship and friendship interrelate, this collection’s essays make a convincing case for a joint analysis of kinship and friendship; highlighting issues of power, generation, the plural character of friendship; and political, economic, and social transformations as new directions for future research. I recommend the volume to anyone interested in African studies, anthropology, and the sociology of friendship.” · Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute

“The volume captures the complex nature of friendship among various ethnic groups in Africa in different social contexts and situations. On the basis of rich ethnography, the volume manages to offer a comparative perspective on an often neglected form of relationship and proves that the study of friendship sheds light on important societal issues… The edited volume contributes not only to the establishment of the study of a neglected field in anthropology but also to one of the core questions in social theory.” · African Spectrum

“All in all this volume is a good read for those interested in friendship and other social relations beyond mere kinship. Guichard’s thorough review of the literature is important in itself and combined with the other chapters the book gives us a not just broad but also deep, as well as rare, contribution to the study of African friendship.” · ARAS

“…a well-crafted project that proves the importance of friendship and other purportedly non-kinship relationships, while clearly illustrating the porous boundaries between friend and kin. A few other anthropologists have looked at friendship of late, and we can hope that this book inspires more examination of more cultural areas where relationships are also undoubtedly being invented and contested in terms of and in contrast to family bonds.” · Anthropology Review Database


Friendship, descent and alliance are basic forms of relatedness that have received unequal attention in social anthropology. Offering new insights into the ways in which friendship is conceptualized and realized in various sub-Saharan African settings, the contributions to this volume depart from the recent tendency to study friendship in isolation from kinship. In drawing attention to the complexity of the interactions between these two kinds of social relationships, the book suggests that analyses of friendship in Western societies would also benefit from research that explores more systematically friendship in conjunction with kinship.

Martine Guichard is a Senior Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale. She has conducted research in Benin and Cameroon on local political cultures, ethnicity, friendship and kinship.

Tilo Grätz is Vice-Director for Research at the Centre of Modern Oriental Studies, Berlin, and an Associate Professor at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Free University Berlin. He has conducted research in West Africa and Central Europe on topics ranging from migration, media, local level politics to informal economies and friendship relations.

Youssouf Diallo is a Lecturer in Anthropology and Cross-Cultural Competencies at the German Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Hamburg. He is an Associate Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale. He has carried out research on pastoral migrations, ethnicity and joking relations in West Africa.

Subject: Anthropology (General)
Area: Africa


Günther Schlee


Martine Guichard

Part I. Friendship, Kinship and Age

Chapter 1. Where Are Other People’s Friends Hiding? Reflections on Anthropological Studies of Friendship
Martine Guichard

Chapter 2. Comradeship and the Transformation of Alliance Theory among the Maasai: Shifting the Focus from Descent to Peer-Group Loyalty
Paul Spencer

Part II. Friendship and Ethnicity

Chapter 3. Friendship Networks in Southwestern Ethiopia
Wolde Gossa Tadesse and Martine Guichard

Chapter 4. Friendship and Spiritual Parenthood among the Moose and the Fulbe in Burkina Faso
Mark Breusers

Chapter 5. Labour Migration and Moral Dimensions of Interethnic Friendships: The Case of Young Gold Miners in Benin (West Africa)
Tilo Grätz

Part III. Friendship, Politics and Urbanity

Chapter 6. Friendship and Kinship among Merchants and Veterans in Mali
Richard L. Warms

Chapter 7. ‘Down-to-Earth’: Friendship and a National Elite Circle in Botswana
Richard Werbner

Chapter 8. Negotiating Friendship and Kinship in a Context of Violence: The Case of the Tuareg during the Upheaval in Mali from 1990 to 1996
Georg Klute

Afterword: Friendship in a World of Force and Power
Stephen P. Reyna

Notes on Contributors

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