Concubines and Power: Five Hundred Years in a Northern by Heidi J. Nast

By Heidi J. Nast

Drawing on her box paintings within the palace among 1988 and 2003, Nast (international experiences, DePaul U., Chicago) provides a historic geographical account of royal concubinage within the huge palace of Kano, Nigeria, outfitted approximately 1500 and this present day inhabited by means of over one thousand humans. Her examine demonstrates how human geographical tools can be utilized i

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While gendered asymmetries may have existed in Kano prior to the building of the palace and consequent Islamization in the region, once the context of their creation and sustenance changed, they could not mean the same thing. In Islamicized Kano the territorial inside was nested and represented sociospatially and linguistically in the house-inside, in turn likened to a womb-inside, both "insides" marking paternal conquest and patriarchal social order. Thus, whatever sexed cosmological divisions existed in Kano prior to the coming of Islam, palace divisions had to speak through them, mapping a different logic onto pre-existing ones.

The ease with which the Bugandan king could take wives did not, however, mean that there were no status distinctions or unequal divisions of labor among them. Indeed, a sim- Introduction ilar sociospatial hierarchy obtained between Bugandan wives: Untitled wives (of lowly birth or slave status) lived communally in sections controlled by a special wife-administrator, whereas titled wives (of high birth) lived individually in their own enclosures (Musisi 1991, 779). Unlike the Kano context, titled wives held substantial geopolitical authority over territorial administration and taxation.

That palace concubines served as political and kin representatives of the place from which they were captured resonates with what Guyer and Belinga have called, in the context of Equatorial Africa, "Wealth in People as Wealth in Knowledge," wherein political authority stems as much from cultivating the material and social resources of disparate peoples as from simply accumulating their lineage lines and labor (1995). That concubines held such capacities has been well documented for other nearby regions.

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