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Concubines and Power: Five Hundred Years in a Northern Nigerian Palace

Heidi J. Nast
Foreword by Hausatu Abba Ado Bayero
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 276
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  • Book Info
    Concubines and Power
    Book Description:

    The palace of Kano, Nigeria historically housed hundreds of concubines whose influence has been largely overlooked. In Concubines and Power, Heidi J. Nast demonstrates how human-geographical methods can tell us about a place bereft of archaeological work or primary sources. Social forces undoubtedly shaped concubinage, but Nast shows how the women’s reach extended beyond the palace walls to the formation of the state itself._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9482-2
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Hausatu Abba Ado Bayero and Kano

    The publication ofConcubines and Power: Five Hundred Years in a Northern Nigerian Palacemarks the culmination of a journey started about fifteen years ago when Dr. Heidi J. Nast was a doctoral student at McGill University in Montreal. She first came to me in the palace to discuss her research plans. For those of us involved with the project in various ways since its beginning, our satisfaction and relief at the materialization of a book at the end of it all are matched only by similar feelings of the author. Several people whose names or words appear in this...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. xvii-xxx)

    This work presents a historical geographical account of royal concubinage in the monumental palace of Kano, Nigeria, built circa 1500 and today inhabited by over one thousand persons (see Figure 1). The text is based on extensive field research in the Kano palace between 1988 and 2003. The palace of Kano is the largest in existence in West Africa and the most important of its kind. When first built, it hosted about fifteen hundred persons and was designed specifically as an Islamic place, serving as a key geographical node for the dispersion of Islamic political culture, however syncretically, into the...

  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    Royal concubinage in the West African city-state of Kano, in what is today northern Nigeria, was a historically formidable institution that is today largely defunct. In the 1500s and 1600s royal concubines numbered in the hundreds, were organized into complex labor hierarchies, and collectively—if indirectly—commanded considerable power throughout the state. Concubine power derived from concubines’ centrality in a primarily agrarian world that celebrated and depended upon fertility, both human and earthly; from the disparate knowledges that they brought with them; and from the many activities they carried out in reproducing the royal household, a control center of the...

  7. Chapter 1 Grain Treasuries and Children: Royal Concubines in the 1500s and 1600s
    (pp. 21-56)

    In early November 1989 I purchased a large-format aerial photograph of Kano city to analyze macro-scale palace features and to see if I could discern spatial connections between the palace and the old city. As a geologist I had been trained to examine aerial photographs for evidence of geological movements (such as faults and folds) and their temporal sequencing, the latter determined through analyzing crosscutting relationships between them. A large fold in the geological terrain would represent an older event, for example, if it was crosscut by a fault, but if the linear surface expression of the fault was folded,...

  8. Chapter 2 Fecundity, Indigo Dyeing, and the Gendering of Eunuchs
    (pp. 57-86)

    The story of early Kano palace life relayed thus far has relied on interpreting early sixteenth-century spatial patterns of the city and palace in light of linguistic data and nineteenth-century information. These data suggest that concubines were vital players within an explicitly (even if syncretically) Islamic state. Spatial methods and analyses partially compensated for the lack of archaeological data, producing key insights into state formational processes in what was largely an agrarian place. Unfortunately, no primary documents or other secondary sources are available to refine my analysis of the sociospatial processes that shaped this important early crucible of Islamicized state...

  9. Chapter 3 Great Transformations: Expropriation and Fulani Rule
    (pp. 87-110)

    Between 1804 and 1809 an Islamic jihad, or reformist holy war, was waged by a number of Fulani clans across and beyond Hausaland. The Hausa had been deemed un-Islamic, though the extent and degree of their irreligiosity is debatable.¹ Led by the Fulani scholar Usman dan Fodio, most of the region was conquered, including Kano in 1806. As Last notes, “[T]he stereotype about the eighteenth-century governments and the Muslim elite of that time is a distortion of reality. … [T]he so-called ‘Habe’ rulers were [in fact] part of a more conservative Muslim reforming movement” (1987 [1974], 9–10). The jihad...

  10. Chapter 4 Concubine Losses and Male Gains: Abdullahi dan Dabo
    (pp. 111-138)

    The new Fulani rulers adapted themselves to and transformed state organization using the prejihadic palace slave resources at their disposal. In the process, the palace landscape was reworked, the female ciki (interior) undergoing particularly radical change. Chapter 3 explored how many parts of the ciki fell into disuse during the first three emirs’ reigns. This chapter describes how many of these same parts were resurrected and transformed by the fourth emir, Abdullahi dan Dabo (1855–82), another of Ibrahim Dabo’s and Shekara’s sons. As in the case of Abdullahi’s predecessors, the transformations did not enhance palace concubines’ powers but spatialized...

  11. Chapter 5 British Colonial Abolition of Slavery and Concubinage
    (pp. 139-166)

    In 1903 the British conquered Kano as part of the much larger project of European imperialism in Africa. The conquest of Kano city was decisive in establishing British rule in northern Nigeria, and the takeover of the Kano palace finalized the city’s colonial demise. According to Colonel Morland, who led the attack, he and his troops entered the city through a cannonmade breach in the southwesterly city wall nearest to the city gate called Kofar Kabuga, whereupon they proceeded through the largely uninhabited western portion of the city to the palace. Then, “[a]fter forming up near the inhabited portion of...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 167-172)

    Drawing on a variety of new geographical resources and methods, this book proposes a number of hypotheses concerning state formation processes in Kano where I argue that culture and politics revolved initially around and depended on earthly and human fecundity. Perhaps most important, I suggest that the womb functioned symbolically and practically as a place wherein the state’s primary currency was created: children. Royal children of the Kano monarchy were “paid out” in marriages that solidified territorial gains and brought knowledge of the outside world into the palace interior (ciki). There was no “gold standard” through which an individual child’s...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 173-176)

    In late 2000 and 2003, I returned to the palace for two monthlong visits to review the book manuscript with the emir and other palace community members and to develop new research projects. The ciki had changed dramatically. Most notably, each wife’s compound now hosted a large cementblock bungalow about 1,500 square feet in size, each one identical in design. The story behind these speaks complexly to how globalization and modernity have intersected changes in the palace interior since I left in 1990. The emir had married a fourth wife from Kano, Hajiyya Fatima Rabi’u, the “Kano wife.” The emir’s...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 177-228)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-236)
  16. Index
    (pp. 237-245)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 246-246)