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The Kingdoms of Ghana: Reform along the Senegal River

The Kingdoms of Ghana: Reform along the Senegal River

(p.30) Chapter Three The Kingdoms of Ghana: Reform along the Senegal River
African Dominion
Michael A. Gomez
Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on Ghana. The rise, fall, and rise again of Ghana is a study of why mutually beneficial commercial and political relations between Muslim and non-Muslim rulers and merchants were disrupted by the spread of reform Islam, and how the region was radically altered as a consequence. Divergent models of negotiating cultural difference lost their competition with a withering, less tolerant Islam, signaling a shift in the region's principal occupation from trafficking in gold to human beings, as well as the rise of a discourse on the relationship between phenotypic expression and “civilizational” achievement, a forerunner to concepts of “race.” West Africa's renowned reform movements beginning in the twelfth/eighteenth century were therefore fully anticipated by similar ideas and developments in early Ghana and the Senegal valley. The chapter then traces the origins of Ghana. Early Ghana experienced a long existence and efflorescence, both as an independent kingdom from 300 CE to the end of the fifth/eleventh century, and as a reform Muslim state until the first third of the seventh/ thirteenth, after which it lingered on in tributary form for another two hundred years.

Keywords:   Ghana, reform Islam, race, West Africa, independent kingdom, Muslim state, Muslim rulers, non-Muslim rulers, cultural difference

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