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In My Time of DyingA History of Death and the Dead in West Africa$
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John Parker

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780691193151

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691193151.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 24 January 2022

Ghosts and Vile Bodies

Ghosts and Vile Bodies

(p.210) 13 Ghosts and Vile Bodies
In My Time of Dying

John Parker

Princeton University Press

This chapter looks into the two colonial courts established by the start of 1897 to assist in the governance of Kumasi: one presided over by the British Resident Captain Stewart and the other by Kumasi's cantonment magistrate. It emphasizes the inaugural session of the latter, as the opening case involved the suspected murder of a pregnant woman, named Abena Baidu, and the brutal treatment of her corpse. As the chapter recalls, death during pregnancy or in childbirth was categorized by the Akan as atofowu, a transgressive or blasphemous death. In such an event, the corpse was 'thrown away' without a funeral. Like the putrefying remains of unburied slaves, criminals and debtors, it became a vile body: ebin, filth. The spirit of the deceased, meanwhile, was also destined to become something nasty: an otofo (pl. atofo), an unworthy, restless ghost. The focus of the chapter, however, is less on the colonial appropriation of capital punishment than on understandings of atofowu, and on the result of such blasphemous death: the lingering presence of atofo, or 'ghosts'.

Keywords:   Kumasi, murder, Akan, atofowu, ebin, otofo, blasphemous death, ghosts, death

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