Advanced search
Start date

Returnees in Ghana: Focusing on Diasporic Experiences in West Africa

Grant number: 23/14398-8
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research
Effective date (Start): August 15, 2024
Effective date (End): August 14, 2025
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Anthropology - Anthropology of Afro-Brazilian Populations
Principal Investigator:Andreas Hofbauer
Grantee:Andreas Hofbauer
Host Investigator: James Lorand Matory
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia e Ciências (FFC). Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP). Campus de Marília. Marília , SP, Brazil
Research place: Duke University, United States  


The aim of this research is to analyze the re-insertion processes of enslaved people and their descendants who were taken to the Americas and "returned" to West Africa. Firstly, I intend to focus on the population called Tabom, who are the descendants of those Africans who lived as slaves and/or freedmen in Brazil (more specifically in Bahia), before returning to Ghana, more specifically, to Accra. In a second phase, the intention is to also study the group of "returnees" from the USA, with the aim of developing a comparative study of the similarities and differences in the processes of "insertion" and "integration" of these two diasporic populations into the Ghanaian society.The insertion processes were different, a fact that has to do with distinct historical contexts and positions vis-à-vis the local population. These have been influenced by a game based on memorization and identification processes. The mythical narratives of the Tabom remember "the land of origin" Brazil and the deity ^ángò (Shango, Xangô), believed to be responsible for the safe return to Africa. Although the first generation were former captives, this experience is excluded from the group's collective memory. On the other hand, the motivations that led a group of black Americans to settle in Ghana are related to their memory of slavery, racism and identification with the Ghanaian populations around the category of race.In the process of "integration", the Tabom "subjugated" themselves to a local socio-political structure: they adopted not only the Gã language, but also the entire social and political structure of this ethnic group. Aside from the use of their own surnames, their way of life is mostly indistinguishable from that of the Gãs and they are generally perceived as part of this group. But there are moments when "their Brazilian origin" is affirmed and gains prominence (ritualistic contexts, meetings with people from Brazil). Black Americans, on the other hand, continue to live as a separate group and are often identified as oborTny, a term used in Ghana [Fante language - Akan] for all "foreigners" regardless of their skin color. This phenomenon is partly due to cultural factors, of course, such as particular body language and linguistic skills that function as markers of difference.Preliminary hypothesis: the ways in which the Tabom and African Americans relate to the local population are, among other factors, marked by distinct positions on two important topics: slavery and race. The first generation of Tabom, who had personally suffered slavery, did not "cultivate" the memory of this suffering after their return to Africa, preferring rather to forget this brutal experience. Had they not done so, they would have found it difficult to integrate into the Gã society and to have become slave traders themselves. Today, slavery remains a taboo topic among this group. By contrast, the more recently returned African Americans emphasize the pain of enslavement and the suffering caused by racism. Moreover, in their arguments and their explanations for the traumas that they experienced, they mobilize the factor "race", which, they believe, unites them with Africans. However, the importance attributed to slavery and to "race" in the formation of the group's identity also seems to have made it more difficult for Ghanaians to identify with those who "returned" in search of "reintegration" in Africa. This indicates that different understandings of descent and belonging may be behind the various frictions.

News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship:
Articles published in other media outlets (0 total):
More itemsLess items

Please report errors in scientific publications list using this form.