The bobo ‘house’ and the uses of categories of descent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this article is to show how conceptual systems of classification in the case of Bobo ethnography enter into the construction of social life without narrowly determining people's conduct. The southern Bobo recognise both patrilineal and matrilineal descent categories in which people are included by patrifiliation and matrifiliation. The inclusion occurs at the birth of the person and there are cultural mechanisms that make the change or the misrepresentation of this identity especially difficult. However, the unilineal sets do not frequently materialise as social groups. Agnatic segments may join each other to form the core of associations which constitute the social groups most in evidence in the political and economic life of the village. These associations in turn establish larger confederations of varying strength and different time depth on the basis of common settlement history and political interest. All these forms of association are achieved without the constituent segments losing their separate agnatic identities. The article shows how land, and offices in important cults such as the public do and Kono can be claimed on the basis of any of these organisational principles in a political game that implicitly questions the constitutive norms that shape community life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-97
Number of pages27
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'The bobo ‘house’ and the uses of categories of descent'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this