Dissertation abebuu.pdf


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!!!To!contextualize!what!follows,!I!begin!with!a!historical!overview!of!the!local!origins!of!
abebuu'adekai.!I!then!discuss!how!I!conducted!research!in!the!field!and!the!ambiguous!
definitions!of!local!terms.!This!reveals!some!of!the!complexities!of!Ghanaian!design!
coffins,!whose!varied!forms!and!shared!features!are!best!analysed!by!focusing!on!a!
particular!example:!a!bus2shaped!coffin!that!I!observed!from!its!production!in!the!
workshop,!through!its!display!and!use!at!a!funeral,!to!its!burial!and!destruction!in!the!
grave.!This!trajectory!traces!the!‘social!life’!of!the!coffin!(Appadurai!1986).!!
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!!!The!structure!of!this!account!follows!successive!phases!in!a!coffin’s!‘life’!(Kopytoff!
1986).*Part!I!describes!the!making!of!coffins,!and!how!coffin2makers!interacted!with!
clients!when!receiving!commissions.3*When!the!bus2shaped!coffin!left!the!workshop,!it!
was!not!an!alienated!commodity!but!had!been!invested!with!moral!and!personal!
meanings!by!its!maker(s).!Part!II!considers!the!funeral!phase,!comprising!a!Friday!night!
wake!and!Saturday!funeral!ceremony.!Photography!was!an!important!medium!helping!
people!remember!the!funeral,!the!coffin!and!most!significantly!the!deceased!person.!In!
Part!III,!I!focus!on!the!burial!of!the!coffin!itself.!Observing!how!a!coffin!‘interacts’!with!
the!people!who!come!into!contact!with!it!(Hoskins!2006:!76),!I!draw!on!Gell’s!model!of!
an!object’s!biography!(Gell!1998),!and!Strathern’s!theory!of!partible!persons!(Strathern!
1988),!to!argue!that!an!abebuu'adeka!can!be!understood!as!an!investment!of!multiple,!
partible!persons.!
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3!While!women!may!also!be!buried!in!abebuu'adekai,!my!examples!focus!on!design!coffins!for!men.!Coffin2

makers!claimed!it!was!not!uncommon!for!females!to!be!buried!in!design!coffins,!but!this!depended!on!
their!profession!and!status!while!alive.!!

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