Bay, Edna G.. Belief, Legitimacy and the Kpojito: an institutional history of the 'Queen Mother' in precolonial Dahomey

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Title: Belief, Legitimacy and the Kpojito: an institutional history of the 'Queen Mother' in precolonial Dahomey

Published in: The journal of African history -- Vol. 36, no. 1

Published By: The journal of African history -- Vol. 36, no. 1 Cambridge University Press. 1995. 1-27 p.

By line: By Edna G. Bay

HRAF Publication Information: New Haven, Conn.: Human Relations Area Files, 2016. Computer File

Culture: Fon (FA18)

Subjects: Form and rules of government (642); Chief executive (643); Status, role, and prestige (554); Gender status (562); Gender roles and issues (890); Social relationships and groups (571); Priesthood (793); Congregations (794); Revelation and divination (787); Luck and chance (777); Cult of the dead (769); Ingroup antagonisms (578); External relations (648); General character of religion (771); Prayers and sacrifices (782); Acculturation and culture contact (177);

Abstract: This article discerns the history of the office of the kpojito, the female reign-mate to the kings of Dahomey, through an analysis of religious change in Dahomey. It argues that the women who became kpojito in the eighteenth century were central to the efforts of the kings to establish legitimacy and assert control over the kingdom's expanding territory. This office reached its zenith in mid-century when Kpojito Hwanjile and King Tegbesu gained office and effectively ruled in tandem, thereby solidifying an ideological model that persisted to the French occupation of Dahomey in the late 1890s. The model posited a balance of power between male and female, royal and commoner. Subsequently, powerful women of the king's household worked with ambitious princes to build coalitions to seize power at times of royal succession. When their efforts succeeded, the prince was installed as king and the woman as kpojito. By the nineteenth century, princes began to find alternative sources of support in their struggles for the kingship and alternative sources of guidance once enthroned. The royal family became more central in the state as princes and princesses replaced commoners in high offices. Even though alliances between princes and their fathers' wives continued, non-royal women within the palace were more constrained in their ability to wield power and the influence of the kpojito fell into steep decline.

Document Number: 13

Document ID: fa18-013

Document Type: Journal Article

Language: English

Note: Includes bibliographical references

Field Date: not specified

Evaluation: Historian-4,5

Analyst: Teferi Abate Adem

Coverage Date: 1720-1890

Coverage Place: Dahomey Kingdom (Benin since 1975)

LCSH: Fon (African people)


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