Currency Devaluation and Rank: The Yoruba and Akan Experiences


History and Philosophy

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Jane Guyer has clearly demonstrated in Marginal Gains (2004) that the ranking of people historically was linked to quantitative scales of money. Guyer's study focuses on the Igbo and Ibibio, two societies in which ranking was by achievement rather than ascription. How do ranking and money interface in other African societies with strong monarchical or centralized social systems? What impact does currency instability have on rank in such societies? This paper examines these questions. Focusing on the Yoruba of Nigeria and the Akan of Ghana, it evaluates the degree to which ranking has been affected by currency devaluation and economic instability since the mid-1980s.