Prescriptive Alliance and Ritual Collaboration
in Loma Society


Robert Selig Leopold

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Indiana University, Bloomington. 1991

Copyright © 1991
Robert Selig Leopold
All Rights Reserved



This study is based on fieldwork conducted in the Bonde-Wubomai Chiefdom, Voinjama District, Republic of Liberia, between April 1985 and April 1987. I am grateful to the Institute of International Education for a Fulbright Award which financed this fieldwork, and to Sigma Xi for a Grant-in-Aid of Research that allowed me to visit the chiefdom for a few months in 1982. The Indiana University African Studies Program kindly provided fellowships for language instruction, and the Indiana University Anthropology Department and the Office of Fellowships and Grants of the Smithsonian Institution provided fellowships for writing the dissertation. I thank each of these institutions for their generous financial support.

I owe an enormous debt to Ivan Karp for supervising my studies at Indiana University, for sponsoring my research at the Smithsonian, and for his theoretical insight and unstinting friendship. I am grateful to the other members of my research committee — Paula Girshick, J. Gus Liebenow, and Anthony Seeger — for their critical reading of the dissertation and friendly advice. Several of the chapters profited from the comments of Smithsonian curators, fellows and staff; I wish to thank Brenda Farnell, Michael Fischer, Jack Goody, Jane Guyer, Corinne Kratz, William Merrill, Fred Reuss, and Richard Werbner.

My research in Liberia was co-sponsored by Cuttington University College and the United States Educational and Cultural Foundation in Liberia. I wish to thank Dr. Stephen M. Yekeson, past President of the University, for his kindness in arranging my affiliation with the Social Sciences Division, and Dr. Jane J. Martin, past Executive Director of the Foundation, whose patronage, friendship and hospitality we enjoyed throughout our stay. Warren d'Azevedo and Bill Siegmann gave moral support and very generously shared with me their extensive knowledge of Liberian ethnology. In Voinjama, Martha and Oren Robison, Rob Eiger, Marjorie Ramsdell and John Langlois graciously shared their homes with us and made our stay in Liberia more pleasant. I thank Fr. Joseph Parsell, OHC, for his hospitality and for allowing me to copy the daily log of the Bolahun Mission.

I gratefully acknowledge the members of the Liberian government who approved my research and facilitated my entrance to the field: Mr. Edwin Sackor, Minister of Internal Affairs; Mr. Thomas Briama, Assistant Minister of Internal Affairs; General Gayflor Y. Johnson, Lofa County Superintendent; Mr. Edwin Varfally Kollie, Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent; and Mr. Alhaji Fofana, Voinjama District Commissioner.

In Wubomai, my wife and I were guests of the late Josiah Jigbe Samuka, then Paramount Chief of Bonde-Wubomai Chiefdom, who very kindly arranged for us to live in his natal town. I am grateful to the paramount chief and to Mr. Salley Dorbor, Lower Workor Clan Chief, for their endorsement of my research and for their support. Mr. Joseph Bannah Morris, the paramount chief's assistant, toured the chiefdom with me at the beginning of my fieldwork and translated my research aims to the citizens of the towns we visited. I thank him for his diplomacy and companionship. Mr. Paul D. Korvah and Mr. Bartholomew K. Nama Monibah of Voinjama generously shared their knowledge of Loma history, and I thank Paul Korvah for allowing me to quote his unpublished history of the Loma.

Very special thanks are due to my fieldwork assistant, interpreter, and colleague, Mr. Reuben Mayango Forkpah Jallah, and to Mr. Sana Samuka, my good friend and mentor, who taught me nearly all I know about their society. I am sincerely grateful to all the citizens of Kpakamai who shared their lives with us. In particular, I wish to mention Gizi Ballah, the late Mawolo Ballayan, Akoi Buku, Kollie Buku, Robert Dorbor, Tarnuekollie Dorgbah, the late Flomo Gobe, Eesiah Gobu, Korpo Jallah, Zo Zuba Jallah, Borbor Kollie, the late Mayango Kologo, Kormassa Kolu, Kotikolu, Daworsu Morlue, Dennis Morlue, the late Massa Morlue, Kolu Samuka, Zo Kuelakpa Vayealla, Zogbo Wollie, Kormassa Wolovele, the late Norgbah Worvah, Kolibah Youlobah, and Kolibah Zowah.

Finally, I thank my parents, Beverly and Bill Leopold, for their endless support and encouragement, and my wife Allison Hawes Leopold, to whom I dedicate this work, for everything else.



The following orthographic conventions are used throughout:


a father
e hay
E bet
i bee
I bit
o sow
ö bought
u rude

nasalization of
w and y



6 voiced bilabial implosive
x voiced velar fricative.
ng voiced velar nasal (sing)

voiceless labiovelar stop (cookpot)

Initial consonant change is a feature of all Southwestern Mande languages. Some consonants 'weaken' when they follow a relatively 'strong' consonant. Although consonants change under a variety of conditions, the consonant mutations are regular (Dwyer 1981). The following are apt to be encountered throughout this work:

p/b > v/w
t/d > l
g/k > x/w
kp > 6
f > v
s > z

High and low tones are marked with the acute and grave accent respectively; thus hígh and lòw.

Alienable and inalienable possession are marked by a prefix or a change of tone; thus dèè, "my mother"; èlèè, "your mother"; déé, "his mother." The first person singular of all relationship terms except 'sister' carry a low tone. Sister (zèlà) is treated as an alienable noun; thus nàsèlàì, 'my sister.'


 Next: Chapter 1


Prescriptive Alliance and Ritual Collaboration in Loma Society
Copyright © 1991 Robert Selig Leopold