Mystical Power and Politics on the Swahili Coast
Title Details

310 Pages

23.4 x 15.6 cm

2 maps and 4 b/w illus.

Series: Religion in Transforming Africa

Series Vol. Number: 13

Imprint: James Currey

Mystical Power and Politics on the Swahili Coast

Uchawi in Pemba

by Nathalie Arnold Koenings

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Author
Traces changing visions of mystical power and authority on the island of Pemba, whose people's reputed resistance to outside rule has shaped the national narratives of both Zanzibar and Tanzania.

For two centuries, Pemba, the second largest island of Zanzibar, has been known by East Africans and outsiders alike as rich in dangerous knowledge. Despite Pembans' reputation for piety and deep Islamic knowledge,uchawi- 'mystical work and power', sometimes termed 'magic', 'witchcraft', or 'sorcery' - has long featured in diverse visions of their identity and as key to worldly power. Today, as traditional methods of securing agency are called into question and new ways proliferate, the mystical world is an intensely conflicted realm where the nature of power, ethical action, and reality itself is continually reframed.

This luminous ethnography follows Pemban notions of invisible and worldly power through the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964, the trials of multiparty democracy, the rise of Islamic revival, and intensifying neoliberalism. Through an exploration of rural imaginings of power, it argues that nations and the grammars that underwrite them are made in and by their peripheries, which give 'the centre' shape.  Highlighting the intersections of mystical practices, religion, and politics-as-such on the Swahili Coast, the book contributes new perspectives to studies of the imagination, power, and religious transformation in Africa, the Indian Ocean, and the larger Islamic world.
Introduction

PART I POWER
1. Kichawi dogsand Colonial Thinking
2. Ordinary Sorcery: The First Four Rooms of Uchawi's House
3. 'We Come to You Only as a Test': Uganga in Uchawi
4. The Sixth and Seventh Rooms: From Righteous Flight to Giving Lives in Turn
5. Uchawi as it Was: Power, Humour, Agony

PART 2 CRISIS
6. Revolution: Political Change and Mystical Authority
7. The Poetics of Loss: Hunger, Commodification, and the Withdrawal of Magic Books

PART 3 TRANSFORMATIONS
8. Emergenc(i)es: Politics and the Unseen
9. Islamic Revival, Dividing Jinns, and the New Uchawi

Conclusion: Locating Pemba Today

NATHALIE ARNOLD KOENINGS is Associate Professor of Anthropology, Literary Arts and African Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. Her publications about Pemba include explorations of historical memory, sung poetry and the creation of politicised space, food discourse as history, and language and materiality. She has also published fiction and translations of Swahili literature. Her current ethnographic research concerns human relations to animals on the Swahili Coast.

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9781847013842

June 2024

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9781805433231

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9781805433248

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Title Details

310 Pages

2.34 x 1.56 cm

2 maps and 4 b/w illus.

Series: Religion in Transforming Africa

Series Vol. Number: 13

Imprint: James Currey