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Gridlocked in the city: kinship and witchcraft among Wayao street vendors in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania


Malefakis, Alexis (2018). Gridlocked in the city: kinship and witchcraft among Wayao street vendors in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, 88(S1):S51-S71.

Abstract

For a group of Wayao street vendors in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, kinship relations were simultaneously an advantage and a hindrance. Their migration to the city and entry into the urban economy had occurred along ethnic and kinship lines. But, as they perceived the socially heterogeneous environment of the city that potentially offered them opportunities to cooperate with people from different social or ethnic backgrounds, they experienced their continuing dependency on their relatives as a form of confinement. Against the backdrop of the city, the Wayao perceived their social relations as being burdened with an inescapable sameness that made it impossible to trust one another. Mistrust, contempt and mutual suspicion were the flip side of close social relations and culminated in accusations of "uchawi" (Swahili: witchcraft). However, these accusations did not have a disintegrative effect; paradoxically, their impact on social relations among the vendors was integrative. On the one hand, "uchawi" allegations expressed the claustrophobic feeling of stifling relations; on the other, they compelled the accused to adhere to a shared morality of egalitarian relations and exposed the feeling that the accused individual was worthy of scrutiny, indicating that relationships with him were of particular importance to others.

Abstract

For a group of Wayao street vendors in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, kinship relations were simultaneously an advantage and a hindrance. Their migration to the city and entry into the urban economy had occurred along ethnic and kinship lines. But, as they perceived the socially heterogeneous environment of the city that potentially offered them opportunities to cooperate with people from different social or ethnic backgrounds, they experienced their continuing dependency on their relatives as a form of confinement. Against the backdrop of the city, the Wayao perceived their social relations as being burdened with an inescapable sameness that made it impossible to trust one another. Mistrust, contempt and mutual suspicion were the flip side of close social relations and culminated in accusations of "uchawi" (Swahili: witchcraft). However, these accusations did not have a disintegrative effect; paradoxically, their impact on social relations among the vendors was integrative. On the one hand, "uchawi" allegations expressed the claustrophobic feeling of stifling relations; on the other, they compelled the accused to adhere to a shared morality of egalitarian relations and exposed the feeling that the accused individual was worthy of scrutiny, indicating that relationships with him were of particular importance to others.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
390 Customs, etiquette & folklore
Language:English
Date:23 March 2018
Deposited On:12 Feb 2019 14:16
Last Modified:25 Sep 2019 00:15
Publisher:Edinburgh University Press
ISSN:0001-9720
Additional Information:Volume 88, Supplement 1
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1017/s0001972017001140
Related URLs:https://www.recherche-portal.ch/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=ebi01_prod010844165&context=L&vid=ZAD&search_scope=default_scope&isFrbr=true&tab=default_tab&lang=de_DE (Library Catalogue)

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