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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Elders and 'frauds': commodified expertise and politicized authenticity among Mijikenda
Author:McIntosh, JanetISNI
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Geographic term:Kenya
secret societies
indigenous knowledge
External links:https://doi.org/10.3366/E0001972008000594
Abstract:Among Mijikenda of the Kenya coast, the male Kaya elders ('azhere a Kaya') - custodians of sacred spaces and customary knowledge - traditionally undergo years of secretive ritual training and tribulation in order to accrue both expertise and seniority. Over the past few years, however, a series of scandals have fragmented this group, casting them into the national spotlight while fomenting debates about the nature of elders' expertise. In the ethnically fraught context of Kenyan politics, politicians of Mijikenda and of other ethnic backgrounds have sought out and paid Kaya elders for ritual 'anointing' or 'blessing' in order to win Mijikenda allegiance in their political campaigns. As public cynicism toward these events has mounted and elders have traded barbed accusations of fraudulence, much discourse has revolved around an idealized and nostalgic model of the kind of expertise considered to be under threat. The author discusses the roles of morality, secrecy and ethnic identity in this model, suggesting that these ways of thinking about expertise are not merely reflections of 'tradition' but also emergent from presentist struggles for elders' personal power and for the collective identity of Mijikenda. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]