By Pat Caplan
African Voices, African Lives explores the realm of 'Mohammed', a swahili peasant residing on Mafia Island, Tanzania. via his personal phrases - a few written, a few spoken - and people of his family members, together with his ex-wife and one in all his daughters, he permits us to work out the realm via his eyes, together with the invisisble international of spirits which performs an important position in his existence. this data is collected via Pat Caplan, the anthropologist, over nearly 3 many years of speaking and writing to one another. She acts not just as translator and editor, but in addition as interpreter, bringing in her personal wisdom amassed from box information in addition to comparative fabric from different anthropological work.
through applying a mix of types - narrative and lifestyles background, ethnographic commentary, and the diary stored via Mohammed on the anthropologist's bequest, African Voices African Lives will make a major contribution to present debates in anthropology via grappling with matters raised through 'personal narratives', authorial authority, and with refexivity.
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Extra resources for African Voices, African Lives: Personal Narratives from a Swahili Village
For three years. I was already grown up when I left, and had my ambitions (tamaa) and could make proper choices. And I could participate in dances, of which there were many—mkwaju, kidatu, zuiya,7 the dances which young people like. So I managed to read four chapters [of the Koran] and then I left. I was called by an Arab man [who lived in the village] to work for him as a servant (‘boi’). And I also Plate 2 ‘I managed to read three chapters’: boy at Koran school copyingout an excerpt from the holy book onto a board (ubao) 32 A life hisory worked as a sailor—I used to go back and forth to Zanzibar.
Clifford and Marcus 1986) strike into the very heart of anthropology and its life-blood, ethnography, Introduction 17 provoking issues about ethics, ideology and epistemology, and questioning the rationale for the existence of the discipline. In many respects, attempts to use experimental genres such as personal narratives do not solve such problems—they may even exacerbate them. Utilising the voice of an informant may risk accusations of false credentialism (see Bell and Nelson 1989). It also raises other issues: how representative is the informant?
M. He cultivated fields of rice, cassava and millet jointly with mother. The work which she did on her own was to grow sweet potatoes, and cut raffia and dry it, plait it into strips, then sew them into mats and sell them. Father’s work was to fish with a canoe, both with traps and lines. When the tide was low he would put out his fish traps (madema). P. Was this to sell or just for the family to eat? M. Both to sell and to eat. But fish then were not like now. Today you pay 70 shillings for a bit of fish which you would have got for 5 cents in those days, and fish for which you pay 100 shillings nowadays, was only 10 cents in those days.