Based on several years of ethnographic fieldwork, the book explores life in and around a Luo-speaking village in western Kenya during a time of death: the epidemic of HIV/AIDS, which by the turn of the century had affected every aspect of sociality and pervaded villagers' debates about the past, the future and the ethics of everyday life. Central to such debates is a concern with touch in the broad sense of concrete, material contact between persons. In mundane practices as much as in ritual acts, touch is considered to be key to the creation of bodily life as well as social continuity. Underlying the significance of material contact is its connection with growth - of persons and groups, animals, plants and the land - and the forward movement of life more generally. Under the pressure of illness and death, economic hardship and land scarcity, as well as bitter struggles about the relevance and application of Christianity and "Luo tradition" in daily life, people found it difficult to agree about the role of touch in engendering growth, or indeed about the aims of growth itself.
Yet they drew upon shared experiences and imaginaries in their struggles to restore a forward direction to their lives.
Paul Wenzel Geissler teaches social anthropology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Oslo. He studied medical zoology in Hamburg and Copenhagen (Ph.D. 1998) and social anthropology in Copenhagen and Cambridge (Ph.D. 2003). Since 1993 he has worked in western Kenya, conducting first medical research and then several years of ethnographic fieldwork. The authors have published articles on kinship and ethics, religion and social change, and the anthropology of the body, healing and science. After studying social anthropology in London and Copenhagen, Ruth Prince is presently Smuts Fellow at the Centre of African Studies, Cambridge University. She has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in western Kenya since 1997, focusing on medical anthropology, kinship, religion and ritual.
Table of illustrations Acknowledgements Chapter 1. Introduction: Are we still together here?" A community at the end of the world The death of today Growing relations Being together Growth Touch Searching for another social practice Engaging boundaries Hygiene Knowing boundaries Changing perspectives? Coming together Visiting Chapter 2. Landscapes and histories Returns A road in time Kisumu Driving out Bondo District The lake Piny Luo - 'Luoland' A 'tribe' Luo sociality The reserve Return to Uhero Yimbo Muthurwa Making Uhero village (Re-)Settlement Belonging and ownership A modern Luo village 'Down' into the village 'Up' and 'down' KaOkoth Alternative 'modernities': the beach and 'Jerusalem' KaOgumba Chapter 3. Salvation and Tradition: heaven and earth? Dichotomies in everyday life Salvation Strong Christians Saved life Saved and others Faith in purity Tradition The Luo rules 'Born-again' Traditionalism Traditionalism, Christianity and The West Customary everyday life Searching ways Tradition in everyday life Everyday ritual The absence of ritual The omnipresence of ritual PART ONE Chapter 4. 'Opening the way': being at home in Uhero Introduction Our culture says that one must make a homeA" Relational flows: embedding growth in the home Tom's new home Moving forward - directions Openings and closures Order and sequence Complementarity and growth: coming together in the house Making a house Sharing the gendered house The living house Gender, generation and growth Struggling against implication The home in heaven 'The rules of the home' Powers of explication Practicing rules Cementing relations Traditionalism and other kinds of ethnography 5. Growing children: shared persons and permeable bodies Introduction Sharing Sharing or exchange? Sharing food Food, blood and kinship 'The child is of the mother' Changed foods and relations Sharing and dividing nurture Shared bodies Illnesses of infancy and their treatment Evil eye and spirits Medical pluralism? Herbal medicines Cleanness and dirt Sharing names Being named after Being called Sharing names and naming shares Conclusion PART TWO Chapter 6. Order and decomposition: touch around sickness and death Introduction Otoyo's home The sickness of a daughter Return of a daughter Kwer and chira Continuity and contingency Avoiding the rules Treating chira Caring The death of a husband Expected death She should remember her love!A" Death The funeral The dead body Loving people Conclusion Chapter 7. 'Life Seen': touch, vision and speech in the making of sex in Uhero Introduction Earthly ethics and Christian morality Riwruok Riwruok: outside intentionality Chira: Growth and directionality Chodo and luor: continuity and change Cleanness: Sex and separation The proliferation of 'Sex' AIDS and chira The fight against AIDS Pornography - 'bad things' Conclusion Chapter 8. Our Luo culture is sickA": identity and infection in the debate about widow inheritance Introduction Testing positive Becoming a widow Contentious practices A tough head Tero Independence Alone Inheritance and infection Past and present tero Fighting tero Deprivation and property Inheriting HIV - fears about women's sexuality and social reproduction Turning tero into a business Ambiguous heritage: tero as source of identity and infection 'Our Luo culture is sick' 'The most elaborate and solemn ritual': tero is our culture Sanitising Luo culture? Conclusion PART THREE Chapter 9. How can we drink his tea without killing a bull?A" - funerary ceremony and matters of remembrance Introduction Funerary ceremonies Funerals in Uhero Funeral commensality Returning to the funeral Osure's sawo An Earthly feast Rebekka Eating the sawo Traces of the past 'Sides' Baba Winston's memorial A Christian funerary celebration Debates The service Remembrance Conclusion Chapter 10. The land is dyingA" - Traces and monuments in the village landscape Introduction Cutting the land Ownership Land, paper and power Living on the land Gardens and farms The bush Fences At home Traces and inscriptions Getting one's land - finding one's place Conclusion Chapter 11. Contingency, creativity and difference in western Kenya Creative difference Old and new dealings with hybridity Are we still together here?A" Postscript Ka-Ogumba 2007 Bibliography Books and Articles Newspaper articles and electronic media Music Index