Modern Cows and Exotic Trees: Identity, Personhood, and Exchange among the Iraqw of Tanzania (1)

By Snyder, Katherine A. | Ethnology, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

Modern Cows and Exotic Trees: Identity, Personhood, and Exchange among the Iraqw of Tanzania (1)


Snyder, Katherine A., Ethnology


This article examines forms of personhood and identity among the Iraqw of Tanzania. It explores how ideas of personhood have changed from the precolonial era to the present as the Iraqw have been incorporated into the wider regional, national, and global political economy. Drawing on the literature from Melanesia, it investigates how ideas of the individual versus relational person play out in an African context. It illustrates how Iraqw are, through exchange systems, connected to different communities and social networks, each with different emphases of the person. (Iraqw, East Africa, personhood, modernity)

**********

There is a widespread sentiment among the Iraqw of northern Tanzania about the differences between generations today. These differences are often framed in terms of "traditional" and "backward-looking" views versus "forward thinking" and "modern." An example appears in the following quote from a young Iraqw man: "I am a modern person. I don't believe in keeping herds of cattle like my father. That is a waste of time. People who are educated believe in moving forwards. I am planting trees on my land and growing cash crops. These will bring more development than `village' cattle." This difference in mindset accompanies changing views on the nature of personhood in Iraqw communities. Studies of personhood in Africa have benefited from analyses of Melanesian societies, where Strathern's (1988) landmark Gender of the Gif set in motion much fruitful debate about notions of the person. Lambek and Strathern's (1998) collection of cross-fertilization efforts suggests new avenues for investigation in all geographical locales. A related topic is the subject of identity. In much of the African literature, identity is often portrayed as a strategy deployed by actors to handle various events and situations, particularly in the turbulent postcolonial world. A recent volume seeks to explore the "cultural politics of identities in transition within postcolonial Africa [by examining the] disparate identity strategies emerging in everyday life" (Werbner and Ranger 1996:2). These strategies are deployed by actors to achieve particular aims. Yet the political and strategic nature of identity must also be complemented by attention to what is considered important in forming a person or actor in these societies. Identity and personhood exist in reference to each other, not in isolation.

This article explores the connections between the ideas of personhood and identity among the agropastoral Iraqw. It draws heavily on ideas explored in Lambek and Strathern's (1998) volume, particularly those of LiPuma (1998), who rightly points out, in something of a corrective to Marilyn Strathern's dichotomy of the Western individual versus the Melanesian "dividual," or relational person, that people act in ways that are both individual and dividual in all societies. After carefully examining the patterns that emerge from these practices and actions in a Melanesian setting, LiPuma demonstrates the need for paying attention to the effect of the forces of modernity present throughout the world. While Strathern's (1988, 1993) work has brought attention to how Eurocentric analytical models have limited analysis of personhood in non-Western contexts, studies that emphasize the relational aspect of personhood often ignore how the "dynamics of encompassment reconfigure local forms of personhood" (LiPuma 1998:54). This reconfiguration, or encompassment by global forces, in a Tanzanian context is the focus of this essay.

A recent review of studies of personhood critiques Euroamerican notions of society and the self (a term often used interchangeably with "person") and argues that these theoretical approaches posit a self that is "autonomous, propertied, self-interested, accumulative, and having independent agency--measured in terms of its power of control over others. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Modern Cows and Exotic Trees: Identity, Personhood, and Exchange among the Iraqw of Tanzania (1)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.