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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Languages as an Ultra-Human Power and the Authority of Leaders as Marginal Men: Rethinking Kipsigis Administrative Chiefs in the Colonial Period
Author:Komma, Toru
Periodical:Senri Ethnological Studies
Geographic terms:Kenya
Great Britain
indirect rule
traditional rulers
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
Abstract:With the colonization of Kenya by Great Britain, a system of indirect rule through administrative chiefs was introduced to the Kipsigis people of southwestern Kenya. To the surprise of many, the system worked well. This paper analyses various factors responsible for this outcome, and in the process reexamines attributes of administrative chieftainship and traditional leadership among the Kipsigis. The author concludes that among the Kipsigis leaders were traditionally selected from amongst marginal men. Their ability and authority were connected to the concept of 'kat', a specific speech form with which one could inflict oneself on others by resorting to the ultrahuman power of language. Meanwhile, the ability of ordinary people, the central existence in society, was connected to the concept of 'chub', a defensive speech form which harnessed the ultrahuman power of language in order to counteract those who caused excessive infliction. The ability of the latter was represented by clans that specialized in cursing, who were given central authority in society. It seems that the Kipsigis had established a flexible political structure highly responsive to situational changes by incorporating marginal people with a special language ability into their social system as leaders. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum.