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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Wordy Women: Gender Trouble and the Oral Politics of the East African Revival in Northern Gikuyuland
Author:Peterson, DerekISNI
Periodical:The Journal of African History
Geographic term:Kenya
gender relations
Women's Issues
History and Exploration
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Religion and Witchcraft
Cultural Roles
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/3647172
Abstract:This article explores conversion to the East African Revival in Gikuyuland, Kenya, in the 1930s and 1940s. Focusing on debates over the Revival at Tumutumu, a Church of Scotland mission in the northernmost Gikuyu district of Nyeri, the author argues that conversion to the Revival was one means by which Gikuyu women and men argued about moral and economic change. By linking the Revival to economic changes in 1940s Nyeri, the article raises new questions about the place of the Revival within the history of colonial East Africa. The late 1940s were a time of 'matata', disorder, and 'mgogoro', tumult, throughout the region. Rural capitalism attacked the material basis of Gikuyu gender order by denying some men land. Familial stability was at stake in class formation: landless labourers could scarcely be respectable husbands. Rural elders and revivalists offered contending answers to the problem of gender trouble. Literate male elders at Tumutumu Presbyterian Church used customary law and church bureaucracy to discipline young men and women. Revivalists, many of them women, talked: they confessed private sins vocally, cleansing themselves of sorcerous familial strife. Conversion was a necessary civil duty; in conversion, men and women freed themselves and their families from Christian sin and from the sorcerous burden of marital strife. Tumutumu's debate over Revival played out as a contest between the oral politics of conversion and the bureaucratic power of church elders. Notes, ref., sum.