The introduction seeks to add to, but also move beyond more sociological analyses of elder authority by reviewing classic works on the eldership complex through the category of sovereignty. The work of scholars like E.E. Evans-Pritchard’s Nuer, Monica Wilson, and Paul Spencer constitute a platform for an historical anthropology of elderhood in their mutually supplemental attempts to define elderhood substantively, relationally, and diachronically. The introduction makes a case for the continued relevance of historical and critical approaches to the study of religion and politics. By attending to how Kenyans have popularly understood sovereignty over time, and how different social actors have attempted to exclusively protect, usurp, inhabit, and enact particular forms and processes of power and authority, the book asserts the ethnographic and historical basis for anthropological theory production.
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