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For Money and EldersRitual, Sovereignty, and the Sacred in Kenya$
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Robert W. Blunt

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226655611

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226655895.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 23 September 2021

Inflationary Rituals: The Mau Mau Rebellion

Inflationary Rituals: The Mau Mau Rebellion

(p.60) 3 Inflationary Rituals: The Mau Mau Rebellion
For Money and Elders

Robert W. Blunt

University of Chicago Press

Chapter Three traces the effects of the unmaking and remaking of Kikuyu ritual in relationship to Christian understandings of the sovereign function of elders by reinterpreting the ritual life of guerilla fighters during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s. Critically engaging with Max Gluckman’s work, the chapter details how Mau Mau oathing rituals contained both supplementary violence and a dynamic of symbolic proliferation. Guerrillas introduced novel sign vehicles to oathing rituals on an ever-increasing scale as the war raged on. The chapter goes on to reconsider Mau Mau’s violent rituals alongside the colonial state’s ritualized spectacles of execution as rituals of the same type, both unfolding in what Gluckman termed a “unified social field” in which discourses about “tradition” and “modernity” were in fact being underwritten by the same political theology, a context in which elders had failed to control upstart juniors. Ultimately, Mau Mau oaths reflected an already deeply transformed notion of ritual efficacy, and were thus subject to the same crisis they hoped to arrest: a condition of epistemological murkiness around the exact nature of sovereign power, the source from which it was supposed to emanate.

Keywords:   Mau Mau rebellion, Max Gluckman, Kikuyu ritual, British colonialism, oathing rituals, tradition and modernity, ritual efficacy, sovereign rite

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