Preferred Citation: Swartz, Marc J. The Way the World Is: Cultural Processes and Social Relations among the Mombasa Swahili. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1991 1991.



1 Ethnographic and Theoretical Introduction

1. The term "Swahili" as used here applies only to the members of this group who are part of the Mombasa community. My findings are based solely on work in Mombasa, and it is my clear impression that there are substantial differences among the Swahili community in that city and those elsewhere on the coast and on offshore islands. This is so, I believe, despite important similarities among the different communities and the presence among Mombasans of a generally shared understanding of being similar to those of other communities. There is no doubt that there is a Swahili ethnic group, but there is a good deal of disagreement about its boundaries (Eastman 1971; Salim 1973:46-52; Arens 1975; Swartz 1978).

2. There are indications that Keesing has abandoned his "building blocks" model (see Keesing 1982, 1985). The comments here are directed to the position stated in Keesing 1970.

3. See Swartz and Jordan (1976:88-112) for my initial statement of the position that is substantially elaborated and modified here. With a few modifications, I use the same basic approach here to "status" and "role" as culturally constituted means for the distribution of culture. My first formulation of social structure and how it functions as an influence on behavior that is independent of culture's direct effect (ibid., 89-95) has been greatly expanded (see chaps. 9 and 10), but the original position presented in Swartz and Jordan is part of the overall view here.

2. There are indications that Keesing has abandoned his "building blocks" model (see Keesing 1982, 1985). The comments here are directed to the position stated in Keesing 1970.

3. See Swartz and Jordan (1976:88-112) for my initial statement of the position that is substantially elaborated and modified here. With a few modifications, I use the same basic approach here to "status" and "role" as culturally constituted means for the distribution of culture. My first formulation of social structure and how it functions as an influence on behavior that is independent of culture's direct effect (ibid., 89-95) has been greatly expanded (see chaps. 9 and 10), but the original position presented in Swartz and Jordan is part of the overall view here.

4. This is a point that has occupied students of social structure for a long time. In a 1953 paper, Fortes notes, "The concept of the 'person' as an assemblage of statuses has been the starting point for some interesting enquiries. A generalization of long standing is that a married person always has two mutually antagonistic kinship statuses, that of spouse and parent in one family context and that of child and sibling

in another" (1953:37-38). The concern with what I call "salience understandings" is also seen in Fortes's statement.

5. It is, of course, not relationship terms alone that serve to promote such conformity. For example, in Turner's (1968:214-216) analysis of the Ndembu girls' initiation ritual, nkang'a , he shows that certain objects, such as the white beads called kasenzi , are symbolically powerful. They evoke evoke understandings about the proper nature of social life ("status expectations," as they would be called here) in compelling ways that promote conformity. Thus, the beads stand for the desirability of fertility, motherhood, and good relations with affines.

6. The use of "role" is quite different from Goodenough's use of the same term to apply to an inclusive set of understandings (in my sense) applying to a broad status category (1965:16) or Keesing's use of "role" in a way that is closer to my use of "status'' (1970:424). It is, however, closer to its basic source, Linton's original use of role as "when [the status occupant] puts the rights and duties [of his status] into effect, he is performing a role" (1936:114), and to those who follow Linton's usage (e.g., Parsons 1964 [1951]:25).

7. Roles are necessarily identified by the names of the statuses of the participants in a relationship, so we speak, for example, of the "fisherman-fisherman" role and of the "fisherman-customer" role.

8. Social structure is always a product of culture in that its elements are the shared understandings that compose statuses. It may sometimes be, of course, that these shared understandings are themselves the product of other forces such as those of production, consumption, or reproduction. Even in these cases, culture is the proximal source of social structure.

2 Akher Zamani Mombasa Swahili History and Contemporary Society

1. It seems that Mombasa and the other Swahili cities of the east coast have not made much of an impression as indigenous African cities, even on specialists. Thus, in a paper on African urban studies, Mitchell (1966:37) says "towns of considerable size, outside the Arab north, existed in the Sudan and West Africa long before European industrial expansion into Africa."

2. It is likely that the preceding Swahili group, the one ruled by a Shirazi dynasty, was absorbed by the Twelve Tribes successors.

3. There is substantial disagreement about the actual role of a Persian or Shirazi element in Mombasa and more generally in Swahili history. Allen (1982:24-25) argues strongly that it is entirely unfounded to believe "that East African Shirazis must be ultimately descended from immigrants from the Persian Gulf. It is clear that, even if there were such immigrants and some of them played an important role in the early days, the Shirazi phenomenon is a purely African one which could have arisen without them." (Cf. Spear 1984, Nurse and Spear 1985:74-79).

Further, the exact reference of the term is difficult to pin down. Although "Shirazi" applied to specific families and even villages along the coast, it was used more by the colonial officials than in common speech (Prins 1967:14).

4. In addition to the Portuguese attacks and intermittent rule, the Somali-related Galla, a nomadic people from the northeast, were raiding and, sometimes, destroying

the north coastal mainland Islamic settlements, including those immediately adjacent to, if not actually on, Mombasa island (Oliver and Mathew 1963:114).

5. The term "tribe" may summon up notions of a separate ethnic group, but this is definitely an inappropriate reference for the word as it applies to the Mvita and other constituents of the Twelve Tribes. Taifa in Swahili usually refers to nation, and this gloss--with its reference to common origin and political unity--seems closer to the meaning properly assigned to the "tribes" of the Mombasa Swahili than does the usual significance of "tribe."

6. The fear of Galla attacks, which were continuing at the time, may have had a role in the Three Tribes finally moving onto the island where they were relatively more secure behind the arms of the Indian Ocean which form barriers around Mombasa (Berg 1968:47).

7. Although the Kilindini came to the Mombasa area from the south, their place of origin, as they themselves report it, is the famous Shungwaya on the mainland coast north of Mombasa from which they claim to be the advance guard of the movement of peoples to the south which began no later than the middle of the sixteenth century (Berg 1968:47). There is considerable controversy among historians as to just where Shungwaya was and what its role was in the beginnings of coastal and Swahili society (see Allen 1983 for an important review and an inclusive bibliography; also, ibid., 456-457; Spear 1974, 1977; Pouwells 1987:11).

6. The fear of Galla attacks, which were continuing at the time, may have had a role in the Three Tribes finally moving onto the island where they were relatively more secure behind the arms of the Indian Ocean which form barriers around Mombasa (Berg 1968:47).

7. Although the Kilindini came to the Mombasa area from the south, their place of origin, as they themselves report it, is the famous Shungwaya on the mainland coast north of Mombasa from which they claim to be the advance guard of the movement of peoples to the south which began no later than the middle of the sixteenth century (Berg 1968:47). There is considerable controversy among historians as to just where Shungwaya was and what its role was in the beginnings of coastal and Swahili society (see Allen 1983 for an important review and an inclusive bibliography; also, ibid., 456-457; Spear 1974, 1977; Pouwells 1987:11).

8. Cooper (1977:78) is probably right in noting that the immigrants may have married slave women, but since their descendants would lose their standing if such a marriage were admitted in their ancestry, it is to be expected that one is told that these immigrants married "noble" women.

9. Prins (1967:98-99) lists the relationships between Swahili taifa and neighboring peoples during the nineteenth century showing that like the Three Tribes, the Nine Tribes maintained patron-client relations (activated mainly for war but also involved with trade) with various of the other coastal peoples. Kindy (1972:47) lists the most important alliances as the Three Tribes with the Digo and the Duruma and the Nine Tribes with the Giriama, Rabai, Chonyi, Jibana, Ribe, Kauma, and Kambe.

10. The reason I say "if it has ended" is that although I have observed no activity involving the whole community as such since I began working in Mombasa in 1975, the framework for separate identity still exists in that most Swahili know what section they belong to. Several informants have mentioned the competitions between the two sections in the past, and, although the actual conflicts that sometimes have attended those competitions are decried, the wish to reinstate the competitions has been expressed by both younger and older men from both sections or confederations.

3 The Brotherhood of Coconuts Unity, Conflict, and Narrowing Loyalties

1. I collected the proverb quoted here in Old Town, and when I needed exegetical advice (as I did with all those whose use was not repeatedly seen and heard), I discussed them with a number of informants. My friend and associate, Sh. Yahya Ali Omar, who helped me with most aspects of this study and is prominently mentioned in the preface, is a particularly subtle and thoughtful interpreter of proverbs. I am especially grateful for his assistance in their interpretation and also for his active assistance

in their collection. Some of the proverbs I collected are also listed in Scheven's (1981) inclusive compendium of proverbs from most of the Swahili communities along the East African coast, especially those south of Mombasa.

2. According to Swahili informants, uzomba refers to Muslim beliefs or practices, so that the root of the term is clearly based in the common Muslim religion of the two groups. Indian Muslims, however, are not referred to by this term.

3. This dish is sometimes called ''mush" in the ethnographic, and other, literature but is too dense to be eaten with a spoon. It is eaten by using the thumb and first two fingers to break off a quantity from a bowl and roll this into a ball with the tips of the first three digits. Rice is eaten in the same way, and, given the Swahili preference for cooking that results in the grains retaining their individuality, a good deal of dexterity is required to dip the rice "ball" into its sauce or gravy ( machuzi ) without dribbling on one's face, clothes, and the mat on which one is seated.

4. A number of Swahili strongly supported the Germans in World War II, and there was a baraza whose main topic of daily conversation was the latest news that indicated German strength and success. Such actions as the rationing of rice may have had a role in the anti-British, pro-German feeling, which, however, had strong and deep roots in, inter alia, the antislavery campaigns and their promotion of Christian missions over the decades since they assumed an active role on the coast.

5. Stroebel calls these societies lelemama after the dance that they most frequently performed (e.g., 1979:56-58). Informants, however, consistently called these groups "vyama" when they mentioned them to me.

6. According to Stroebel, the competitive dancing involving women's groups still continued in the 1970s among women in Mombasa who were not considered waungwana by Twelve Tribes members (1979:181), but I have never succeeded in witnessing it. I was told of the existence of vyama similar to those of Old Town in another section of town among women, including, I was told, the descendants of slaves of Swahili families, whom the Old Town Swahili consider not to be of their group.

7. The boys in the sectionally based soccer teams do not seem to be interested in, or even aware of, the sectional differences between teams. The teams are formed according to neighborhood, and these are based on sectional alignment. This lack of explicit intention or awareness, however, does not prevent the long-standing sectional opposition from being reinforced by the competition between the teams since they unite with their teammates and against the opposition regardless of their not using the names "Nine Tribes" or "Three Tribes."

8. Gluckman (1963:1-2) makes a concise statement of these dynamics in his BBC lectures:

This is the central theme of my lectures--how men quarrel in terms of certain of their customary allegiances, but are restrained from [community-destroying] violence through other conflicting allegiances which are also enjoined on them by custom. The result is that conflicts in one set of relations, over a wider range of society or through a longer period of time, lead to the re-establishment of social cohesion.

9. The "secret wives" are seemingly rather rare now, but they still exist and are sometimes referred to as suria , "slave wife," as they were when they actually had that status. Informants say that men took some of these wives from among the descendants of their family's slaves, as their fathers and grandfathers had from the slaves

themselves, until just a decade or two ago, and according to some informants, this is still occurring. However, the rising cost of living is making it difficult for most men to support more than one household. In my long experience among the Swahili, I know of only one man who has two wives whom he openly treats as such and who are publicly known to be his wives. In this case, one wife is a Swahili and the other is a member of another ethnic group from which some Swahili slaves came.

10. The Swahili value siri, privacy (secrecy is not too strong a word), and are extremely reluctant to discuss even the most prosaic personal matters such as how many children they have or who shares their houses. Faut de mieux much of my information comes from individuals who do not share the value on siri as strongly as the majority do. My only census data come from asking such individuals to tell me who lives in specific houses and how they are related to one another. During the fifteen years I visited the Swahili, I never overcame the general reluctance of most individuals, including some men with whom I maintained friendships of years' duration, to discuss even routine family matters. The sources of this reluctance are examined in chapter 4, but there can be no doubt that it has limited my information, as it will, I am certain, the work of any others who study this community.

11. The word "baraza" refers to the benches built into the front of a common style of Swahili house and the gatherings of men that take place, ideally on these benches, on a fairly regular basis--usually between the magharibi (postsunset) and isha (final) prayers. The word baraza in standard Swahili (i.e., as taught in Kenyan schools) refers to the sitting room or reception room of a house and, by extension, to meetings held in such rooms. I wrote a good deal about the "baraza" among the Bena of Tanzania (e.g., Swartz 1966) where the term refers to dispute settlement sessions sometimes held in the reception room of a chief's or headman's house. This latter usage does not apply to the Swahili.

12. Until the late 1970s, weddings focused on the bride's virginity and, secondarily, on the groom's potency as demonstrated by bloody sheets brought out by the woman's sexual adviser (a grandmother or a woman descended from family slaves) and exhibited to the multitude with loud beating on a drum (see Swartz 1983). Informants say that this was extremely stressful for the groom and hardly less so for the bride, who had long been told that her wedding night would be the most painful experience of her life. The practice seems to have been abandoned as of the early 1980s. Now couples are married secretly, and the rather modest wedding celebration is held weeks after its consummation when the union is publicly announced.

4 He Who Eats with You Kinship, Family, and Neighborhood

1. In the Swahili language, gender is not noted, so the gloss "he/she" would be more nearly precise. Since it is cumbersome, I will follow general practice in the literature and use the masculine pronoun with the understanding that the original is without gender reference.

2. Up to and following World War II, the members of an mbari attended weddings as a subunit within their taifa (see chap. 2). Those giving the weddings distributed the materials for betel nut chewing by taifa (see chap. 2) with a subdistribution by mbari.

3. It is worth noting that a term, wajoli (sing. mjoli ), is used among people who were, or whose families were, slaves belonging to the same family of waungwana (i.e., free-born community members). Wajoli is not a kin term, but I am told (I have never heard it actually used and would be surprised if it still were since the status of slave descendant has very few openly avowed members) that it is a way of calling attention to the fact that those who refer to one another by it are "like kin," as one informant put it.

4. Several young men who were in conflict with their fathers told me that they did not have to worry about their fathers withholding radhi because there was no proper basis for the fathers to do that. Only, they claimed, if they behaved contrary to Koranic prescriptions would God actually give weight to a father's, or presumably a mother's, withholding of radhi.

5. Fathers, like mothers, say of a child who has behaved in an intolerable way, "Matumbo yangu hakuzaa" (My womb has not borne), i.e., they disclaim the child as not being their issue.

6. Cousin marriage is viewed as "easier" in that the parents of the new couple know one another and are unlikely to raise any difficulties. A badly regarded young man (generally so because of rowdiness, poor prospects, or bad reputation) is likelier to marry a cousin than a nonrelative because, I was told, the bride's family "wants to help their relative." Similarly, a young woman with a bad reputation (much rarer than for males) will also marry a cousin more often than a nonrelative, and the same is true for women who simply have no outsiders asking to marry them. Cousin marriage is also easier because quarrels between the spouses are likelier to be adjudicated by their families rather than exacerbated.

7. Elderly women, but not men, are properly greeted with the expression, Shika mo (said to be a form of "shika mgoo," embrace [your] foot) as a sign of the respect in which they are held, and this is true not only of kin of the parental and grandparental generation but of all elderly members of the community.

8. Not giving money to sons may contribute to a man's positive evaluation in the father status when the evaluation is by other fathers, neighbors, and, sometimes, wives. The evaluation by the son, however, is at least sometimes highly negative and the father is evaluated as not having shown love. As chapter 8 shows in detail, the importance of the statuses of both the evaluated and of the evaluator are quite as important in determining judgments for general expectations as it is for specific.

9. There are Swahili in the restricted sense I am using the term who live outside Old Town in the area immediately to the west of the boundary formed by the Digo Road. Because of my focus on the Old Town group, I spent time in only one household in this area, called Majengo, whose residents are mainly members of Mijikenda and inland ( barani ) ethnic groups. Old Town Swahili say that the descendants of slaves once owned by Swahili families live here as well as some waungwana who through financial reverses, sometimes generations before, lost their Old Town homes. This last may be why the family I visited was here rather than in Old Town, but I never established that that was so.

10. A woman was weeping inconsolably at the funeral of her stepfather who had not married the woman's mother until the woman was fully mature. "Mazoeizi," she wept, "mbaya kuliko upenzi" (Accustomedness is worse [more painful] than love).

11. People do rent rooms in their houses to nonrelatives, but the few cases I have

both cvvensus data for and a personal knowledge of who lives in the house suggest that "roomers" are not included in answer to questions about who lives in the house.

12. The verb and noun should be in quotes because adoption involves the adoptive parents taking on the sole rights and duties of parents, whereas this is not the case, as will become clear, with wazee walezi ("adoptive" parents) who share these rights with the wazee wazaazi (birth parents). For the sake of brevity, however, I will henceforth use "adopted" without quotes.

13. Hanithi is a word that applies to passive homosexual males and also to men who are impotent. A community member with serious physical disabilities was said to have remarked several times that he would prefer to be referred to as "hawezi" (He is unable) rather than as "hanithi."

14. It is impossible to say precisely how many girls and young women I have talked to over the years. In 1976 and 1980, my friend, the late Gamal Khan, arranged group interviews for me with Swahili students at Coast Girls' High School. There were a total of 65 in those interviews, but less than half participated actively. In addition, I have interviewed 23 girls and young women in private sessions at their homes or the homes of their relatives. I have had no group interviews with boys or young men but have had private, lengthy interviews with 17 and briefer talks with many more.

15. In a third case, a young woman was to marry a Persian Gulf Arab who was going to take her with him when he returned to his homeland. She did not directly oppose her family's decision but expressed serious misgivings about leaving Mombasa, her friends, and relatives and living in a society where the restrictions on women are greater than they are in contemporary Old Town. She was subsequently possessed by a pepo (a djin or spirit) who, when asked by a spirit medium ( mganga ) what she, the possessing spirit, wanted, replied through the medium, "Sitaki kilembe. Nataka msuti" (I don't want a turban [man]. I want a suit-man [i.e., a "modern" man]). Her parents called off the wedding and she recovered.

16. A young man told me that there are young, unmarried women in the community who are willing to engage in anal or oral sex but not intercourse because they want to preserve their virginity. Although another young man agreed this was so when I asked, a number of others denied it and said that few if any community women will engage in sexual activity of any kind before marriage even if there is reason to think they would like to.

5 Understanding is Like Hair Limited Cultural Sharing and the Inappropriateness of "All by All" and "Some by Some" Models for Swahili Culture

1. Children under 12 years of age were excluded, as were married children.

2. A fuller description of Kahl and La Jolla can be found in Swartz 1982 a :317-318. Comparisons involving various aspects of cultural sharing among the Swahili and all four of the other groups in that earlier study are found in the 1982 paper.

3. A rather different and less satisfactory explanation for this is offered in Swartz 1982 a :323-324.

4. Since in Wallace's view, there is only very limited sharing, but social life goes on, its basis must be provided through what he called "the organization of diversity"

(1970:24). Wallace's own view about the relation between culture and social life is somewhat obscured by his taking what seems to be two different positions on the definition of "culture." First, he tells us, "culture . . . becomes not so much a superorganic entity, but policy tacitly and gradually concocted by groups of people for the furtherance of their interests, and contract, established by practice, between and among individuals to organize their strivings into mutually facilitating equivalence structures" (ibid.). Culture, as defined in this statement as a contract, obviously influences social processes. Later (ibid., 37), however, he approvingly quotes Radcliffe-Brown's remark, "To say of culture patterns that they act upon an individual . . . is as absurd as to hold a quadratic equation capable of committing a murder."

6 Close One of Your Eyes Concealing Differences Between the Generations and the Uses of "Tokens"

1. I am told that the Swahili shave off all body hair save that around the eyes. Beards are seen in Old Town, of course, but those having them are either unconnected to the Swahili community (often unassimilated Ibadhi Muslims from Oman) or young men of the sort to be discussed in this chapter.

2. "Adoption," discussed in chap. 4., presents a special case. The adopted children are treated as "own children" by the adoptive parents (often siblings of the birth parents), but the birth parents retain their interest and concern as well.

3. I am grateful to Michael Downs for doing this coding.

4. Some Swahili have a small callus in the middle of their foreheads. A young man told me that some young people, when no one is around, rub their foreheads against wood or other substances to induce and speed the formation of the callus. It is understood that a callus on the forehead comes from much prayer, involving, as the evolutions in the five-times-a-day prayer performed by all pious Muslims do, pressing the forehead on the ground. A callus is, therefore, a token of piety based on the understandings that guide prayer and given by its owners to all those who notice it.

5. The possibility that a certain proportion of what is found in the ethnographic literature must be viewed as tokens, rather than guides, deserves serious consideration.

7 Liking Only Those in Your Eye Relationship Terms, Statuses, and Cultural Models

1. There is no necessity for statuses to have names, although many do. They are recognized, both by observers and community members, according to members meeting criteria set out in understandings that may, but need not, include their being labeled in speech. Those who follow the understandings that are called "etiquette" in English are labeled as "polite" in English, and this is a status label. So far as I know, there is no commonly used label of a comparable sort in the Swahili language as used in Old Town, although the term "mpole" is used this way by members of at least some other groups who speak Swahili as a second language. Nevertheless, those Swahili who are considered to follow the understandings concerning proper greetings, what to say on getting and giving gifts, and so on are categorized together. They have

expectations associated with them when that category is taken as a salient one for them, and these do not apply to those not in this category.

2. I am both called and referred to as "Professor" in Old Town by all but my closest friends, who still use that title in reference but call me "Marc." During the fieldwork period, there had been no anthropologist working in Old Town, but there had been several historians and linguists. The idea that I was a student of Swahili society was taken to mean that I wanted to know about history, folk tales, proverbs, and language.

3. "Multiplex" and "simplex" apply to relationships. Extending the concepts to statuses has the difficulty that, as noted, the statuses in multiplex relations can be involved in simplex relations. Even though the reverse is not true, it may be that confusion is possible from speaking of "multiplex statuses" instead of "the statuses involved in multiplex relationships.'' The economy in the less strict usage, however, justifies the risk.

4. A fair number of late-middle-aged and elderly Swahili women have spent their lives in the rather strict separation of the sexes ( tawa ) followed in this community and have never ridden a bus. Some of them call buses "Kenya" because the bus company operating within Mombasa is the Kenya Bus Company and has been for many years. When referring to the country, I have heard an elderly woman say "Kenya, si gari, nti" (Kenya, not the vehicle, the country).

5. Multiplex relationships can, of course, supersede simplex relationships, and the statuses appropriate to the simplex relationship may not be employed. I got on a matatu (a jitney bus) with a Swahili friend and the conductor did not ask my friend for his fare as he did everyone else. When I asked what happened, my friend told me that the conductor had been his pupil in school and never asked him for a fare. Even in these situations, however, the mutual identification is unavoidable if more complex.

6. During British rule, there were members of the Swahili community who held positions in the colonial administration. In addition to teachers in the government schools, Old Town men were employed in the native administration where they served under Britons but had substantial authority of their own. Their ranks were kadhi (judge in Islamic courts), mudiri (administrator of the second rank either supervising minor areas or being assistant administrators in larger ones), and liwali (top administrators in major areas so that there was a liwali for Mombasa and a superior one for the Coast Province).

7. The similarity of "general expectations" to legitimacy as a basis for political power is intended. "Compliance," I wrote regarding legitimacy, "is motivated by the belief (which may be only vaguely formulated) that at some time in the future . . . [the locus of legitimacy] will satisfy the compliers' expectations" (Swartz, Turner, and Tuden 1966:14-15).

8. While interviewing a group of high school girls, I said that although men of their own community had told me that girls and women were less rational than boys and men, I did not necessarily share that view. Hands shot up all over the room, and several girls heatedly said that it was God's will that girls and women be less rational than men but that that did not mean they were less intelligent or good. Why, they asked, was I denying what was obviously true, part of God's plan, and a perfectly honorable state for females?

9. The dialect of the Swahili language spoken in Mombasa, Kimvita, is one of the several dialects spoken in different Swahili communities along the coast. The Swahili spoken throughout Kenya as well as in Tanzania, Uganda, the eastern Sudan, northern Mozambique, and elsewhere is not viewed by the Swahili people as the true and proper version of their language. It is true that most non-Swahili who speak the language learned it in later childhood or adolescence as a lingua franca. It is the first language of the Swahili themselves whose version has not been subject to the decisions of the colonial Interterritorial Swahili Committee, which regularized the grammar and ruled on proper usage beginning in the 1920s and continuing until independence.

10. Adult men, over 30 or so, fought with weapons in the few accounts I have of their fighting. The traditional walking stick, bakora, was used as a weapon (see chap. 3), and at least some men carried a knife. Younger men are reported to fight with their hands when they fight, but this is also rare.

8 Tongues are Spears Shame and Differentiated Conformity

1. The Swahili word that I am rendering as "a-i-b-u" can also be spelled "a-y-b-u." The difference represents a slight difference in pronunciation, and following fairly close attention to the word while in Old Town in summer 1988, I am inclined to believe that the spelling used here is nearer the way most community members pronounce the word. Akida et al. (1981:4) is the only dictionary listing the term and the spelling there is a-i-b-u.

2. Acknowledged polygyny, as noted in chapter 4, is extremely rare, but polygyny involving secret marriages may be more common. As would be true anywhere, getting information about such practices is difficult. In this community it is, if anything, even more so.

3. Predictability is necessary to continuing social relations, but it is not sufficient. Most who are familiar with lions confidently predict that they will eat you. This does not usually lead to a social relationship.

4. It is not entirely clear where mature women and young women fit in this. My mainly male informants say that the youths who misbehave are always male and that the mature women are not around (being subject to tawa, the separation of the sexes) to see them doing it, so that it is always young men who become sick because of their misbehavior in the presence of mature men. It could be that young women who misbehave in the presence of mature women also become sick from mato ya wazima, but I have no information on this to indicate whether this is or is not so.

5. This seems to function in the way jito, the evil eye, does but is said to be entirely different in that husudu, jealousy, is absent.

6. Most informants say that women and girls should not go to the movies as a general part of their not going out in public save for school and, increasingly, work. Some families, however, allow their daughters to go to the special women's showing of Indian films that are mainly patronized by women from the large Indian Muslim community in Mombasa. In the mid-1980s, I have seen young Swahili women attending Western films with other women, their brothers, or, sometimes, their husbands.

9 Leaning on the Cow's Fat Hump Medical Choices, Unshared Culture, and General Expectations

1. My research on understandings concerning the body and illness was in two distinct phases. I spent a good part of the time I was in Old Town during summer 1987 interviewing three practitioners of what they and others said was "traditional Swahili medicine." I also talked to a number of other informants who viewed themselves as "interested" in medical matters and who proved to be remarkably well informed. This last group included women who are known for their medical knowledge by their families and neighbors and who sometimes actually treat the latter, something men who were not "doctors" seem never to do. I returned in summer 1988 and spent most of my visit interviewing people, chosen because they were willing to be interviewed and had reported themselves as ill or having recently been ill. These informants were not screened for their knowledge of or interest in medical matters or their lack of it. I also interviewed some who advised the first group on how to deal with their illnesses.

2. The Republic of Kenya provides its citizens with free medical care at government facilities including a number in Mombasa and a large hospital in Old Town itself. Medications have to be bought, however, and a considerable number of the members of the Swahili community consult private physicians and use one of the several private hospitals in Mombasa. Private physicians were charging between $2 and $5 for a consultation in 1987. Medications are mainly imported but are not subject to import duty and seem slightly less expensive than in the United States. Given the incomes of Swahili families where more than $3,500 a year is considered prosperous and half of that is taken as an acceptable income for a small family, these fees and costs are by no means low, but many people manage to meet them anyway.

3. This herbal doctor rejected my offer of $12 for an hour or less of interviewing but, in the end, saw me and answered my questions willingly and without charge. The other two herbal doctors were obviously quite pleased with their honorarium, and I am quite sure I would not have been able to continue interviewing them had I not paid it.

4. These twigs are sold at small shops throughout the Swahili section of Mombasa. They are typically cut from either one of two trees, Salvadorus persica or Dobera loranthifolia , but vendors sometimes substitute others when these are not available.

5. All treatment involves the danger of side effects resulting from the excessive effectiveness of the treatment or from an unwanted interaction of the disease and its treatment. Excess success in removing an excess can result in the appearance of symptoms of a new excess that is opposite to the one originally being treated. For example, the attempt to lessen excess hot can produce symptoms, or even full-blown illnesses, of excess cold or the treatment can lead to excess hot, manifesting itself in abdominal difficulties and expressing itself in pain in the teeth, neck, and jaws. Some part of the tabibu's skill consists in his or her ability to compound medications that, together with the prescribed diet, will correct the existing imbalance without inducing a new one.

6. A "penny" is a Kenyan ten-penny piece that weighs approximately 28 grams.

7. The Swahili do have understandings that hold individuals can be harmed by the malice of others in rather the same way the Azande do. Some of these have been

mentioned in chap. 7 where envy was seen to be a destructive force through the operation of mato, the evil eye. In addition, Swahili understandings include those that see persons of bad will as able to use jins as agents or to employ sorcerers from other ethnic groups to harm their enemies. When people whisper of an illness, kuna makono wa mtu (there is the hand of a person), they are referring to sorcery in most instances. However, most Swahili do not understand most illness to result from "the hand of a person," and a considerable number believe that illness is never caused in this way.

8. The hypothesis that the relationship goes the other way--that the views of social morality are strengthened by the importance of balance in body understandings--cannot be dismissed, of course. My evidence about this hypothesis is slender, but it may well be true or, as is even more likely, the understandings strengthen each other through an interaction.

9. It could be that the patients had no very well formulated view of how the body worked but, nevertheless, thought that herbal doctors--or, equally possibly, hospital doctors--had views they approved of. There is, however, no evidence to support this view. Patients seemed either surprised at or uninterested in the implied suggestion that they might have substantial views of the body's functioning and illness's sources or that they should be concerned about the correspondence between their own understandings of how illness comes about or is cured and those of the therapists who treat them. In most cases, informants seemed indifferent to differences in approaches to illness and were concerned only with success in treating it.

10. My work with the Bena who live several hundred miles south of the Fipa shows that Bena laymen have understandings about disease similar to those of the Fipa, but, unlike the Fipa, many of the same understandings were held by Bena experts as by Bena laymen (Swartz 1969 b ). It is notable that jealousy is understood by laymen, experts, or both as a major source of illness in such diverse African societies as Fipa, Bena, and Swahili as well as in societies on other continents such as the Gujerati of India (Pocock 1973). The relation of jealousy to illness suggests the presence of some cultural organizations of similar sorts in quite different societies despite differences in economics, religion, kinship, and politics.

11. Advertising provides a set of understandings that can be used in place of those allowing the patient to choose a course based on his or her view of what is causing the illness. These understandings conveyed by advertising are often very broad, suggesting the suitability of what is advertised to a variety of problems. One of the most commonly encountered ads in Kenya is for Aspro, a headache, fever, and cold medicine. Its motto is Aspro ni dawa ya kweli (lit. Aspro is medicine of truth/genuine[ness], i.e., Aspro is genuine or true medicine).

12. The Walimu pray in the ordinary way for a sick person's recovery or for the preservation of his or her health. A few of them also provide a sort of medicine by writing Koranic verses in henna on plates and then putting water on the plates. The patient drinks the water with the dissolved henna in it.

13. As noted in the preface, the difficulties in getting informants in this community makes all data-gathering difficult. It would have been preferable to have as many male informants as female, but there is no evidence to indicate that what is said here applies only to women and that men have a broad and general set of understandings about medical care or get advice from people with whom they have simplex relationships. Similarly, the advisers of the patients in the original sample I was able to talk with

were all parents (8) or spouses (4), and I was not able to interview any advisers who were neighbors, siblings, or co-workers. I do not believe this affected the findings.

14. Garro (1986) found that there was little difference between curers and noncurers in the specific cultural elements shared, but curers and older people shared more with one another than young people shared among themselves. This latter part of Garro's findings are similar to those here in that advisers, who are older than patients in the Swahili group, do share more medical understandings with curers than young people share among themselves. It is not true in the Swahili group, however, that curers and others differ little in what they share. This may well be true because of the technical nature of what the "curers" (i.e., herbal doctors and hospital doctors) share in Mombasa as compared to what is shared among the comparable group in Garro's study.

15. The Swahili, as noted in chaps. 1 and 2, speak the Kimvita dialect of the Swahili language. Older people sometimes complain about outsiders (i.e., those who are not Swahili from any of the recognized communities along the coast) misusing the language and, especially, its form as taught in the schools of Kenya and used in public life. Everyone understands standard Swahili, and all but the oldest people can speak it without difficulty, but some are not pleased by it and avoid situations where they must use it.

10 A Wife is Clothes Family Politics, Cultural Organization, and Social Structure

1. In fact, cultural organization is not exactly the "result" of cultural distribution since the latter is partly as it is because of cultural organization. The nature of the relations among cultural elements is affected by the expectations in statuses and their roles since, in part, the expectations in relationships preclude following some understandings in favor of following others and require that yet others never be allowed to guide behavior in the relationship. In this and related ways, cultural distribution affects cultural organization. At the same time, the cultural elements are distributed among statuses, in part according to what is understood as more, less, and not at all appropriate for the different categories of people. This last is clearly a case of organization influencing distribution. Some cultural organization is governed by understandings alone and has nothing to do with their distribution (e.g., it is always better to be healthy than sick), but that source of organization aside, it is probably true that cultural distribution and organization are always in interaction.

2. Stroebel (1979:57) seems to interpret the proverb that opens this chapter to mean that a woman's clothes are among the things she can expect from her husband according to Muslim law. My slightly different view is that the proverb is used to mean that just as you cannot have a banana plant if it is not weeded, you cannot have a wife if you fail to provide clothes for her, and, in both, the requirements are taxing.

3. Holland (1987:240-243) reports a general tendency for the American college women she studied to exhibit more intense emotion about both gender types and school types than the men she studied did. Even if this difference in affectivity is generalizable beyond Holland's study, there may still be differences between her American college students and the Swahili in that the latter not only expect women to be more

emotional than men but they also say they should be, whereas that may not be so for the American sample.

4. Active relationships among women from different neighborhoods and, even, from different parts of the same neighborhood have become less frequent and less important over the period from 1975 and 1988 during which I did fieldwork. With the decline of large weddings, the occasions for large groups of women to gather have become less common, and the greater unwillingness of people to venture into the streets of Old Town, especially at night, has added to this.

5. During World War II, I was told, there was a pro-German baraza that devoted much of its attention to news or speculation indicating that the Germans were winning the war. This baraza began to break up after D day and was no more before the Allies crossed the Rhine. Despite some considerable proportion of the community favoring the British and their allies, there seems not to have been a particular pro-British baraza. This may be because most of the news-oriented barazas were mainly pro-British anyway.

6. There is a proverb that is mainly used by women who would like to stay and chat with a neighbor but are forced by the necessity of their household tasks to leave: Mwenye kibiongo halali kwa tani : The hunchback does not lie on his back; i.e., unavoidable necessity prevents one from doing what one wants to do.

7. This is one of those findings that needs to be handled with care. Sons who are willing to talk about relations with their fathers thereby demonstrate their rejection of the understandings holding that family matters should be kept strictly within the family, so that, given the importance assigned these understandings, few of them are likely to be among those deeply committed to the family as a group. This does not mean their information is false or worthless but only that it must be recognized that it comes from a rather special sort of family member and must be looked at together with other data.

8. There is some disagreement in the community as to whether saying, ''You are not my wife" three times constitutes a divorce regardless of whether it is said on the same occasion or whether each talaka (pl. talaka , as the divorcing statement is called) must be pronounced on a quite different occasion, normally a different day. In both cases, the reason there must be three, informants report, is that it would be wrong to divorce a wife in anger and the multiple talaka help ensure serious and enduring intent.

9. As noted in chap. 4, Stroebel's (1979:88) estimate of the divorce rate is one of every two marriages. Her estimate was arrived at in a way quite different from mine.

11 The Dynamics of Swahili Culture A Status-Centered View

1. This "basis for evaluation" is usually the behavior in the interaction, but sometimes it also includes accounts or other indications of the behavior of others not now in interaction.

2. The initial definition is also faulty in its failure to note explicitly that "culture" includes all understandings shared by any two group members. This omission has been dealt with in the discussions of the culture concept in chap. 1, chap. 5, and earlier in this chapter.

3. The few men who would talk to me about sexual matters agreed that sex with

a wife may be more restrained than is desirable, with this being especially true if she is a kinswoman, as the "main" wife is in a large minority of marriages. A suria, a "slave" wife, which is what most secret wives are, is never a true member of the Swahili community. She is often the child of a family once owned by a Swahili family, sometimes that of her husband. She does not command the deference a kin wife does and may not share the understanding, mentioned by several men, that a woman should not show pleasure lest she be thought an mkware, a woman with a strong--and dangerous--interest in sex. Since men are actually married (it requires only a single other male believer to solemnize a marriage) to their "secret wives," there is no sin involved however enraged the ''main" wife and her family would be should they find out about the marriage.

4. It may well be that no one needs to hold an understanding in order for it to be an effective influence on behavior so long as there is a belief that such an understanding is held by others. The Bena of Tanzania believe sorcery to be common, and many of their fellows practice it. Much of what many members of this group do is influenced by the understanding that sorcerers exist and have a body of understandings they follow in order to harm others (Swartz 1969).

It may well be, however, that, in fact, there are no developed understandings concerned with the details of ensorcelling people. That this may be so is suggested by the fact that all accused sorcerers denied that they knew anything about, much less practiced, sorcery. This denial would be expected since sorcery is severely punished, but the absence is also suggested by the fact that a number of Bena, having unable to find instruction in sorcery locally, had traveled hundreds of miles to the coast in the belief that sorcery techniques could be learned there. These travelers returned disappointed, complaining that they could find no one to instruct them there either. At the same time, people from the coast come to the Bena area to learn magic, and they too returned home having learned nothing except that sorcery.

5. Spiro's distinctions among levels of holding cultural elements is crucial here. "Sharing" understandings may entail holding understandings in such a way that they instigate behavior or, as here, involve nothing more than believing others hold the understandings. I am speaking of the latter as "not sharing," in the sense that sharing would involve at least some commitment to and influence by the understanding.

6. Gearing (1976 a : 184-187), 1976 b ) presents a strong case for the importance of interaction, "transaction" in "encounters" is how he phrases it, as a means whereby the cognitive mappings of different individuals come to change through association with one another, i.e., as they influence one another.

7. Statuses are always important to establishing situations and generally so outweigh other factors that they often seem to do it by themselves. The setting, the clothing of those involved, or even the kind of speech used can be important in establishing a situation, but these are almost always status identifiers and not independent determinants. If men always assumed the status "worshiper" when in a mosque, the setting would be a prior determinant of the situation. Since, however, other considerations affect the statuses assumed in the mosque (where men lounge and chat between prayers and where, sometimes, homeless men sleep at night), this setting is only a very partial status determinant as many other things are. Statuses are not, of course, assumed at whim. Sometimes they are produced by events external to the relationships of those present, and these events are the main determinant of the statuses and of the situation.

If the roof of the mosque were to fall in during prayer, the statuses of the worshipers would quickly become something else and the situation would cease to be one of prayer.

8. Group members never explicitly mention the understandings about how one should dress when asked what understandings are broadly shared. These understandings are almost surely part of that very large class that are similar to the rules of language in being broadly shared and followed but neither explicit nor consciously available without the prompting provided by the actual situation.

9. Ritual seems a likely source of tokens meeting the requirements just noted. In many rituals, those involved see others behaving in ways highly similar to their own, indicating a similarity of understanding fundamental to mutual prediction. More than this the similar behaviors--speech, singing, body movements--are concerned with the sacred, suggesting to at least some of those involved that the common actions imply that they are united in having similar views about nothing less than the nature of the supernatural and the meanings of existence. This believed-in similarity may well serve as an important foundation for confidence in the predictability of coparticipants in the rituals. Unlike Tuzin's residence "rules," behavior outside the exchange of tokens (i.e., in extraritual settings) is unlikely to contradict the tokens' import in any direct and unambiguous way. This is so because the ritual entails no directly observable behaviors beyond those involved in its own performance.

10. Holy and Stuchlik's (1981:26-30) discussion of the influence on social life of what they call "folk models" examines the ability of these models to influence and be influenced by other behaviors. I quite agree with the view about the dialectical relationship between models and action. Which relationship terms the Swahili use in which settings has to do with who is involved, what the goals of those involved are, and what their salient statuses are in the relationship in question. My interest, however, is to call attention to the ways cultural models presented through relationship terms operate to enhance awareness of and formity to common standards in interaction. I do not wish to suggest that their "political" significance (i.e., how they are used in individuals' pursuit of their own goals) be overlooked but only that their broadly cultural importance be noted.

11. The evaluation made by the mother is of "son as employee," which is a combination of the two statuses "son" and ''employee" and uses expectations from both. The son, however, need not combine expectations from the two statuses in guiding his behavior as an employee, though it is common enough for actors to combine expectations in multiplex roles with the expectations they are guided by in the statuses they occupy in simplex roles.

12. The term "wazima," mature person, is not limited to those who are what I call "arbiters." Anyone who is 35 or so is an mzima (plural wazima ), but only the most prestigious men among these are in the category I call arbiters.

13. This is the situation Gluckman with Mitchell and Barnes (1963) tellingly portrayed in showing that the village headman could not "win." If what he did pleased his colonial superiors, it displeased his village constituents and vice versa. Academic department heads sometimes portray themselves as in the same, impossible situation with respect to their colleagues, on the one hand, and the administration of the university, on the other.

14. It may be that in other societies evaluations in simplex relationships are as weighty, or even more so, than those in multiplex relationships. The values involving "independence" in "modern" cities suggest this, although the urban Swahili do not show it.

15. What leads people to make such interpretations is an extremely vital and, so far, unanswered question. Like legitimacy in politics, where "legitimacy" is used to refer to such beliefs as that a leader will "bring peace," "promote justice,'' or "establish general prosperity," the processes whereby general expectations are established and continued, as well as those by which they are deracinated, are little understood and deserve investigation.

16. The similarity between "general expectations" and "legitimacy," as well as between "specific expectations" and "coercion," as I have used the concepts in political analysis (e.g., Swartz 1967:30-37, 1975), is intended. I hope to explore their similarities further in subsequent studies.

17. It may be that people have different identifying understandings that lead to similar conclusions. That is, although it is true that all Swahili--and surely members of all other communities--identify those who are closest to them with unfailing reliability and are very frequently identified similarly by those others, it may be that different individuals use different means for doing this. If there were a substantial number of highly correlated "signs," such a finding would not be surprising. Thus, A recognizes B as a "friend" because B tells A things that would be shameful if told to others. B recognizes A as a "friend" because B can ask A for money or food whenever he wants to. The understandings that lead to these identifications are different, but they are highly correlated. Anyone you can ask for money or food is also someone who can be told things without shame and vice versa.

18. One of the most frequently used of these is the rather surprising, given who says it, "Your mother's cunt."

19. The established practice of calling cultural products "material culture" is not only a contradiction in terms but also blunts analysis by failing to direct attention to the consequences of the understandings that guide people in producing and using the products.


Preferred Citation: Swartz, Marc J. The Way the World Is: Cultural Processes and Social Relations among the Mombasa Swahili. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1991 1991.