Skip to Main Content
Beyond Bodies

Beyond Bodies: Rain-making and Sense-making in Tanzania

Todd Sanders
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Beyond Bodies
    Book Description:

    Beyond Bodiesexamines the Ihanzu sensibilities about gender through a fine-grained ethnography of rainmaking rites.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2809-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  5. Language and Orthography
    (pp. xvii-2)
  6. Introduction: Rainmaking, Gender Epistemologies, and Explanation
    (pp. 3-27)

    Africa is an arid continent. Or at least this is true for vast expanses of it. Small wonder, then, that rainmaking practices have long proved crucial to countless people who live there, in the most diverse settings and circumstances. Yet for more than sixty years – since the 1943 publication of the Kriges’The Realm of a Rain-Queen, to be precise – anthropologists have largely forgotten this fact. This neglect, I hasten to add, is only partial. A few monographs on African rainmaking have appeared in recent decades.¹ But their number is negligible. For whatever reasons, and in spite of its ongoing...

  7. Chapter 1 Ihanzu Everyday Worlds
    (pp. 28-68)

    Tanzania is located in East Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean between Kenya and Mozambique (see map 1.1). The former British protectorate of Tanganyika, Tanzania gained independence in 1961.¹ The nation covers just over 945,000 square kilometres, an area about four times the size of Britain, and has a population of around 38 million. Tanzania’s landscape and climate vary: tropical along the coast, temperate in the northern and southern highlands, and semi-arid to arid across the central plateau. Different climatic zones support different types of agriculture, which form the foundation of Tanzania’s economy. Agriculture accounts for around half the national income...

  8. Chapter 2 The Making and Unmaking of Rains and Reigns
    (pp. 69-102)

    With little food and no more European goods to give to (and hopefully impress) local leaders, the tired German explorer C.W. Werther, followed by a nearly endless queue of even more tired trunk-toting porters, reached the Wembere swamps just north-west of Ihanzu. The year was 1893. It was the rainy season, and rain there was. Lots of it.

    As is common even in dry years, all the more so in wet ones, the Wembere swamps had flooded, making any passage a potentially perilous one. Rather than turn back, the party toiled determinedly for hours to construct a bridge across the...

  9. Chapter 3 Gendered Life-Worlds and Transformative Processes
    (pp. 103-122)

    Rainmaking rites aim to transform the land from dry and barren to wet and fertile. Central to this process – not only in Ihanzu but across the whole of sub-Saharan Africa – is gender, and the power that male and female together evince. African rainmaking rites are replete with gender and sexual motifs: male and female processes and objects comingle to transform the world. This is true not just of rainmaking, of course, but of countless rites across the continent from initiation to iron production. One issue of interest is how anthropologists explain such gendering.

    In Africa and elsewhere, to speak of...

  10. Chapter 4 Annual Rain Rites
    (pp. 123-138)

    As we saw in chapter 2, annual rainmaking rites (kũtema ilĩma) have taken place in the royal village of Kirumi for over a century. These rites usher in each new farming season and are meant to ensure the arrival of the new year’s rains. Like other rites in Ihanzu and beyond, these are replete with gender and sexuality in varied forms, in terms of the participants as well as the ritual objects and processes. While the previous chapter considered the issue of explanation, this one considers the related issue of how anthropologists imagine and represent such things in our writings....

  11. Chapter 5 (Wo)men Behaving Badly: Genders within Bodies
    (pp. 139-159)

    Some months had passed since the annual rain rites had taken place. Yet no real rain had fallen. When this happens, as it sometimes does, villagers take other measures to ensure the onset of the rains. These include ferreting out rain-witches (chapter 7), ancestral offerings (chapter 6), and holding women’s rain dances, the topic of this chapter. Thus for the second time on one unseasonably hot January day in Kirumi, the women danced naked and sang their way through the village, bellowing and gesticulating obscenities as they went. Men hurriedly removed themselves from their path, for fear of being caught,...

  12. Chapter 6 Ancestral Rain Offerings: Genders without Bodies
    (pp. 160-181)

    In January 1994, a few weeks after the women’s rain dance and still with no significant rainfall, a rainmaking assistant and diviner from the northern village of Ikolo paid a visit to another diviner in Ihanzu’s eastern village of Mkiko.¹ Some rain-witchcraft–related paraphernalia (a mixture of seeds, a gourd, and a burnt tree branch) had been discovered in their village, and they hoped to discover the identity of the rain-witch(es) in order to neutralize their powers. Although no rainwitch was in the end named – they rarely are in divination sessions – the ancestral spirits made it clear through the diviner’s...

  13. Chapter 7 Witchcraft, Gender, and Inversion
    (pp. 182-197)

    A discussion of making rain requires a discussion of thwarting it. That means witchcraft. Witchcraft, it has often been remarked, is about inversion. Africanist anthropologists and the peoples we study have long portrayed witchcraft as ‘the darker side of kinship’ (Geschiere 1997), as ‘kinship reflected in a dark, distorted mirror’ (Crehan 1997, 222–3). Where local notions of kinship and community collectively represent ‘the good society,’ witchcraft provides a terrifying counterimage by playing that image back to front (Beidelman 1963b; Middleton 1963). From this perspective, witchcraft reverses the normal and desirable, rendering it perverse and morally repugnant. Seeing witchcraft as...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 198-202)

    This book has aimed to provide a multifaceted picture of Ihanzu rainmaking. To this end, we have explored a variety of Ihanzu rainmaking rites and events – annual rites at the rainshrine; ‘rituals of rebellion;’ ancestral offerings; rain-witchcraft – as well as the locally inflected ‘logics’ that underpin them. Rainmaking is of the utmost importance to the women and men of Ihanzu. It sits central to their history. It forms a crucial part of who they imagine themselves to be. And its gendering is key to Ihanzu knowledge of transformative powers and processes in the world. But most of all, rainmaking is...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 203-224)
  16. References
    (pp. 225-248)
  17. Index
    (pp. 249-262)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 263-264)