Miracles and Extraordinary Experience in Northern Kenya
The Samburu of northern Kenya struggle to maintain their
pastoral way of life as drought and the side effects of
globalization threaten both their livestock and their livelihood.
Mirroring this divide between survival and ruin are the lines
between the self and the other, the living and the dead, "this
side" and inia bata, "that side." Cultural anthropologist
Bilinda Straight, who has lived with the Samburu for extended
periods since the 1990s, bears witness to Samburu life and death in
Miracles and Extraordinary Experience in Northern
Written mostly in the field, Miracles and Extraordinary
Experience in Northern Kenya is the first book-length
ethnography completely devoted to Samburu divinity and belief.
Here, child prophets recount their travels to heaven and back.
Others report transformations between persons and inanimate
objects. Spirit turns into action and back again. The miraculous is
interwoven with the mundane as the Samburu continue their
day-to-day twenty-first-century existence. Straight describes these
fantastic movements inside the cultural logic that makes them
possible; thus she calls into question how we experience, how we
feel, and how anthropologists and their readers can best engage
with the improbable.
In her detailed and precise accounts, Straight writes beyond
traditional ethnography, exploring the limits of science and her
own limits as a human being, to convey the significance of her time
with the Samburu as they recount their fantastic yet authentic
experiences in the physical and metaphysical spaces of their
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