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Beyond the Royal Gaze

Beyond the Royal Gaze: Clanship and Public Healing in Buganda

Neil Kodesh
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Beyond the Royal Gaze
    Book Description:

    Winner of the 2011 African Studies Association Herskovits Award

    Beyond the Royal Gazeshifts the perspective from which we view early African politics by asking what Buganda, a kingdom located on the northwest shores of Lake Victoria in present-day Uganda, looked like to people who were not of the center but nevertheless became central to its functioning. Drawing on insights from a variety of disciplines-history, historical linguistics, archaeology, and anthropology-Neil Kodesh argues that the domains of politics and public healing were intimately entwined in Buganda from the sixteenth through the early nineteenth centuries. Drawing on extensive fieldwork conducted throughout Buganda, Kodesh demonstrates how efforts to ensure collective prosperity and perpetuity-usually expressed in the language of health and healing-lay at the heart of community-building processes in Buganda. Kodesh's work offers a novel approach to the use of oral sources and opens up new possibilities for researching and writing histories of more distant periods in Africa's past.Beyond the Royal Gazewill appeal to students and scholars of health and healing, political complexity, and the production of knowledge in places where limited documentary evidence exists.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-2970-5
    Subjects: History, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. A Note on Ganda Names
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. 1 Public Healing, Political Complexity, and the Production of Knowledge
    (pp. 1-26)

    “That is where we gather to beat the drums and call the spirits,” explained Ssalongo Benedicto Walusimbi, a healer and prominent member of the Civet Cat clan, referring to the sacred site, orkiggwa(pl.biggwa), located on the clan’s principal estate. “The existence of a kiggwa is very important in Buganda,” he continued, “because it is where people who believe in their totems [clans] meet.” He then elaborated by describing how clan members gather at thekiggwato “talk about the past” and to “feast, drink, beat drums, and sing and dance in order to praise the spirits for having...

  7. 2 Genre, Historical Imagination, and Early Ganda History
    (pp. 27-66)

    Dynastic accounts of Buganda’s origins revolve around the exploits of Kintu, the purported founder of the kingdom and quintessential Ganda hero. Perhaps the best known of these foundational narratives, “Kintu and Bemba the Snake,” describes Kintu’s arrival in Buganda and his eventual defeat of the tyrannical ruler Bemba at Buddo Hill, in southern Busiro. According to most accounts of this narrative, upon overcoming Bemba, Kintu embarked on a journey through a series of places before eventually reaching Magonga, in Busujju, where he settled and established his capital. After residing at Magonga for many years, Kintu disappeared following an altercation with...

  8. 3 Clanship and the Pursuit of Collective Well-Being
    (pp. 67-97)

    In the previous chapter I argued that when listened to as an audience seated at a healer’s shrine might have done, the Kintu narratives can be understood as describing a series of changes in the practices of spirit mediumship and the expansion of territorial cults. As narrative accounts of the process according to which itinerant mediums sought out alliances by transforming territorialmisambwaspirits into regional, portable spirits, these narratives highlight the confluence of public healing and politics in early Ganda history. Convertedmisambwaspirits continued to operate at shrines located in specific territories. Yet the authority they initially derived...

  9. 4 Political Leaders as Public Healers
    (pp. 98-130)

    In this chapter I further explore the relationship between public healing and political authority through an analysis of one of the bestknown episodes in the Ganda dynastic narrative: the story of Prince Kimera’s triumphant journey from Bunyoro to Buganda. Most commentators have examined the narrative describing Kimera’s birth in Bunyoro and his eventual assent to the Ganda throne in search of clues about Buganda’s origins and its relationship with its once powerful neighbor to the northwest. Rather than probing the Kimera story for insights into Buganda’s dynastic past, however, I focus the analytical lens on the narrative’s circulation and reception...

  10. 5 Clanship, State Formation, and the Shifting Contours of Public Healing
    (pp. 131-174)

    The convergence of public healing and political authority discussed in chapters 2–4 compels us to reconsider the process of state formation in Buganda. The gradual emergence of a bureaucratic state apparatus and the militaristic nature of territorial expansion from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth century transformed deeply embedded concepts of collective well-being. Rather than effacing previous conceptions and practices, however, the state-formation process directed efforts to ensure collective well-being toward the maintenance of a more muscular political center. These undertakings prompted transformations in clan practices, involved innovations in the relationship between public healing and military endeavors, and...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 175-194)

    In January 2007 I had the unexpected opportunity to return to Uganda for a quick, three-week visit. At the top of my list of people I wanted to contact during this short stay was Morris Ssekintu, a man who had been instrumental in the construction and curation of the Uganda Museum in the mid-1950s. An artist by training, Ssekintu designed and built many of the models that fill the museum’s interior to this day. I had actually met Ssekintu five years earlier while conducting my dissertation research, when I had spoken with him at length about the history of the...

  12. Glossary
    (pp. 195-196)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 197-234)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 235-250)
  15. Index
    (pp. 251-264)