Remembering Bodies: The (Im)materiality of the Memory of Violence in Mt. Elgon, Kenya

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1418 Van Hise Hall
@ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

ACS Work-in-Progress series

Speaker: Kevin W. Wamalwa ⎻ Joint PhD candidate, Anthropology and African Cultural Studies

From 2005 to 2008, Mt. Elgon, Kenya, experienced a brutal inter-clan land-related conflict between the Soy and Ndorobo groups of the Sabaot community. Based on ten months of ethnographic fieldwork in the region, I examine how material forms of memory in specific locations, spaces, landscapes, and objects intersect with the personal embodied memories of violence. This focus on materiality and corporeality of memory draws on extensive anthropological literature on collective memory but goes beyond it to place personal bodily experiences at the center of analysis. I pay attention to how people in that region construct and reshape memory in social contexts without material signifiers like gravestones and monuments and how they recreate memory collectively, especially in the immediate post-conflict contexts where there is no established official memorialization. Drawing on the Bakhtinian concepts of dialogism and chronotope, I argue that absence acquires meaning and becomes present in a triadic relationship of the body, place, and time. Further, remembering as a social practice is produced on and through bodily experiences that are emergent in specific spaces and time, and it represents people’s embodied memories of the violent past.

Speaker: Kevin W. Wamalwa ⎻ Joint PhD candidate, Anthropology and African Cultural Studies