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War Of Words: The Narrative Efficacy Of Medicine In The Maji Maji War

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Chapter Summary

In this chapter, the author takes the analysis of the role of maji during the war and its aftermath still further. His approach seeks to go beyond an evaluation of the instrumental and symbolic efficacy of the maji medicine, to understand its narrative efficacy in specific historical and geographical settings. The chapter considers the way stories of maji functioned as a set of ideas that came to be mobilized within and among societies in southern Tanzania. Narratives of maji medicine had transformative power for African communities experiencing danger and hardship. For Germans in Africa as well as in Europe stories of medicine influenced ideas and events. The agrarian function of medicine was embraced by those who believed that the war was based on peasant grievances and therefore rational; the stories about bullets turning into water were proof of a witchdoctor conspiracy and a refusal to adapt to the modern world.

Keywords: African communities; Maji Maji war; maji medicine; modern world; southern Tanzania



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