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Changing Life Worlds and Contested Space: Seclusion Practices among the Iraqw of Northern Tanzania

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Chapter Summary

This paper focuses on the seclusion practices (meeta) of the Cushitic-speaking Iraqw people of northern Tanzania who are mainly concentrated in Mbulu District. The meeta sanction is particularly strong in rural communities and mainly affects women. At present, the most common forms of meeta apply when a girl becomes pregnant outside marriage, or a child dies as a result of a miscarriage, a stillbirth or while still being breastfed. One interpretation views meeta as a major form of physical and social control through the use of severe punishment (social violence) by elders, invariably elderly men, to demonstrate their power over the community, and particularly over women. Iraqw people conceptualize their world and surroundings according to 'insides' and 'outsides'. Entering certain kinds of space may put individuals and communities in danger. Many Iraqw do live lives which represent both continuity and change within the Iraqw life world.

Keywords: Iraqw life world; Mbulu; meeta; seclusion practices



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