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Active Dead or Alive: Some Kenyan Views About the Agency of Luo and Luyia Women Pre- and Post-Mortem

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Paying attention to burial disputes can help us to understand better matters relating to gender, kinship, community, agency, and power. Since Luo and Luyia believe that life after death is a significant part of a person's life, paying attention to 'the hold death has' upon people is important, as are the writing of 'life-and-death histories.' The paper presents three cases, one involving a Luyia woman and two involving Luo women in which the women involved have, in the views of community members, shown the ability to manipulate kinship structures and strictures pre- and post-mortem. The paper seeks to challenge views that have depicted women in western Kenya as passive pawns of a particularly patriarchal form of patriliny. The paper discusses the effect religion has on views about death and burial, and examines the influence of indigenous religion, Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Legio Maria on these cases.

Affiliations: 1: Western Michigan University


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