16 Slices
Medium 9780253356772

3 Against the Occult

Harri Englund Indiana University Press ePub

A story broadcast on Nkhani Zam’maboma in 2003 told of a woman who had been found alone in a rural graveyard at midday, lying on top of a tomb.1 On closer inspection, villagers discovered a bag next to her. It contained a razor blade, a needle, and a bottle of blood. The woman had sought to dispel suspicions that anything sinister was at issue by claiming that she did not know what she was doing because she was drunk. The story went on to report that the woman had good employment in the commercial capital Blantyre and that the villagers who had found her suspected that she had wanted to protect her job against possible dismissal. They also thought that the visit to the graveyard had been occasioned by her desire to find a charm (chizimba) for making bricks used in building a modern house (nyumba yamakono). Her first husband was reported to have left her because of her witchcraft (ufiti), while she had bewitched her second husband to stay at home with the couple’s children.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253356772

7 Cries and Whispers

Harri Englund Indiana University Press ePub

When I discussed Nkhani Zam’maboma with people I had known for over a decade in Dedza District, many would add to their reflections a sober comment on the area’s invisibility in the program.1 The villages in their chiefdom did not seem to feature in the stories broadcast on Nkhani Zam’maboma, an observation corroborated by the absence of incidents in this area from my sample of stories. No one who made such a comment thought it warranted complacency. Rather than indicating the area’s exceptional record in avoiding scandals, the lack of its stories on the radio, I was told, arose from villagers’ problematic tendency to “keep secrets” (kusunga zinsinsi). Stories about misconduct and abuse did circulate locally, but their failure to reach the national radio bespoke a widely shared fear (mantha) of publicizing unsavory incidents. I heard stories and witnessed events that could have provided material for Nkhani Zam’maboma, and villagers were able to give further examples of similarities between their experiences and those reported on the program. Not only were witches’ aircraft seen to crash-land here as elsewhere, many less spectacular incidents could also have appeared on Nkhani Zam’maboma. For instance, some villagers told me, in hushed voices, about the widespread sexual abuse of female children, often by their own kinsmen.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253356772

9 Beyond the Parity Principle

Harri Englund Indiana University Press ePub

The first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” While the Second World War had attached new urgency to the definition and implementation of human rights, the 1990s wave of liberalization in Africa and elsewhere revived this project in the context of crumbling autocracies and widespread poverty. Much as its principled attention to all human beings could inspire fresh political, economic, and legal challenges to the status quo, the discourse on human rights was often highly selective in practice. Of the first article’s emphasis on freedom and equality, only the idea of freedom came to inform the public interventions by Malaŵi’s human rights activists and democratic politicians. As has been seen, the very concept of human rights was translated into Chicheŵa through the concept of freedom.

It would be futile, however, to expect that a conceptual shift from freedom to equality would by itself rectify the neglect of social and economic rights that the emphasis on political and civil liberties has seemed to reinforce. As central concepts in liberal political and moral theory, freedom and equality have been shown to carry multiple meanings and open up potentially contradictory possibilities. Feminist theorists, for example, have argued that once decoupled from its association with personal autonomy and self-rule, “freedom” can prompt questions of how social relations and institutions both enable and constrain subjects (Hirschmann 2003: 35–39; see also Friedman 2003). Such questions become particularly contentious when they no longer assume a categorical distinction between the subject’s desires and socially prescribed conduct, or that submission to external authority necessarily subverts the subject’s potentiality (Mahmood 2005: 31). As for “equality,” some philosophers have at least since Rousseau recognized how the apparent neutrality of formal equality can consolidate existing inequalities by denying differences in situations, resources, and needs (Hirschmann 2003: 223–224). Moreover, equality comes with variable complexions and goals, with the demand for one type of equality (such as equal rights) inconsistent with the demand for another type (such as the equality of incomes) (Sen 1992).

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253356772

Appendix 1. Presidential News

Harri Englund Indiana University Press ePub

Main news on the MBC’s Chicheŵa news bulletin, February 2, 2003, followed by translation.

Pulezidenti wa dziko lino Dr Bakili Muluzi ŵati sadzalola nduna iliyonse yosakhulupirika kugwira ntchito m’boma lake. Polankhula pamsonkhano omwe anachititsa dzulo kwa Chinsapo One m’dera lakuzambwe mumzinda wa Lilongwe, Pulezidenti Muluzi anati akufuna nduna zomwe zili ndi chidwi chotumikira chipani ndi boma. Pulezidenti Muluzi anafotokoza kuti cholinga cha boma la UDF ndi kutumikira anthu osati kugwiritsa ntchito maudindo pazofuna zawo. Mtsogoleri wa dziko linoyu anati boma lake lili ndi mfundo zambiri monga zolemekeza ufulu wachibadwidwe wa anthu, kulimbikitsa ufulu wa demokalase ndi kulimbana ndi umphaŵi. Dr Muluzi anati ichi n’chifukwa chake sagwirizana ndi zomakangana pa ndale zomwe anthu ena amachita. Pulezidenti Muluzi anati ndi cholinga cha boma lake kupezera anthu zofuna zawo pa ntchito ya chitukuko. Iye anakumbutsa anthu kuti pa nthaŵi ya ulamuliro wa boma lakale aMalaŵi ankawapondereza ndipo analibe mwayi wogwira ntchito za bizinesi ngakhale wogulitsa zinthu m’mphepete mwa misewu ya m’mizinda ndi m’matawuni. Dr Muluzi ananenetsa kuti ndi chipani cha UDF chokha chomwe chingalimbikitse mfundo za boma la demokalase ndi kukweza miyoyo ya anthu. Dr Muluzi ananenetsa kuti palibe chifukwa chomapatula amayi ndi achinyamata monga momwe zinkakhalira zinthu pa nthaŵi ya ulamuliro wa boma la chipani cha MCP.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253356772

5 Inequality Is Old News

Harri Englund Indiana University Press ePub

Wayilesi yakwanu, “the radio from your place,” an editor of Nkhani Zam’maboma remarked to me one day when the BBC World Service blared in the newsroom. Before I could think of a response, the editor went on to state that even white people should have a program like Nkhani Zam’maboma. “White people also misbehave” (azungunso amapalamula), she asserted, making them seem comparable to the Malaŵian figures of authority whose deceptive appearances made the headlines on Nkhani Zam’maboma. Listening to his colleague’s comments, another editor of the program concurred with the view that white people, for all their superiority in wealth and education, should also be exposed as liars and adulterers. But he asked me if witchcraft (ufiti) existed where I came from. My answer that it did not exist in the same way as in Malaŵi confirmed the idea he already had about witchcraft and science as the defining domains of Africa and Europe, respectively.1 After a pause, however, the editor recalled that even white people could adopt Malaŵian ways, to the extent that a white priest had joined the gule wamkulu secret society, an incident that the editor said had been reported on Nkhani Zam’maboma.

See All Chapters

See All Slices