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Appendix 5. Reclaiming Virginity

Harri Englund Indiana University Press ePub

Unedited version of a story broadcast on Nkhani Zam’maboma on July 11, 2008. The transcription is a copy of the original sent to the MBC, and no attempt has been made to amend its spelling and grammar.

“Worship, the Woman is Polyandrous!”

A woman speaking at the First-Grade Magistrate’s Court in Lilongwe demanded her husband to restore her virginity and cleanse her of AIDS if he wanted to leave her. But some tried to think critically and condemned the ex-wife describing her irresponsible.

Magistrate Kachama made the situation even worse when he said: “The woman is saying you are still her husband. And that if you want to leave her, you should restore her virginity and cleanse her of AIDS, which she claims, you infected her. What are you going to say?”

The husband did not waste time thinking about what he could do for the lady. He just hit the nail on its head saying: “I don’t want this woman. As for AIDS, I cannot be responsible because the woman married three times before me.”

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Appendix 3. Drunken Children

Harri Englund Indiana University Press ePub

A story broadcast on Nkhani Zam’maboma on July 19, 2003, followed by translation.

Bambo ŵina yemwe amagwira ntchito pa sitolo ya mwenye ŵina ku Limbe m’mzinda wa Blantyre akuti anamwetsa ana ake masese atasoŵa ndalama yodyetsera anawo. Bamboyo akuti amakhala [location omitted] kutawuni ya Ndirande m’mzinda wa Blantyre. Mwezi wathawu mkuluyu akuti sanalandire malipiro ake a pamwezi pa zifukwa za pakati pa iyeyo ndi bwana wake. Atafika ku nyumba mkuluyu akuti anapeza mkazi ŵake atapita kwawo kamba kotopa ndi umphaŵi. Mayiyo akuti anasiya ana onse amene anabereka ndi mkuluyo ndipo pofika pa nyumbapo bamboyo akuti anaŵapeza anaŵa akungolira ndi njala. Izi zinamuimitsa mutu ndipo anaganiza zosakasaka chakudya. Pochoka pa khomopo mkuluyu anatenga poto ndi kuloŵera kumalo ena kumene amagulitsa mowa wa masese. Atafika kumaloko bamboyo akuti anatolera mapakete a masese omwe anthu anataya ndi kuyamba kukhuthulira masese otsalira mu potomo. Poto litadzadza mkuluyu anabwerera kunyumba yake ndi kuŵiritsa masesewo. Ataŵira bamboyo akuti anamwetsa anawo omwe anaganiza kuti ndi mphala. Atamwa maseseŵa anaŵa akuti analedzera kwambiri ndipo mkulu anaŵanyamula ndi kuŵagoneka. Pakadali pano akuti bamboyo anaima mutu ndipo ŵasiya kupita ku ntchito.

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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).

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6 Stories Become Persons

Harri Englund Indiana University Press ePub

From semi-literates to academics, Malaŵians were generally familiar with Nkhani Zam’maboma. Although the regularity with which they followed the program varied greatly, virtually everyone I knew was able to discuss it with me. While many could cite its stories about witchcraft and errant authorities, some were unaware that the sources of those stories lay in letters, telephone calls, faxes, and e-mails from listeners.1 One university lecturer, for example, explained to me that from time to time some areas would emerge as what he called “hot spots,” locations where several incidents took place within a short span of time. Others assumed that the MBC’s network of reporters across the country supplied stories. What was remarkable about these perceptions was not so much their lack of accuracy as their expectation that the MBC could alone provide national coverage of localized stories. The expectation bespoke a residual faith in the broadcaster’s remit to represent the nation, whatever frustrations these listeners felt over its biased and didactic approach to other programs. In actual fact, in spite of having offices and studios in the three regions of the country, the MBC had no means of gathering stories from villages and townships on a daily basis.2 The frequent appearance of certain localities was a result of the frequent supply of stories from them.

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8 Christian Critics

Harri Englund Indiana University Press ePub

As one facet of the liberalization that gathered momentum at the turn of the millennium, Nkhani Zam’maboma invites consideration of whether liberal values and procedures have any purchase on the moral imagination in a country like Malaŵi. Questioning the extent to which politicians and human rights activists were the most consequential participants in new public arenas, this book has sought to demonstrate that African-language claims mediated by the radio can yield insights into the broader issues of rights and obligations under the conditions of poverty and inequality. By thus including in the purview both the broadcasters and listeners of a popular radio program, this book shares an intellectual affinity with various attempts to go beyond Habermas’s notion of the public sphere (see chapter 2). Concepts such as counter-publics (Hirschkind 2006) and the parallel public sphere (S. Dewey 2009), in particular, might seem congenial to the project here to show that much else has been taking place in public than the endless bickering between politicians and activists over freedoms and responsibilities in the governance of Malaŵi. However, although much of this recent ethnographic and conceptual work is wary of imputing models of resistance to the alternatives it has discerned, the tendency to assume a measure of duality between the dominant and subordinate public arenas has not been repeated in this book. It was difficult to identify any emancipatory agenda in Nkhani Zam’maboma, because both its editors and listeners appeared to take for granted the institutions whose incumbents the program described. The idea of resistance has also been undermined by the editors’ commitment to serving the government.

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