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Theory After Dark: Nocturnal Trust and the Anthropology of the Good Enough in Western Kenya

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Wednesday, November 07, 2018
4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
Robert Blunt

The phenomenon of "nightrunning" in Western Kenya undergirds an economy of lending and borrowing of reproductive potential; nightrunners remove their clothing at night to "bang their buttocks" against their neighbors' closed doors and throw rocks at their roofs to prevent neighbors from "sleeping"-a euphemism for sexual intercourse. Key here is that Bukusu does not necessarily see such seemingly absorptive nocturnal activity as witchcraft. While the identities of nightrunners are protected by the darkness of night nightrunners are categorically people that are known "in the light of day." The paper explores how such practices might facilitate a rethinking of social intimacy and trust, in a context where liberal and Christian discourses about good governance have proliferated and are structured in no small way by tropes of transparency and light.

Robert Blunt is an anthropologist and Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. Professor Blunt's research and writing to date have been focused on the relationship between religion, ritual, and politics and how they are historically productive of, but also perceived as, an antidote to generalized problems of trust and uncertainty in colonial and postcolonial Africa.