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Between Rites and RightsExcision in Women's Experiential Texts and Human Contexts$
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Chantal Zabus

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780804756877

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804756877.001.0001

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Kenyan Reactance

Kenyan Reactance

Kenyatta, Huxley, wa Thiong'o

(p.35) Two Kenyan Reactance
Between Rites and Rights
Stanford University Press

Culture is not an inborn destiny but a human artifact that can be reshaped. When culture is threatened to the core by outside forces, a phenomenon called “reactance” may arise. The cult of culture and the demarcation of a gender role in the flesh through excision can be interpreted as an African reactance against the forces of colonialism. This explains why the origins of writing on excision can be traced to colonial cultural anthropology. Cultural anthropology is the first context in which female autobiography emerged in Kenya. This chapter examines these anthropological preludes to female self-writing by focusing on Jomo Kenyatta's Facing Mount Kenya ([1938] 1961), Ngugi wa Thiong'o's The River Between (1965), and Elspeth Huxley's Red Strangers ([1939] 1999). It also considers the questioning of excision as a rite and a factor of social cohesiveness by analyzing Rebeka Njau's one-act play The Scar (1965), Charity Waciuma's Daughter of Mumbi (1969), Muthoni Likimani's They Shall Be Chastised (1974), and Miriam Were's Your Heart Is My Altar (1980).

Keywords:   culture, Kenya, reactance, excision, cultural anthropology, female autobiography, Jomo Kenyatta, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Elspeth Huxley, Rebeka Njau

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