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The Land Is Dying Contingency, Creativity and Conflict in Western Kenya by Paul Wenzel Geissler, Ruth Jane Prince

The Land Is Dying Contingency, Creativity and Conflict in Western Kenya


Part of the Epistemologies of Healing Series


The Land Is Dying Contingency, Creativity and Conflict in Western Kenya by Paul Wenzel Geissler, Ruth Jane Prince

Based on several years of ethnographic fieldwork, the book explores life in and around a Luo-speaking village in western Kenya during a time of death. The epidemic of HIV/AIDS affects every aspect of sociality and pervades villagers' debates about the past, the future and the ethics of everyday life. Central to such debates is a discussion of touch in the broad sense of concrete, material contact between persons. In mundane practices and in ritual acts, touch is considered to be key to the creation of bodily life as well as social continuity. Underlying the significance of material contact is its connection with growth - of persons and groups, animals, plants and the land - and the forward movement of life more generally. Under the pressure of illness and death, economic hardship and land scarcity, as well as bitter struggles about the relevance and application of Christianity and 'Luo tradition' in daily life, people find it difficult to agree about the role of touch in engendering growth, or indeed about the aims of growth itself.


While not a light book, this is one for anyone seeking ethnographic understanding based on an equatorial African setting not to overlook - A short review can hardly do justice to the care behind the book or the local flavor it conveys: the accuracy of its translations, the sensitivity and empathy behind its life histories, the candor about research tactics and dilemmas - It is one warmly to be welcomed.

* Anthropos

One of the richest ethnographies of African social life of recent years - As do the best ethnographies, this book communicates the wonder of its authors at touching and being touched deeply across difference.


About the Author

Paul Wenzel Geissler teaches social anthropology at the University of Oslo and at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He studied medical zoology in Hamburg and Copenhagen (Ph.D. 1998) and social anthropology in Copenhagen and Cambridge (Ph.D. 2003). Since 1993 he has worked in western Kenya, conducting first medical research and then several years of ethnographic fieldwork. Currently he is writing an ethnography of post-colonial scientific research in Kisumu, Kenya. After studying social anthropology in London and Copenhagen, Ruth Jane Prince is presently Smuts Fellow at the Centre of African Studies, University of Cambridge. She has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in western Kenya since 1997 focusing on medical anthropology, kinship and Christianity. Her current research deals with HIV interventions and antiretroviral treatment programmes in Kenya, and related issues of global health, the political-economy of knowledge, transnationalism and the state.

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Book Info

Publication date

6th December 2012


Paul Wenzel Geissler, Ruth Jane Prince

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Berghahn Books


444 pages


Medical anthropology



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