Accepted paper:

Recursive corporality: the fractality of political bodies among Kenyan Luo


Mario Schmidt (Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

Kinship and politics among Kenyan Luo are in a relation of identity. I will show that both are governed by processes of "feating", i.e. simultaneous eating and feeding inside gastro-moral bodies composed of what Western ontology would conceptualize as "individuals".

Paper long abstract:

Among Kenyan Luo politics as well as kinship relations are constructed by committing oneself to what I call "fractal feating relations". I propose that processes of feeding (pidho) and eating (chamo) designate all those activities which stabilize or destabilize corporal entities in Luo socio-cultural order. A body, i.e. a morally responsible person is hence an entity with a feeding and an eating part, a "feater". Nevertheless this is not a rephrasing of the concept if reciprocity in culinary terms: One does not feed another person, but oneself, and one is not fed by another person, but by oneself. A body's feating relation, e.g. the relation between husband and wife can nevertheless be eclipsed on an encompassing level. The local politician e.g. eclipses the marital relation by becoming the feeder of the husband. Luo sociality is hence comparable to a multiplicity of feating-relationships which are folded against and with each other: Men feat their wives, wives their children, politician's families, Raila Odinga and other major political figures politically active Luo at the grassroots level. The hierarchical nature of this multiplicity is nevertheless only visible from a partial as well as etic perspective: The folding of other bodies into hierarchically higher ones at every stage secures that each individual person is, taking into account all relationships, always eating and feeding in a multiplicity of bodies which itself is a multiplicity. This "culinormativity" is both constitutive of kinship as well as political relations. My paper will use ethnographic data gathered during several trips to Western Kenya, last time during the General Election 2013.

panel P054
Kinning the state - state kinning: reconnecting the anthropology of kinship and political anthropology