Interim 2014

INDS 173: Religion, Society, and Change in East Africa explores………

This winter students from Lafayette had the opportunity to travel to Africa and experience a different culture and society. INDS 173 is an intensive introduction to the social and religious dynamics of Kenya. East Africa is a unique living laboratory for exploring African religious thought and practice for a number of reasons: Early anthropological studies of stateless societies in East Africa have played a very prominent role in the development of theories and methods for the academic study of non-western religions; Kenya has ethnolinguistic diversity simply not present throughout the rest of the continent where Bantu, Nilotic, and Cushitic languages and social systems have developed in close proximity; Kenya has an extremely complicated history of missionization both during and after the colonial period, which has spawned myriad independent churches, new forms of occult affliction, connections with transnational churches and theologies, as well as neo-traditional revivalist movements; Kenya’s coastal communities have historically played key roles in the Indian Ocean slave and spice trade, engaging these communities in an over one thousand year conversation concerning what constitutes “proper” Islamic belief and practice.


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The Maasai, Kenya’s iconic cattle-keepers, have also experienced one-hundred years of missionization and monetization of cattle markets, which began in Kenya’s early colonial period (1880’s). Students will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in two of Kenya’s distinct communities: the Maasai, and the Swahili. We will stay in Amboseli national park for one night before venturing to the coast. Besides studying intensively the Kiswahili language on the coast for ten days, students will stay in Maasailand in southern Kenya for a week and learn about Maa culture and social and religious change which includes a home stay. After twenty-five hours of intensive Kiswahili, you will be able to communicate effectively with our Maasai and Samburu teachers in Kajiado district. While learning on the move, students will not only engage with academic literatures specific to the study of African societies and religion, but will also have a genuine opportunity to engage with Kenyans in a meaningful way.