Worries of the Heart: Widows, Family, and Community in Kenya

Paperback | September 1, 2007

byKenda Mutongi

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Growing up in the Maragoli community in Kenya, Kenda Mutongi encountered a perplexing contradiction. While the young teachers at her village school railed against colonialism, many of her elders, including her widowed mother, praised their former British masters. In this moving book, Mutongi explores how both the challenges and contradictions of colonial rule and the frustrations and failures of independence shaped the lives of Maragoli widows and their complex relations with each other, their families, and the larger community.
            Throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, rates of widowhood have been remarkably high in Kenya. Yet despite their numbers, widows and their families exist at the margins of society, and their lives act as a barometer for the harsh realities of rural Kenya. Mutongi here argues that widows survive by publicly airing their social, economic, and political problems, their “worries of the heart.” Initially aimed at the men in their community, and then their colonial rulers, this strategy changed after independence as widows increasingly invoked the language of citizenship to demand their rights from the new leaders of Kenya—leaders whose failure to meet the needs of ordinary citizens has led to deep disenchantment and altered Kenyans’ view of their colonial past. An innovative blend of ethnography and historical research, Worries of the Heart is a poignant narrative rich with insights into postcolonial Africa.

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Growing up in the Maragoli community in Kenya, Kenda Mutongi encountered a perplexing contradiction. While the young teachers at her village school railed against colonialism, many of her elders, including her widowed mother, praised their former British masters. In this moving book, Mutongi explores how both the challenges and contrad...

Kenda Mutongi is associate professor of history at Williams College.

other books by Kenda Mutongi

Format:PaperbackDimensions:240 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:September 1, 2007Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226554201

ISBN - 13:9780226554204

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Maps of Kenya
Introduction

Part I: Everyday Life
1. Western Kenya, 1880–1902
2. Feeble Little Lads Looking for Food
3. “What Harm Can an Old Dry Bone Do?”
4. Lessons in Practical Christianity
5. Living “in Line”
6. The Impact of Gold Mining
7. Land Conflicts in the 1930s

Part II: Family Life
8. Educating “Progressive” Sons
9. The Burden of “Progressive” Sons
10. Cash, Cows, and Bridewealth
11. Domestic Education at the Girls Boarding School
12. Moral Panic
13. Wife Beating

Part III: Postcolonial Promises
14. Citizenship and Land Rights in Postcolonial Kenya
15. Rural Widows, City Widows, and the Fight for Inheritance

Conclusion
Glossary
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

"I am not sure how to categorize Kenda Mutongi's magisterial book. Mutongi has gotten under the skin of her material-and what we read is a living document: surely essential for every reading household in Kenya, for schools, and for every department of African studies. It is at once a literary and academic achievement."-Binyavanga Wainaina, winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing