Zebulon Dingley

Zebulon Dingley

Biography

Doctoral candidate in Anthropology and History, University of Chicago
Ndani: An Historical Ethnography of Kinship, Capital, and the Occult on the South Coast of Kenya
Porter-Wesley Fellow
Academic Year 2017-18

 
 


Zebulon Dingley is a PhD candidate in Anthropology and History at the University of Chicago. His research has been supported by grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, Fulbright-Hays, and Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation.

Project Description

Ndani: An Historical Ethnography of Kinship, Capital, and the Occult on the South Coast of Kenya

My dissertation research among the Mijikenda peoples of the southern Kenyan coast examines how a durable constellation of images and metaphors‹paths and settlements, bodies and burial, rain and blood‹drawn from precolonial myth and ritual mediate contemporary beliefs and practices of supernatural attack and defense at a range of scalar levels. Beginning with an analysis of Mijikenda origin stories and rituals of initiation reenacting the sacrificial violence of the myth, the project turns to a nested, scalar hierarchy of interiors and exteriors (bodies, houses, and settlements) to explore rituals of exposure and enclosure rooted in a ³vernacular anthropology of the soul.² The dissertation concludes by tracing the genealogies of two forms of contemporary social threat: rain-stealing witches and organ thieves. The project thus takes up classic Anthropological themes of witchcraft, divination, kinship, myth, ritual, and rumor, and grounds them empirically in local histories of religious conversion, socio-ecological disruption, and political-economic transformation to develop an ethnographically and historically rich theorization of the sense of things unseen‹³the Occult²‹in the everyday life of coastal Kenyans.


2017-2018: Porter-Wesley Fellow


 

You are here