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This chapter focuses on the coastal Kenyan town of Malindi, where concerns about witchcraft and terrorism reflect and inform tensions and conflicts, which sometimes result in violence. The chapter argues that discourses about witchcraft and terrorism both provide a way of speaking about hidden enemies who are thought to covertly plot violence that disrupts social relations from within. State actors and others often attempt to expose these hidden enemies and formulate suspicions that particular groups may involve themselves in witchcraft or terrorism. In response, these groups strive to avoid engaging with particular material religious forms that are commonly associated with witchcraft or terrorism. In this way, discourses about witchcraft and terrorism may be understood to have a formative dimension, because they set in motion complex dynamics of exposure and concealment that shape urban environments and the material religious forms that take place in them. In these dynamics, particular material objects may become ‘things of conflict’ because they are commonly associated with witchcraft or terrorism, which link widespread fears about witches and terrorists to the actual people who engage with these things. The chapter demonstrates how these dynamics shape the material expression of Christianity, Islam, and indigenous African religiosity in Malindi in distinctive and uneven ways, since terrorism is often primarily associated with Islam, and witchcraft with indigenous African religious traditions.

Open Access
In: Material Perspectives on Religion, Conflict, and Violence
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This article explores how Giriama elders represent their ‘traditional religion’ (dini ya jadi) through ‘interfaith’ cooperation with Christians and Muslims in the coastal Kenyan town of Malindi. Based on extensive ethnographic research, the article analyses how Giriama Traditionalism relates, in complex and ambivalent ways, to normative assumptions and ideals with regard to what religion entails, and in turn how Giriama elders seek recognition as representatives of a religion in this setting. Such claims are made in a context where Christians, Muslims, and state actors sometimes doubt whether Giriama Traditionalism is worthy of being called a ‘religion’ at all. The article demonstrates that although in the context of interfaith cooperation Christianity, Islam, and ‘Traditionalism’ are formally recognized as equal religions, this does not necessarily create a level playing field. Instead, it requires Giriama elders to appropriate terms, norms, and ideals that are not necessarily of their own making in order for Giriama Traditionalism to be recognized as a religion. Through this analysis, the article aims to contribute to theoretical debates about religious diversity in African contexts by demonstrating how negotiations about what properly counts as (good) religion in coastal Kenya are deeply informed by the copresence of Christianity, Islam, and indigenous African religiosity in one religious field.

Open Access
In: Journal of Religion in Africa
In: Material Perspectives on Religion, Conflict, and Violence
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How do objects become contested in settings characterized by (violent) conflict? Why are some things contested by religious actors? How do religious actors mobilize things in conflict situations and how are conflict and violence experienced by religious groups? This volume explores relations between materiality, religion, and violence by drawing upon two fields of scholarship that have rarely engaged with one another: research on religion and (violent) conflict and the material turn within religious studies. This way, this volume sets the stage for the development of new conceptual and methodological directions in the study of religion-related violent conflict that takes materiality seriously.

Contributors are Christoph Baumgartner, Margaretha van Es, Lucien van Liere, Erik Meinema, Birgit Meyer, Daan F. Oostveen, Younes Saramifar, Joram Tarusarira, Tammy Wilks.