Ahmad Nassir’s poetical moral theory <i>Utu</i> – how human beings ought to behave

Kai Kresse

in Philosophising in Mombasa

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2007 | ISBN: 9780748627868
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652976 | DOI:
Ahmad Nassir’s poetical moral theory Utu – how human beings ought to behave

Show Summary Details


This chapter deals with the classic philosophical questions of what is humanity (signifying the field of philosophical anthropology) and what is goodness (characterising moral theory). It provides illustrations from Swahili social discourse, using sayings and the expressed convictions of ordinary people. There is a shared common body of knowledge about what it means to be ‘human’ or ‘good’ within the wider Swahili-speaking community. The chapter sketches this out by documenting how a selected handful of young men in Kibokoni would elaborate on these issues. It presents a discussion of their overlapping and contrasting statements leading on to the portrayal and discussion of Ahmad Nassir's theory of utu, as he presents it in an extended utenzi poem.

Keywords: Swahili social discourse; utu; philosophical anthropology; moral theory; Kibokoni

Chapter.  17467 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: African Studies

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.