Demonic Tradition:Representations of Oathing in Newspaper Coverage of the 1997 Crisis in Coastal Kenya<sup>1</sup>

Diane M. Ciekawy

in Media and Identity in Africa

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2009 | ISBN: 9780748635221
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653010 | DOI:
Demonic Tradition:Representations of Oathing in Newspaper Coverage of the 1997 Crisis in Coastal Kenya1

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During the last four months of 1997, the Coast Province of Kenya was under a state of national emergency. Collective and individual acts of violence occurred in both urban and rural areas, some of which were perpetrated by members of a loosely organised movement that did not have a consistent name or set of objectives. This chapter attempts to establish a general understanding of the representational practices of the Kenyan news media concerning the subjects of oathing, witchcraft, Mijikenda culture and violence in the 1997 crisis in coastal Kenya. The first section provides an overview of the 1997 crisis and some of the central cultural institutions and practices of the Mijikenda. The second analyses a selected group of newspaper articles that address the subject of oathing, in order to evaluate assumptions about the relationship between oathing on the one hand, and Mijikenda cultural institutions, authorities and practices on the other. The chapter shows how newspaper representations of oathing practices in the 1997 crisis rely on framing devices that associate oathing with witchcraft, link oathing and witchcraft to danger and violence, and situate oathing and witchcraft in Mijikenda culture. It argues that these framing devices are guided by an umbrella theme, termed ‘the revelation of demonic tradition’.

Keywords: violence; Kenyan news media; oathing; witchcraft; Mijikenda culture; newspaper articles

Chapter.  9509 words. 

Subjects: African Studies

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