337 Claudia Cohen Hall
Stacey Langwick, Anthropology, Cornell University
Tonicity and Healing: An Emergent Politics of Habitability in Tanzania
These are toxic times. Perhaps nowhere are the stakes in the problemization of toxicity clearer than in Africa. The story of colonialism and postcolonialism in Africa has also been a story of the struggle over how to articulate the relations that constitute toxin and those that facilitate remedy -- or more precisely, that which harms (in Kiswahili, uchawi) and that which heals (uganga). This essay considers how Tanzanians labor over the toxic and reflect on it in shaping everyday politics and ethics. I draw on nineteen months of fieldwork between 2012-2017 exploring a new configuration of plant-based healing which explicitly strives to respond to the toxicity of everyday life. For Tanzanians, modern bodies bear complicated toxic loads not only because of the dumping of capitalism's harmful byproducts, but also because of the very products that facilitate domestic life (e.g., plastics, kerosene), agriculture (e.g., pesticides, chemical fertilizers) and health (e.g., antiretrovirals, contraceptives). Dawa lishe -- nutritious medicine -- is forged in this double-bind. Therapies navigate relations between toxin, remedy, and memory. They attend not only to individual bodies, but also to relations between people, plants and soil. The efficaciousness of herbal products and of gardens full of therapeutic foods and nutritious herbs rests in their cultivation of the forms of strength that make places, times and bodies livable again (and Again). The rapid rise of dawa lishe is establishing a lexicon through which Tanzanians are redefining healing through a politics of habitability.