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Patricia Caplan was appointed to a lectureship in Anthropology at Goldsmiths University of London in , where she was one of the founding members of the Anthropology Department. She retired as a Professor at Goldsmiths in but subsequently remained active as an anthropologist. Archive Collection. Caplan; Patricia b ; anthropologist. Scope and Content Papers, - of Patricia Caplan, relating to her fieldwork on inter-caste relations, land tenure, migration to India by low castes and new sources of cash income in the Far Western Hills of Nepal in , as well as material relating to the subsequent publication of books and articles based on the fieldwork.

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Acquisition Information The papers were donated by Patricia Caplan. Other Finding Aids Handlist available. Archivist's Note Catalogued. Subjects Academic teaching personnel. Idd il Hajj celebrates the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca. Each Idd is celebrated by praying at a mosque or at home, visiting relatives and neighbors, eating special foods and sweets, and, on Idd il Hajj, slaughtering a goat and sharing the meat with family and neighbors.

During the month of Ramadan, Swahili Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Even though Swahili people endure the hardships of going without food, water, or cigarettes for about 14 hours each day, Ramadan is a very festive time. After breaking the fast at the end of each day by eating a date and drinking strong coffee, families enjoy a meal of many different delicious foods. Then the evening and most of the night is spent visiting friends, watching videos, praying, playing cards , or, as Idd nears, going shopping at the stores, which stay open late.

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The last meal is eaten shortly before dawn. Maulidi, or the Prophet's Birthday, is widely celebrated by Muslims; however, the largest celebration in all of East Africa is hosted by the island of Lamu. Thousands of Swahili and other Muslims come for the occasion that lasts several days and includes large gatherings for prayers at the main mosque and many cultural events.

Young people wander the island, and groups of religious school students march in a parade. Prior to giving birth most women return to their parents' homes to receive help from their female relatives. Seven days after birth, males are circumcised in a ceremony attended by family members.


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Newborns wear a string around the waist with charms, and black ink is painted on the forehead to ward off bad spirits. A new mother rests at her parents' home for 40 days after giving birth. As she regains her strength, relatives help her to care for the new baby. Birthday parties are increasingly popular, and these celebrations include eating cake, disco dancing, and opening presents. Ceremonies associated with secular and religious school, such as graduations, are occasions for marking a young person's educational progress.

For example, most religious and secular schools hold yearly performances where students recite lectures and poems.

African Voices, African Lives: Personal Narratives from a Swahili Village

Marriage marks a person's transition to adulthood. Marriages are usually arranged by parents who try to find a kind, responsible, and appealing spouse for their child. A young woman cannot get married without her father's permission, and at the same time she has the right to refuse someone chosen for her. Prior to the wedding, a female relative or family friend counsels the bride about her duties as a wife.

Weddings can include several days of separate celebrations for men and women, such as dancing and drumming, musical performances, viewing the bride in all her finery, and eating lavish meals. One of the women's events, attended by only close relatives, is a purification rite during which the bride's skin and hair are beautified with herbs.


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Muslims are buried within 24 hours of dying. They are wrapped in a white cloth and carried to the graveyard by men who offer prayers. The female relatives of the deceased stay at the house wailing to express their sorrow.

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Women friends and family gather to comfort the bereaved and to pray. Relatives sponsor remembrance prayers forty days after the burial and again after one year. People who know each other exchange a string of greetings enquiring about the health of family members and the latest news. Upon entering a Swahili house, a guest greets everyone present, shaking each person's hand. From a very young age children are taught to greet an elder with respect by kissing his or her hand. Friends who have not seen each other for a long time grasp hands warmly and kiss on both cheeks.

To guard against romantic relationships developing outside of marriage, men and women are not permitted to mix freely. Close relatives interact across gender lines, although women are encouraged to congregate at home, while men spend time in public places. A polite way to accept a gift is to place the left hand under the upturned right palm.

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To indicate that something e. It is considered rude to call someone over by using the index finger.

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Instead, the right hand is extended and the straight fingers bent to the palm in a sharp inward gesture repeated several times. Because coastal culture is marked by frequent coming and going, visiting is a well-established custom. Many women either go visiting or receive visitors daily, usually in the late afternoon. Friends and relatives coming from far away are welcomed to spend the night. Because marriages are usually arranged by family members, dating between men and women of any age is frowned on and generally non-existent.

Also, gender segregation makes it difficult for people of the opposite sex to meet openly. But young people and some older ones too do manage to meet each other in school, at social events like weddings or parades, or even when traveling on the bus. They routinely succeed in striking up friendships and sometimes fall in love. Secret phone calls to boyfriends or girlfriends are a favorite pastime of young people brave enough to risk severe reprimands from disapproving parents. Swahili people suffer the diseases of developing countries, such as malaria, yellow fever , and polio, and, because they eat a diet high in fat, they also experience the diseases of industrialized countries, such as cancer, high blood pressure , and diabetes.

Most people have access to rudimentary medical care in government and private hospitals, although treatment is sometimes expensive.

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Traditional Swahili medicine includes herbal remedies, massage, and bloodletting. Also, some practitioners treat emotional troubles through prayer, protective charms, or exorcising evil spirits. As the longtime middlemen in a mercantile economy, Swahili people are avid consumers who, depending on their means, seek out new products.

Oral Literature in Africa

Radios, TVs, VCRs, watches, and cameras are obtained from relatives or friends returning from travel outside Kenya where such goods are cheaper. Women save to buy imported clothes and jewelry for themselves and their children. Teens have limited cash, but they try to keep up with the latest fashions, such as running shoes and track suits for boys and beaded veils from the Middle East for girls. They are firmly in the cash economy, even though they are more likely to have limited commercial ventures rather than big businesses.

Some own their own property. Travel among the coastal towns is an important part of Swahili life, and many Swahili men work in the transportation industry. Buses, vans, and a small number of private cars are the main means of transport. In family matters, Swahili women are the partners of men, yet their partnership is unequal.