NORTH PORT — Erin Dean will speak on “Gender, Genies and Genomes: Agricultural Knowledge in Rural Zanzibar,” at the Tuesday, Jan. 8 meeting of the Warm Mineral Springs/Little Salt Spring Archaeological Society. The group will meet at 7 p.m. at North Port Community United Church of Christ, 3450 S. Biscayne Drive, in Decker Hall. Dean is assistant professor of anthropology at New College of Florida. She is an environmental anthropologist whose research in Tanzania explores knowledge and power in the context of conservation and development initiatives.In the village of Jongowe in the Zanzibar archipelago, women are the guardians of extensive agricultural knowledge, according to Dean. Yet, male authority circumscribes this feminine sphere in the form of ritual and scientific “experts.” Annual planting is dependent on the advice and goodwill of majini (genies or jinn), spiritual beings who are ritually summoned, celebrated in song and dance (ngoma), and formally consulted by elder male ritual leaders. At the same time, the Zanzibari government has introduced agricultural extension programs that bring new seed varieties, different planting calendars, and alternative farming techniques to the village, and these technical innovations are also controlled by men. By considering the ritual practice of summoning genies through spirit possession ceremonies, the introduction of new farming “technology,” and women farmer’s actual agricultural practice, this presentation explores the ordering of agricultural knowledge based on gendered notions of expertise. The Warm Mineral Springs/Little Salt Spring Archaeological Society meets on the second Tuesday of the month at NPCUCC. All are invited. For more information, call Hilda Boron at 941-426-1719 or visit wmslssas.org.
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