About Mikidadi: Individual Biography and National History in Tanzania

Caplan, Pat. 2016. About Mikidadi: Individual Biography and National History in Tanzania. Hertfordshire, United Kingdom: Sean Kingston Publishing. ISBN 978-1-907774-48-5 [Book]

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This is the extraordinary story of Mikidadi, an ordinary Tanzanian from a remote island, who became a Koran-school teacher, charity leader, environmental activist and guardian of an extended family. This biography is not only about Mikidadi’s life and legacy, but also his times. He lived through transitions from colonialism to independence, socialism to neoliberalism, a single- to a multi-party state, and a local Swahili Islam to a more globalized and politicized form. He also experienced the rise of corruption, and the increasing role of Western NGOs and Islamic charities. In considering how wider historical processes impact on Mikidadi, as life gets progressively harder for his family, this book seeks to counter some of the recent rewriting of Tanzania’s post-colonial history.
Skilfully moving through the decades, between events at national, regional and individual levels, between three generations, and even adding a further layer of her own life as an anthropologist, Caplan succeeds in writing an engaging, accessible account that will appeal to both academics and students. For at the centre of this book is an unlikely friendship that began in 1966 between a 12 year-old boy and a 23 year-old woman, and lasted nearly four decades, to be cut short by Mikidadi’s untimely death in 2002. Recollections of meetings, and extracts from fieldwork notes and correspondence, bring a lively immediacy to this exchange, in which profound cultural differences between researcher and researched are overcome in interconnected lives.

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Date Deposited:

17 Feb 2017 10:37

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:24



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